Dancers at the Giveaway Blanket at Na Me Res Pow Wow, Toronto, June 24, 2017.

By Barb Nahwegahbow

TORONTO—Na Me Res, the Native men’s residence in Toronto, hosted their 16th annual Pow Wow at Fort York on June 24, starting with a Sunrise Ceremony. The day was brilliantly sunny with a slight breeze and no hint of clouds. Some years there has been rain; however, the pow wow goes on regardless.

“I thought the Pow Wow was a great success!” said Steve Teekens, a citizen of Nipissing First Nation and the Executive Director of Na Me Res.

This year, there were approximately 10,000 people in attendance. The Pow Wow has been growing every year and that’s the reason Na Me Res began partnering with Fort York three years ago. Their previous site, a small city park at Bathurst and St. Clair, just couldn’t accommodate the growing numbers.

About 60 vendors were kept busy selling authentic Indigenous-made leather work, dream catchers, bead work, stained glass feathers, jewelry, T-shirts and books. After the Pow Wow, several vendors commented that they had sold out.

Eagle Flight Singers from London, Ontario, was the host drum and they’ve been supporting the Pow Wow for a number of years, Teekens said. There were four other drums and this year, 105 dancers participated.

“Our partnership with Fort York is great. It’s been just wonderful working with them,” said Teekens. “They make it easy for us, helping us with the set up. They’re just fabulous to partner with.”

The Pow Wow took place during the Indigenous Arts Festival presented by Fort York and Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation from June 21 to 25. This year’s Festival was curated by Leslie McCue, an arts administrator and performer from Curve Lake First Nation. Performances by Susan Aglukark, Crystal Shawanda and Ulali with Pura Fe were presented during the Festival that also included theatre, storytelling and Indigenous food offerings.

The Pow Wow itself is organized by staff and volunteers of Na Me Res, led by their fundraising coordinator, Blanch White of M’Chigeeng First Nation.

“The price tag for the Pow Wow is usually around $25,000 to $30,000,” said Teekens. “And for that, we rely on donations and grants. We also raise revenue from food sales at the Pow Wow. Some years, we run a deficit and some years, we run a small surplus.”

“The Pow Wow provides a good opportunity to educate people,” continued Teekens. “We try to do good in the community while teaching non-Native people about our culture.”

For Teekens, the highlight of this year’s Pow Wow were the tikinagans (cradleboards) made by the men and that were on display.

“The men made the tikinagans and they learned the teachings about the men’s role in making them and preparing for children to be born,” he said. “They learned how the tikinagan helps the babies in their development, developing their eyesight. Seeing those men set up at the table with the tikinagans, they looked so proud and happy. And several people wanted to buy them.”

Na Me Res is a non-profit charitable organization that was established 31 years ago by community members concerned with the lack of services for Indigenous men. Along with providing emergency shelter to men who find themselves homeless, Na Me Res provides cultural and other support programs to get the men back on their feet with housing, healing, employment, and renewed Indigenous knowledge and pride.

For information on Na-Me-Res and how you can support the Pow Wow and their work, please visit their website: www.nameres.org.