Saturday’s Pow Wow at Wells Hill Park made up for my disappointment about our big Pow Wow having moved to Hamilton. The park setting was more fitting for a First Nations’ event than the big, man-made Sky Dome. The park was more crowded, but it was more intimate and green.
Master of Ceremonies Bob Goulais set a very welcoming tone. He asked for no photography during the opening spiritual part of the event. Such announcements had been lost in the impersonal Sky Dome. Without the distraction of a camera separating us from people, I could concentrate on the ceremony. Jacqui LaValley’s prayer in the Anishnawbe language was beautiful.
I stayed for the first hour and then went back for the last. Goulais encouraged everyone to get up and dance. In return for letting us take pictures, he said we had to join the fun. Okay, it was a joke but he made his point. He also got people dancing by giving prizes for being in the right spot at the end of each dance. By the end, there were more people dancing than watching. At the end, everybody got a prize.
I was able to find and talk with some of the more elaborately-dressed dancers. It’s true. Face-paint can be threatening. Unusual clothing can be intimidating. In spite of exterior appearances, I found that these were friendly, helpful people.
The printed program also helped. It gave short bios with portraits of the more prominent people at the Pow Wow and an explanation about Pow Wows. “They are fun events but they are also sacred,” it read. This event was very well organized.
I was sorry more non-Natives didn’t accept the Na-Me-Res’ invitation to the Pow Wow. It included a free dinner. The Na-Me-Res is a 63-bed temporary residence and rehabilitation centre for homeless men. Volunteers at a booth accepted donations but I didn’t hear any requests for such. Its web-site is: http://nameres.org/.
Fortunately the weather co-operated this year. Last year, it rained so hard I gave up and went home. Weather was never a problem at the Sky Dome, but this pow wow goes on rain or shine. I hope others will join it next year.