Echoes of the Powwow
Every year the Powwow seems to get a little bigger. But that’s not really a priority for the coordinators.
“Our main goal is not to be the biggest, or the best Powwow,” said Lita Isaac, who has been involved since the very first Powwow in 1993. “It’s just for people to get here safely, enjoy their weekend. Dance. Drum.”
That’s a big enough job. Keeping people hydrated alone required over 170 cases of water, which had to be requested — and donated — from local businesses.
“It’s a lot of hard work. We have a small committee,” said Isaac. “But people will approach us and ask, ‘can we help?’”
The whole weekend runs on volunteers. Whether it’s in the weeks and months leading up to it, or those filling all the small, but demanding jobs. Everything from making coffee to directing traffic needs someone giving up their time.
“The Powwow belongs to the community,” said Isaac. “When people step up and offer to help … it might be something small, but it all counts.”
Laura Arsenault has been involved with the Powwow for seven years. She’s now one of the coordinators. “It’s just something for me that I would donate all my time to — even if it was yearlong, I’d still do it,” she said. “I’m passionate about. It’s the only thing I really volunteer for.”
While she spent this year mostly occupied with the vendors, Arsenault’s favorite job is working the canteen. She gets to meet new people and catch old friends visiting home.
A lot of people plan their vacations around the Powwow, and new people people discover it every year.
This year, over 500 people were fed moose, salmon and fiddleheads on Saturday alone. Isaac says being able to feed everyone is their way of thanking those who come and support Listuguj, and the Powwow.
“It’s building up the pride,” said Isaac.“If somebody leaves the Powwow with a feeling of experiencing a ceremony at the sacred fire, or just praying at the sacred fire, or enjoying the drumming and dancing. Or going to the native crafts and buying something made by somebody from a New Brunswick First, or Quebec, or Listuguj — it’s wonderful … Or just enjoying an indian taco. Leaving with something in their bellies or their heart or soul, it’s the best feeling for us. That’s our aim.”
Vilma Almendra, Nasa Nation, Colombia
It’s nice to feel that with the dances and the presence of the Grand-Father-the-Fire, you are still honoring the spirituality of Indigenous people here. AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde said: “despite colonization they couldn’t kill us and we are still here, alive”. These strong words, speaks about the ongoing death and life struggle that Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island are facing for many centuries.
Garland Joe Augustine, Elsipogtog,Mi’gmaqi
At the first Powwow there were few regalia, few eagle feathers and now we see more drums, more dancers, more children at the Powwow. This mean that people are coming back to their culture and it makes me proud. I come here every year since the first Powwow and they treat us good. I always want to come back.
Rene Arsenault, Member of Parliament, Restigouche East—Madawaska Riding
This is my first powwow and it’s nice to sees Natives, Acadians, French and English to meet at the beat of the drums. This is a family gathering. I feel like the Earth vibrates when I see a community that chants, dances and respect Mother Earth.
Jamie Metallic, Listuguj, Mi’gmaqi
This was my first time dancing with my regalia and in my home community. The support of friends and family was overwhelming and makes me feel proud. Looking at them was like looking at a rainbow with all their colors and they were around the circle. This is a new road for me, physical and spiritual.