The Fourth Homecoming Pow Wow at Kahnawake, Quebec in 1994
Kahnawake was the scene of the "Oka" crisis of 1990
Pow Wow Idol
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The Pow Wow
The pow wow is an activity unlike anything in the
culture of non-natives.
The pow wow is a
spiritual gathering of nations, while at the same time it serves to
distinguish between the social and
cultural differences that set natives apart from other societies.
Indeed, the pow wow is the expression of a way of life for native
communities across Canada and the United
States. And while the
pow wow is colour in motion to most non-natives, to North American
Indians the pow wow serves a far greater purpose.
Despite the ever-changing
face of the nation on both the social and political fronts, pow wow tradition is one constant that remains throughout First Nations
As well, the pow wow serves to bond tribes and bands
of different linguistic geographical locations, building a bridge
between it's paricipants. All Indians,
whether they are of Ojibway, Iroquois or Sioux
descent, are welcomed to take part in the intertribal festivities.
Women's Traditional Dance
From early spring to late
fall, year after year,
natives from across
North America travel great
distances to gather and to celebrate their heritage through singing
and dancing. It is the
expression of harmony among First nations and a way of life that has not been forgotten. The history of
the pow wow is a long one. One must go back to the
arrival of French explorer Jacques
Cartier, in 1534, to the "new
world" for the first recorded
account of native dancing. carter recorded
that up0n his arrival at the mouth of the
St Laurence river, he was greeted by seven canoes filled with
Indian warriors dancing while the women, knee deep in water, danced along the shoreline.
Cartier also noticed that he had landed among the Algonquin
Further up the river, he
was again greeted in a likewise manner, upom his
arrival in the Iroquois village of Hochelaga. It was observed and
recorded by Cartier that dancing was universal to
the native communities,
as well as vital to their ceremonial practises.
The term pow wow is a European term that has since been borrowed back by natives.
"Pau wau", which means medicine man or conjuror, was
misconstrued by European settlers who witnessed the healing practises of the village shaman as he was also known as.
The frequent use of the word was taken to mean "the
gathering of natives"
the medicine man during healing practices,
rather than the man himself. Since the Nineteenth century, "pow wow"
has largely been associated with any meeting,
religious or social event involving natives. The pow wow
therefore, can be said to be a gathering of First Nations.
of the pow wow point
to the Plains
The United States. Other accounts
the Algonquin Indians of New England played a significant role
development of the modern day pow wow as it is commonly regarded.
the most significant renderings of native life
in the early
days of European exploration can be realised
through the artistic works
of George Catlin.
spent eight years amongst the Sioux Indians of the
Plains in the
early 1830's, painting and writing
way of life.
He is regarded as the best
known of the American artists who depicted
Indian life. His writings are also
valuable sources of information.
lived an oral tradition and
taught the ceremonies
and dances to
future generations by word of
mouth. Therefore, the
writings and paintings of settlers, in particular George Catlin, are
sources for historical analysis, as
far as the early pow wow traditions are concerned.
the days of initial contact with the
settlers, the pow wow continues to
bring First Nations together;
harmoniously and with great pride and dignity.
Reproduced with the kind
permission of The Mississuagas of the New Credit First Nation
Photograph taken at Hamilton Pow Wow by James Simcoe
Russell Noganosh - Native Canadian Artist, Dancer and Singer
There is a great flute player from the USA called Joseph Firecrow. Visit his site at, http://www.josephfirecrow.com/
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