‘I’m pretty ner­vous but I’m go­ing to get through it’

Dancers, drum­mers celebrate Eska­soni pow­wow’s 24th year

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRIS SHAN­NON

Abo­rig­i­nal el­der Eileen Brooks of In­dian Brook pa­tiently braided the hair of her grand­daugh­ter and great-niece prior to the start of dance com­pe­ti­tion Satur­day.

It’s the one time of the year she trav­els to Cape Bre­ton so she can be present at the Eska­soni pow­wow, now in its 24th year.

“There’s some­thing new ev­ery time,” she said, sit­ting down while care­fully tight­en­ing her grand­daugh­ter’s braid.

Brooks said the Eska­soni pow­wow took on a greater sig­nif­i­cant be­cause of the com­pet­i­tive na­ture of the con­tests.

She said she’s been danc­ing at pow­wows for the past 26 years.

“I started go­ing to pow­wows and see­ing the other women danc­ing. They said, ‘ You should get your­self a shawl.’ So I went home and made my­self a shawl.”

She cred­its El­iz­a­beth Graham of Eska­soni for teach­ing her how to dance.

The dances are evolv­ing. Once the use of a shawl for an abo­rig­i­nal dance was quite pop­u­lar, now many of the women are com­pet­ing in the jin­gle dance — me­tal clips at­tached to the dress.

There are two judges mark­ing the com­pe­ti­tion. It’s a very sub­jec­tive con­test.

“Ev­ery­thing you’ve got on and it’s the way you carry your­self. You can’t show off, “said Brooks.

She said ev­ery­one has to wait un­til the end of the pow­wow on Sun­day to hear the re­sults.

Or­ga­niz­ers were ex­pect­ing peo­ple to at­tend the pow­wow from re­gions as far away as north­ern Man­i­toba and Ok­la­homa.

“I started go­ing to pow­wows and see­ing the other women danc­ing. They said, ‘You should get your­self a shawl.’ So I went home and made my­self a shawl.” Eileen Brooks

Brodey Martin came to the pow­wow as a new­bie.

At 14 years of age, Martin, who hails from the Ges­gape­giag First Na­tion in Que­bec, ad­mit­ted to some anx­i­ety be­fore par­tic­i­pat­ing in the teen’s grass dance com­pe­ti­tion.

“I’m pretty ner­vous but I’m go­ing to get through it,” he said. “I’m just go­ing to do my best.” Sewing a gold-plated but­ton on his tra­di­tional dress pre­occu- pied Martin’s cousin, Shade Larocque, who also lives in Ges­gape­giag.

Many dancers were mak­ing last-minute al­ter­ations, as pieces of dress would come un­done.

“I’m sewing it back on just so it doesn’t look un­even,” said Larocque, 17, who’s vis­it­ing Cape Bre­ton for the first time.

He’s com­pet­ing in the men’s north­ern tra­di­tional dance. Larocque only took up abo­rig­i­nal danc­ing two years ago al- though he’s at­tended pow­wows from an early age.

“My aunt dances all over, and I would go with her. You see all the other dancers. I de­cided to give it a try.”

Sit­ting from one of the cov­ered view­ing ar­eas, Kaye Lund of Syd­ney sits with her daugh­ter and grand­daugh­ter.

It was Lund’s first time at­tend­ing a pow­wow. On a warm, sunny day, she thought there wouldn’t be a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to learn more about the Mi’k- maq cul­ture.

“The cos­tumes I’ve seen so far are just bril­liant,” she said.

Lund said she was hop­ing to learn more about Mi’kmaq cus­toms and tra­di­tions.

“I know my knowl­edge is lim­ited but I’m re­ally hop­ing to take it in to see what we can learn, for sure.”

The three-day pow­wow ended Sun­day with a full day of com­pe­ti­tions, ex­hibits and con­tests.

CHRIS SHAN­NON/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Sev­eral young abo­rig­i­nal men make last-minute ad­just­ments be­fore the start of the men’s grass dance com­pe­ti­tion Satur­day on the Eska­soni pow­wow grounds.

Lund

CHRIS SHAN­NON/CAPE BRE­TON POST

The East Boyz of Eska­soni com­peted in the drum­ming com­pe­ti­tion at the Eska­soni pow­wow on Satur­day, along with three other drum­ming groups.

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