The White Bear First Nations annual pow wow celebrated a new beginning - by returning to its roots.
The pow wow - which returned this year after a one-year hiatus - has most recently been staged on the grounds of the Bear Claw Casino. However, thanks to Pow Wow Chairperson Wanda Lonechild and a core committee of volunteers, the sacred celebration returned to the traditional pow wow grounds at White Bear, from Friday, July 6 through Sunday, July 8.
“Everybody loves it out here and everybody wanted it here,” says Lonechild. “We all worked hard to get the grounds ready.”
“On Thursday, we had quite a few people here already to stay for pow wow and by Friday, it had doubled,” she says. “On Friday night, the first night, I was almost in tears, but I stopped myself. The committee were all shaking hands. We couldn't believe we'd accomplished it.”
“Everybody was hugging all night.”
White Bear First Nations Chief Nathan Pasap thanked the pow wow commiteee, saying: “I'd like to thank the committee. It's beautiful what they achieved and we thank them for bringing the pow wow back to White Bear.”
The pow wow welcomed dancers, drummers and visitors from throughout Canada and the U.S. - including particpants and spectators from as far away as Oklahoma.
Competitors vied for $95,800 total prize money with men competing in the Traditional, Grass, Fancy Bustle and Chicken categories; while women danced in the Traditional, Jingle and Fancy Shawl categories, in spite of the oppressive heat and humidity.
Dancers and drummers ranged in age from seven-years-old to over 55 and although the prize money was a factor, cameraderie trumped competition, as veterans and elders were honoured and elders guided little ones in Indigenous traditions.
Vice-President of the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association (SFNVA), Ron “Rocky” Redwood says: “I think it is powerful to have the pow wow back on the Nation. I'm grateful to White Bear for that.”
“Not only do we gather here, but it gives everyone a chance to meet our veterans and learn about their contributions,” explains Redwood, who served in Vietnam.
“Tony Lerat, the SFNVA President is here today,” says Redwood. “He served with the Queen's Own Rifles in France. And Tony Cote served with the 81st Field Regiment RCA (Royal Canadian Artillery) and in 1974, he founded the Saskatchewan Indigenous Summer and Winter Games.”
“It's important in our culture to honour our veterans and White Bear has always done that.”
FSIN Third Vice-Chief Dutch Lerat said of the pow wow: “This is our culture. This is what it means to be First Nations. This is what it is to be Indian.”
“It's healing; it's the little ones dancing; it's the drums; it's the healing within.”
“I am very happy to be here today after 10 or 12 years,” added Lerat. “My mother came here - it was one of her favourite pow wows.”
The pow wow was already deemed a success well before its final day. White Bear Band councillor Bernard Shepherd told the crowd on Saturday: “On behalf of Chief and Council, thank you everybody who came out to the pow wow. Six weeks ago, these grounds didn't look like this. We have some really committed people here.”
“This is a new beginning for our pow wow and we'd love to see you all back here again.”