By Sharon Weatherall
Students from five area schools arrived at Christian Island last week to learn and partake in an exciting cultural experience that takes place every year. Christian Island Elementary School (CIES) hosted its 7th annual Pow-Wow on a beautiful sunny day with dancing, traditional workshops and feasting with lots of tasty traditional foods. The theme this year was “Honouring the Spirit of our Youth”.
Taking part in the event were classes from Mundy’s Bay School in Midland, Wasauksing School from Parry Island, Alliston Union Public School, Oakley Park Public School from Barrie and W.C. Little Elementary School from Barrie,Ontario. The students arrived on the island via passenger ferry and hovercraft.
A highlight of the day was the dancing for which several traditional dances were demonstrated by people and students who were dressed in colourful regalia. There were many times when everyone – visitors and community alike, were invited to join in.
CIES was honoured this year to have Male Head Dancer Lee Benson from Rama, Female Head Dancer Raven Copegog from Rama and Youth Dancers Paxton King from Rama and Robin Louttit from Christian Island School. Beedahsiga B. Elliott was the Master of Ceremonies while drumming and singing was provided by Crazy Horse from Parry Island/Saugeen and Misty Creek from Christian Island. Things got underway with an Honour Song for the Elders, Council, seniors and guests.
Grass Dancer Gavin King of the Chippewa’s of Nawash Cape Croker First Nation was a handsome sight in his brilliant red regalia. The 19 year old takes his dancing very seriously.
“I have been dancing for 17 years. I started dancing at two years old, as soon as I could walk I was in an outfit,” said King. “I think it is really important to show our culture and heritage to the world. It creates awareness. We take videos at events like this which are shown all over the area and help to make people aware.”
Grass dancers play an important role in the Pow-Wow ceremony in leading the way for the grand entry. Typically they are pushing down the grass for honoured guests and other dancers to follow.
Emcee Beedahsiga B. Elliott explained the roles of the different dancers saying the arbour in the centre of the dance area represents Mother Earth and the drums represent the heartbeat of Mother Earth.
“Men’s Traditional dance is the oldest style of dance. The men wear a bustle on their back made of raven and eagle feathers and often carry a club for
hunting,” said Elliott. “The Fancy Shawl and Butterfly dancers show us we need to get up and move if we want to grow.”
The Traditional Workshops featured throughout the day included creative storytelling, medicine wheel, lacrosse demonstrations, spirit rocks and chockers, soapstone and an Ojibway village display. Guided bus tours of the island were also made available. Food and craft vendors from the school and community provided goods for the event.
CIES Grade 7 &8 class were selling lemonade and beavertails to raise money for a school trip as were other students from the school. Each year all of the students take part in the preparations and hosting of this interesting event. They love to share their heritage and culture.
“A Pow-Wow should be on everyone’s priority because we need to preserve our history and culture and share it with other people,” said grade 8 student Shayna Shawongonabe.
Christian Island’s “Island in the Sun” Pow Wow takes place on July 2-3.