Powwow gathering honours native elders

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Honouring their elders: More than 600 dancers and drummers from across North America attended the annual Samson Cree Nation powwow Aug. 5 to 7. This year’s theme was Honouring Our Elders. Here a chicken dancer follows the procession of the Grand Entry. The Samson Cree Nation hosted other events throughout the weekend and competitors and spectators could be found at the rodeo

Honouring their elders: More than 600 dancers and drummers from across North America attended the annual Samson Cree Nation powwow Aug. 5 to 7. This year’s theme was Honouring Our Elders. Here a chicken dancer follows the procession of the Grand Entry. The Samson Cree Nation hosted other events throughout the weekend and competitors and spectators could be found at the rodeo

By Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye for the Ponoka News

First Nations dancers and drummers from across North America were in Hobbema last weekend for a time of healing and to honour their elders.

“The Samson Cree Nation have been holding a powwow ever since I was a little girl,” says Holly Johnson, the chair of the event. This powwow at Bear Hills Park in Hobbema Aug. 5 to 7 hosted attendees from as far south as Arizona, New Mexico and Florida, and as far north as the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

This year’s theme was Honouring Our Elders. Johnson explained a powwow is more than just getting together, it is a time of healing and spiritual uplift.

“Drummers are the heartbeat of our people,” added Richard Pacheco, a drummer from Washington state. “That’s why they stay clean.”

Pacheco says his group, the Black Lodge Drummers, has been nominated eight times for a Grammy Award and they travel all over Canada and the United States to compete in other powwows. There were several drum groups competing at this powwow for the $12,000 first-place cash prize.

The Grand Entry marks the beginning of the competition, but it is also a ceremony of everyone coming together.

There were more than 600 competitors of all ages showing off their dance outfits Aug. 7, dancing around the powwow circle while drummers played and sang.

Dancers compete for cash prizes as well. They are judged on beadwork plus their flow/style of dance, and no outfit is the same. The chicken dance or prairie chicken dance ceremony has some of the most colourful costumes. Dancers have a bustle of feathers on their backs and their heads while they mimic the actions of the prairie chicken. It is originally a ceremonial dance but it has become more competitive with the addition of prize money for the best dancer.

Some of the younger dancers have more modern looks to their costumes to try to help them win their prize, in this case $400 for the junior age group. Teagan Labelle, 10, sported a Transformers bead necklace/pendant with Decepticons and Autobots logos overlapping.

The Samson Cree Nation hosted other events throughout the weekend and competitors and spectators could be found at the rodeo, slow-pitch games and on the golf course.

Johnson said organizers received sponsorship from many companies and that gives the powwow organizers a chance to offer larger cash prizes making the whole weekend a more successful experience.

There will be another powwow Aug. 12 to 14 at Bear Hills Park in Hobbema, this time hosted by the Ermineskin Cree Nation.

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