The 2017 Pow-Wow Trail
POW-WOW : It’s a celebration for people of all ages that include Aboriginal music, dancing, regalia, food and handicrafts. Originally, the Aboriginals would meet and take this opportunity to settle disputes, forge new alliances, and trade. Family and religion were also central components of the powwows of yore.
Pow-Wow activities, which today are celebrated across Canada during summer weekends, are divided into two types: traditional and competitive. During competitive powwows, prizes are awarded to dancers and musicians. Traditional powwows on the other hand focus on traditions and spirituality. Though some elements are common to the various communities, some of these communities have dances and songs that are specific to them, like the smoke dance of the Iroquois, or the Prairie Chicken dance of the First Nations of the prairies.There are also different categories of dancing, depending on the style and age of participants: dances performed by men (traditional dances, grass dances, fancy dance), dances performed by women (traditional jingle dress dances, fancy shawl dance) and dances performed by both sexes (hoop dance). Nowadays, powwows are open to all. Inter-tribal dances, in which anyone can participate, are a great opportunity to meet people. Powwows remain an important event for Aboriginal people; they allow them to uphold their traditions and culture and proudly show their roots.
During official and religious ceremonies, cultural events like pow wows or social gatherings, First Nations’ members wear tokens specific to their culture: beaded medallions, feathers on hats decorated with traditional designs, embroidered and beaded skin clothing, necklaces and bracelets made of bones or decorated with bear claws, moccasins, etc. These regalia elements are markers of the aboriginal identity.
For thousands of years, clothing has been and still is a way to communicate one’s individual and collective identity. For the First Nations, clothing is an essential element of the culture, traditions, beliefs, status, age and gender of the individual.
The traditional clothes worn by the dancers at pow wows are by far the most spectacular and the most known in regard to aboriginal identity. The term regalia is used to highlight the ceremonial aspect of the clothing and accessories. The regalia symbolizes the dancer’s belonging to the First Nations, as well as his identity, spirituality, beliefs and the spiritual traditions of his Nation. In this sense, the regalia is sacred. The acquisition, making, handling or wearing of the regalia are subject to rules that are specific to each Nation, whether from here or from other regions.
The word “Pow-Wow” is derived from the Algonquin word “pauwau”, meaning “spiritual leader”.