‘I’m pretty nervous but I’m going to get through it’
Dancers, drummers celebrate Eskasoni powwow’s 24th year
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.
Several young aboriginal men make last-minute adjustments before the start of the men’s grass dance competition Saturday on the Eskasoni powwow grounds.
The East Boyz of Eskasoni competed in the drumming competition at the Eskasoni powwow on Saturday, along with three other drumming groups.