Eleven schools attend Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation cultural day

PIKWAKANAGAN - School bus after school bus brought students from around the county to fill the stands encircling the ceremonial grounds on June 6 in what was billed as a cultural exchange put on by the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation. Announcer Fred McGregor, from Kitingan Zibi, Quebec, (part of the Algonquin community) told the audience that they were about to participate in an exercise of experiential learning, a cultural exchange, not a powwow. On one of the lighter notes, McGregor compared the weather forecast with the behaviour of his pet beetle. Laying on its back and waving its legs meant overcast and showers. The beetle was partly right. There was a soft rain before the ceremonies began and a solid cover for much of the day. There were, however, periods where the sun burst through the clouds, lighting up the brightly coloured and carefully sewn regalia of the dancers. As the dancers lined up behind Stephanie Sarazin and Josee Bourgeois at the eastern door of the ceremonial circle, MacGregor saw some students walking clockwise around the ceremonial circle. “You must have some good teachers or you’ve been to a powwow before,” MacGregor said, to know to cross the circle in a clockwise direction. After the Grand Entry by all the dancers in ceremonial regalia, everyone was invited to join in a dance around the circle, beating down the fresh grass. The students and staff joined in the dancing enthusiastically, moving around and around the circle in rhythm to the drumming of Eagle River. Stephanie Sarazin then demonstrated a traditional style of dancing, which was slow or stationary. Dressed in a traditional jingle dress, Josee Bourgeois then took the microphone from MacGregor and told the origin story of the style of dress she was wearing. Pick up a copy of the June 13, 2018 paper to read the full story.