After our time of learning we went as a group to the powwow. On our way to the circle we passed by the sacred fire. This fire is lit before the powwow starts and burns until the end. Fire keepers sit around the fire to make sure it continues burning. We honored them and the fire by putting tobacco in the fire and saying ‘Miigwetch’, which means ‘thank you’.
The powwow we attended, Gathering at the Rapids at Algoma University, was an indoor Competition Powwow (differing from a Traditional Powwow). There were a number of drum groups and dancers of all ages competing in different categories. As we entered the building, the Grand Entry was underway. We could feel the heartbeat of the drums resonate within us and stood as the dancers entered the circle. The intricate designs of the dancers’ regalia was amazing to see – bright colours, feathers, tassels, beading and jingling cones. After representatives carried in flags and veterans were honoured, the competition began.
We listened and watched as different drum groups took turns singing and drumming while the dancers made their way around the circle. We saw different categories of dances – traditional, jingle, grass, fancy – and watched as each age category took their turn, from the tiny tots to the golden age dancers. Our guides were available throughout the powwow to answer any questions we had and shared more information with us about the different dances.