- Category: news
- Created: Monday, 09 September 2013 14:50
- Published: Monday, 09 September 2013 14:50
- Written by Administrator 3
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By Cheryl Brink, Cornwall Standard Freeholder
CORNWALL - Though much of the crowd that packed the stands and rosters for the 13th annual Akwesasne International Pow Wow were adults, the event was billed as a showcase of the next generation.
And there were plenty of children decked out in colourful regalia, ready to dance in the grassy circle outside the Turtle Dome on Cornwall Island last weekend.
“What brings joy to my heart is the children dancing,” said the event’s master of ceremonies Bill Constant.
He said their participation is proof of the First Nations’ ability to survive major challenges, including the era of residential schools, rampant substance abuse, and regional wars.
“We have a long history of conflict,” he said. “But when we come to pow wow, it shows the native people are very strong and very resilient.”
For Owen Mayo, teaching his son to dance at a young age was an important part of instilling appreciation for the First Nations culture.
“It’s about being proud of who we are,” he said. “Some people still ... don’t like to show who they are.”
Mayo, who lives on the Kahnawake reserve outside Montreal, said he began participating at pow wows when he was just three years old.
“I’ve been dancing my whole entire life,” he said. “...Dancing built me into the person I am today.”
Now 20, Mayo said he travels to as many pow wows in the region as possible each year, in between playing in lacrosse tournaments. He picked up a few awards for his dance skills as a teen, but has yet to earn prizes in the men’s traditional 18 to 49 age category.
But he’s not looking for accolades; Mayo said he’s thrilled with each opportunity to compete.
“I have spina bifida,” he said. “...I wasn’t supposed to be able to walk when I was born.”
After four surgeries, Mayo is not only still able to walk, but move to the beat with his nearly two-year-old son, Nashtyn.
“He loves to dance as much I as I did when I was little,” he said with a grin.
Nashtyn wasn’t the only youngster with plenty of energy for the dance floor.
Seven-year-old Ava Bradley was all smiles as her mother helped put the finishing touches on her regalia before the pow wow began on Saturday.
She said she was “excited” for her first time participating in the event.
Ava was in the junior category, which covers ages six to 12. While anyone younger danced just for fun, the older participants were vying for prize money in more than half a dozen divisions. Payouts ranged from $25 for fourth place in the youngest category, to $800 for first place in the “golden age” competitions.
The drum contests were even more lucrative, with a grand prize of $3,500 in the big drum category.
Competitions were held throughout the afternoon on both Saturday and Sunday, following a high-energy performance by an African drumming group to kick off the annual festival.
The event also featured a slew of traditional foods and vendors, including Norma from Toronto.
Also known by her clan name of Sparkling Waters at Dawn, Norma was laying out homemade dreamcatchers and jewelry for visitors to peruse on Saturday morning.
It’s her third year attending the Akwesasne pow wow, one of many events she visits during the year to sell her wares.
“I like the location, for one thing,” she said. “The location is great.”
Norma said she has developed the various skills to put together her creations over time, as part of a reintroduction into the First Nations traditions.
“I didn’t grow up with the culture,” she said, explaining that she was forced to attend a residential school.
“This is my way of coming back.”
Whether it was hand-crafted decor and clothing or the dance competitions, the pow wow was aimed at displaying various aspects of First Nations heritage in an effort to ensure they are maintained for years to come.
“This is why we continue to do what we do as First Nations people,” said Constant.