Honouring the Algonquin spirit

GOLDEN LAKE – At the 25th anniversary of the annual traditional Pow Wow for the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn, the chief, council and committee coordinated an evening to celebrate and acknowledge all the people who have volunteered and assisted with the Pow Wow over the last 25 years. This began with a feast and presentations on the evening of August 17.

The grand entries were held at noon on both August 18 and 19 where hundreds of dancers, numerous drum groups and spectators came together to celebrate their Algonquin culture at the traditional Pow Wow.
The grand entries are ceremonies, as is the lighting of the Sacred Fire. Some people approached the Spiritual Leader for prayers for health, for both themselves and their families. The songs and dances performed are prayers to the Creator.
In the days prior to the celebration, a Sacred Fire was lit and remained ablaze, thanks to volunteers, for four straight days.
As well as visitors being able to enjoy the dance, songs and drumming, they also had the opportunity to view and purchase many unique items from the 50 craft vendors. The vendors were selling jewellery, crafts, art, clothing, beadwork, dream catchers and the list goes on. There were also 10 food vendors this year, offering Indian tacos, native food and other mouth-watering dishes.
When attending a Pow Wow, you will notice that certain rules are observed. All of the dancing revolves clockwise from the entrance, situated in the east, around the central arbour. Carrying flags and staffs in the grand entry is an honour. As well, songs are sung for fallen veterans and for those returning from battle. The flags and staffs are retired each day at sunset.
The regalia worn by the dancers are a collection of gifts that honour his or her spiritual name and/or clan. Each is considered as sacred, and when worn together, the dancer becomes who he or she truly is, for all to see.
The Gazette had the opportunity to speak with Jane Commanda who has been the coordinator for the Pow Wow for the last 12 years.
She indicated that there were about 400 dancers this year. Each dancer has to register and make their own regalia. They go to an older person to get teachings on the making of the regalia. She also noted that regalia making does receive some funding.
After the current Pow Wow comes to an end, Commanda will begin preparing for the next year. She originally began participating in the Pow Wow by selling crafts and has held many positions over the years. She said she began as coordinator after the last coordinator became ill. Commanda said she is just waiting for an Algonquin male to come to her so she can pass the responsibility over to him.
All the money raised, from the fee paid by the vendors, will keep them going for next year’s Pow Wow.
Fred McGregor has been the emcee for many years.
“He’s been here years and years and he can’t get away on me ’cause I hurry up and I give him my tobacco so I know he’s coming back,” Commanda said.
When asked what she liked most about the Pow Wow, Commanda indicated, “I love the people here. Even the ones that come from out of town.”
One woman at the Pow Wow told a story about having attended a couple of years ago to receive healing for her grandson who had cancer. The healing dance cured his cancer she said.
Story continues in the August 22 issue of The Valley Gazette.