Aundeck Omni Kaning powwow sets the season’s tone

Dancers move to the beat of the powwow drum at the Aundeck Omni Kaning powwow, the first of the 2017 season on Manitoulin. photos by Michael Erskine

AUNDECK OMNI KANING—The first day of the Island’s first powwow of the 2017 season was held under bright sunny skies and nestled on the shores of the North Channel. The near perfect weather for dancing, not too hot, but not too cold, wet or dreary was welcomed by all. It certainly didn’t hurt that the first powwow of the year was also emceed by everyone’s favourite powwow host Chris ‘the pleasant’ Pheasant of Wiikwemkoong, who was ably assisted by his protégé the very funny Adrian Trudeau.

Robert Stoneypoint of Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation was the arena director for this 27th edition of the powwow, keeping the dancers going in an organized fashion. The theme of the powwow was ‘Embracing The Seven Grandfather Teachings’ (Chi-nadmowin, Niizhwaaswi Gmishoomisnaanig Ge Gchi-Piitendaawgkin Knoomaadiwan).

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee was also in attendance for the first grand entry on Saturday and carried the Sagamok Anishnawbek eagle staff. Murray Still carried the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service eagle staff with John Fox carrying the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) eagle staff. Mr. Fox is the father of the late Cheyenne Fox and is a tireless crusader for the MMIWG cause. Tyler Madahbee carried the Aundeck Omni Kaning eagle staff into the arena and welcomed everyone to the powwow. Band Councillor Karen McGraw carried the American flag while Ryan Corbiere, AOK band councillor, carried the Canadian flag. Anna General carried the Union Jack, while AOK Chief Patsy Corbiere brought the prisoner of war/missing in action flag into the arena. There was also a Wiikwemkoong flag as well as a Wikwemikong High School eagle staff as part of the grand entry.

Artist Whitney Whiteduck displays her work, painted in the
traditional woodland style.

“On behalf of the leadership, staff and people of this community, welcome to Aundeck Omni Kaning and our annual powwow,” Chief Corbiere said. “It’s a nice day, a positive day.”

The chief then thanked the community of Wiikwemkoong for “not holding a rain dance this weekend.” But perhaps she spoke a bit too soon, as the weather turned a bit soggy by Sunday.

Ms. McGraw, on behalf of the powwow committee, spoke of the traditional teachings the community learned the night before. “As we learned last night, powwows are for fun,” she said, “so let’s have some fun and dance.”

Mr. Pheasant urged the powwow-goers to “forget about their troubles and think about the here and now and dance. Life is precious, I can tell you that.”

The first spot dance of the day was sponsored by The Manitoulin Expositor and Bruce Recollet with Calvin Eagle taking home the $65 prize.

The annual crow calling contest was well attended.

There were plenty of vendors on hand for the weekend, including the usual Anishinaabe artisan work to be found on the powwow trail, but also unique booths like that of Jessy Mandoshkin who was honouring the passage to the spirit world of her partner Andrew Madahbee.

Ms. Mandoshkin sold 142 tickets on a wooden box with a wood burned image of a wolf created by her late partner. The raffle raised $284 and $142 of the funds raised went to the Manitoulin food bank in her husband’s name. The remainder will go to a yet to be determined charity, also in Mr. Madahbee’s name.

Host drum for the event was Young Biisinai and head dancers were Mike and Jenn Ramsdin.

One of the hilarious events of the weekend was the crow calling competition, with several top notch competitors launching their calls out to the great delight of the audience.

Powwow coordinator Mandy Shawanda and her volunteer committee members could be seen bustling about the grounds throughout the weekend ensuring that a truly good time was had by all.