The Durham Region is rich in many cultures, not the least of which is that of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. For the past 19 years, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island have invited all to witness a truly remarkable weekend of history and ceremony. From their website we learn,
“The Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation moved into southern Ontario from their former homeland north of Lake Huron around the year 1700. The Mississaugas are a branch of the greater Ojibwa Nation, one of the largest native groups in Canada. From time immemorial, Mississauga people secured all their needs from the surrounding environment (“Mother Earth”); hunting and fishing and harvesting plant materials for food and medicines. Wild rice, an important food staple, grows in shallow water and was gathered in late summer using birch bark canoes.”
One of the best descriptions of a Pow Wow comes from the Ontario Travel site:
“Pow Wows are sacred to the people of the First Nations, who have gathered for decades to renew friendships and celebrate with song, food, dance and storytelling. Experience the dazzling display of dancers in brilliantly coloured regalia representing different legends and tribes. Listen to the haunting beat of the drum, and songs about warriors, honour and social life passed down by the elders for generations.”
For Melanie Martin, Webmaster for Mincom New Choice Realty Ltd. Brokerage and The Stacee-Free Team , the annual Pow Wow is an annual family event. This year Melanie, her sister Mary, and her daughter Jenn enjoyed the celebration together.
“I go most years,” says Melanie, “just to see the dancing and to eat the great food, specifically the bannock. The pow wow connects me to my roots. I see people that look and act just like me. I love the dancing because it makes me feel closer to my roots. As an aboriginal who is discovering herself more and more each year, this connects me closer to my people and my heritage.”
The theme for the weekend was “Honouring Our Lost Sisters” and the Pow Wow Grounds on Island Road in Port Perry were well set up to handle the crowd. Parking was plentiful and well-organized, with a steady stream of helpful and really happy “chauffeurs” who made sure everyone got to and from the grounds quickly and safely.
Before entering the Pow Wow, the aroma of both savoury and sweet treats floated on the warm air, greeting us with promises of full tummies before we leave. Even the strictest of dieters couldn’t resist the crowd favourite, Bannock, a delicious traditional Native fried bread. Just a bite or two…or three or four…maybe more.
Hand-made treasures were proudly displayed and it was easy to leave with a one-of-a-kind souvenir.
As enjoyable as all that is, the real reason everyone is here is for the gathering of the people, the ceremony and to join in dancing and singing. This is how the culture and rich heritage of the Native American Indians is preserved. Every dance and every song has a meaning. The traditional dress worn by each dancer bears significance to their culture. A feather is not just a feather. It is a symbol that must be earned and is cherished and treated with respect. Some of the prayers and dances are not to be photographed. It is a privilege just to bare witness. When cameras and recordings are allowed there is a feast of colour and textures to capture.
At the end of the day you can’t help but feel you have really shared in something special. By the time you are safely escorted back to your car, exhausted and full, all you can do is smile from ear to ear.