Chief thanks ‘pandemic warriors’ at Wawaskinaga Powwow

From left is Miss Wawaskinaga Autumn Shawanda of Whitefish River First Nation, Lil Miss Wawaskinaga Waaskone Sackaney of Wiikwemkoong and Lil Miss Wawaskinaga Runner-Up Isla Tonge, of Whitefish River First Nation. photo by Brianna McGregor

SUNSHINE ALLEY—Dreamer’s Rock kept careful watch over the many dancers, visitors, friends and family who gathered once again at the powwow grounds at Sunshine Alley for the 27th Wawaskinaga Powwow last weekend.

The surrounding waters were well utilized as young and old took a refreshing dip or wade to cool off from the hot summer sun that graced the picturesque arena.

Head drum Chi-Geezis led the dignitaries, elders, veterans and dancers into the arena for the first time in three years. Following a flag song from Genaabaajing Jrz. and an invocation, the eagle staffs were posted by their carriers.

This year’s theme was ‘Honouring our Warriors,’ and Chief Franklin Paibomsai (Shining Turtle) reminded all those present for the Saturday grand entry that they had all been warriors having just navigated “a period of great uncertainty.”

He commended everyone on the work they had done during the pandemic in looking out for their families, elders and working to the point of exhaustion.

“Miigwetch to those who stood up to be strong for the community,” Chief Shining Turtle continued.

The chief shared that 39 people passed onto the spirit world during the pandemic and often those families did not have the chance to grieve in the ways they normally would due to public health protocols. Students were pulled out of classrooms and left to learn from a distance, he noted.

“Access to food and supplies were at times scarce, and now the prices are rising,” Chief Shining Turtle added. “We all became exhausted our workforce tired and leadership besieged.”

“I acknowledge your every effort in this most challenging time in modern history,” the chief said. “Your unyielding resistance shone a way forward and his shown that our Indigenous values, our community values, will carry us through.”

“Today brings a new day—a time to laugh, dance, celebrate and visit; a time for unity of our shared values and a unity of our people.”

On Sunday morning the Lil Miss and Miss Wawaskinaga Pageant was held. Autumn Shawanda of Whitefish River First Nation was named Miss Wawaskinaga, Waaskone Sackaney of Wiikwemkoong was crowned Lil Miss Wawaskinaga and Lil Miss Wawaskinaga Runner-Up is Isla Tonge of Whitefish River First Nation.

Head dancers for the Wawaskinaga Powwow were Tim McGregor and Maretta Jones. Emcee for the weekend was Dan Fox and arena director was Sunset Sagutch.