Pow Wow shares First Na­tions cul­ture in Swift Cur­rent

The Southwest Booster - - NEWS - SCOTT AN­DER­SON SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

It was just as com­mon to see hand shakes and hugs as it was to see high in­ten­sity dancing and colourful re­galia at the Liv­ing Sky Casino Neka­neet First Na­tions Pow Wow in Swift Cur­rent on June 14-15.

The two day Pow Wow at­tracted dancers, singers and drum­mers from across the prairie prov­inces and into the north­ern United States, with the move from a win­ter Pow Wow pay­ing off with strong at­ten­dance both days.

Trevor Mar­ion, Gen­eral Man­ager at Liv­ing Sky Casino, shared some in­sights into Pow Wows dur­ing a Lunch and Learn event at the Swift Cur­rent Mu­seum on June 11, de­scrib­ing some of the tra­di­tions and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance of these gath­er­ings.

“This is a form of vis­it­ing. It’s a form of touch­ing base again with your friends and fam­i­lies, and ob­vi­ously cre­at­ing new friends and fam­ily,” Mar­ion ex­plained. “Tra­di­tion­ally it’s a gath­er­ing of First Na­tions people of all na­tions.”

This to­geth­er­ness is cel­e­brated at the start of the Pow Wow with in­ter trib­als or friend­ship dances, with all styles of dancers cir­cling the Pow Wow arena to­gether.

The drum beat is an im­por­tant con­stant dur­ing the Pow Wow, as the drum is the ‘Grand­fa­ther Spirit’ which pro­vides the heart­beat for the gath­er­ing.

“It’s called the heart­beat be­cause it gives life to any dance that we have. Any­thing that we do it starts with the drum,” Mar­ion ex­plained. “When you go to a Pow Wow you ob­vi­ously feel it. You’ll feel that beat when people are singing and ev­ery­thing else.”

Many dances and dance styles were fea­tured over the weekend, with the mo­tions an ex­pres­sion of thank­ful­ness to the Great Spirit. With the South­west so close to the Amer­i­can bor­der, the event also fea­tured some unique sub­tle dif­fer­ence in what people were able to see.

“We go clock­wise. But the men in the United States will dance counter clock­wise, and on the out­side. Those people are con­sid­ered the war­riors in their so­ci­ety, and they’re they pro­tec­tors. They’re dancing on the out­side to pro­tect ev­ery­body in the mid­dle,” Mar­ion ex­plained.

By watch­ing the var­i­ous dances and dancers, spec­ta­tors were able to ap­pre­ci­ate the grace and power dis­played dur­ing the Pow Wow. Women’s Tra­di­tional dancing fea­tures women dressed in shawls of buck­skin or leather who keep fringes on their re­galia mov­ing to beat with del­i­cate foot work.

“This is re­served for the older women. This dance of hon­our re­flects the women in First Na­tions so­ci­ety.”

Women’s Fancy boasts women wear­ing lighter shawl ma­te­rial in more en­er­getic move­ments.

“They ac­tu­ally try to sim­u­late, when they’re dancing, an ea­gle or a bird fly­ing. And you’ll see the shawls open up, and they’re re­ally the flair for the ladies.”

The dancing ac­tiv­ity moves to the other end of the spec­trum with the power and speed of Men’s Fancy.

“They’re the flair. They’re the dy­na­mites of the Pow Wow cir­cuit. They try to move as much as pos­si­ble, as quick as pos­si­ble, to demon­strate the fancy style that they do have.”

Swift Cur­rent’s Pow Wow of­fered a to­tal of $80,000 in prize money dur­ing the weekend, and in ad­di­tion to the dance cat­e­gory pay­outs there were also singing groups com­pet­ing for cash prizes.

Mar­ion said bring­ing a Pow Wow to Swift Cur­rent was im­por­tant, as the Liv­ing Sky Casino wanted to open a di­a­logue with the com­mu­nity af­ter open­ing in 2008. They hoped to re­place skep­ti­cism and neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes with a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of First Na­tions people. By host­ing an an­nual First Na­tions event in Swift Cur­rent’s sched­ule of yearly events, the Pow Wow has truly be­come a two-way street in shar­ing cul­ture while as­sist­ing in build­ing re­la­tion­ships and com­mu­nity heal­ing.

“We thought it was an op­por­tu­nity to show­case Swift Cur­rent. We can bring in and show our people that hey Swift Cur­rent is here, and that we’re here, come join us in our cel­e­bra­tion here.”

“This is why we do it, to not only share cul­ture, like our Pow Wows, but to give an op­por­tu­nity to bring people here, to break down those bar­ri­ers. To show them hey Swift Cur­rent is a great place. It’s a beau­ti­ful city. And we’re liv­ing to­gether.”

Mar­ion pointed out the Pow Wow had a sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial im­pact on Swift Cur­rent dur­ing the weekend.

“Our businesses are busy. Our restaurant­s are busy. Our ho­tels are go­ing to be full.

“They’re go­ing to shop, they’re go­ing to play.”

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