Manitoulin Secondary School powwow engages local communities in healing

    Drum groups from a number of communities came to add their songs to the powwow. photos by Michael Erskine

    M’CHIGEENG—The gymnasium at Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) was packed with a capacity crowd on April 27 as the grand entry unfolded, led by local eagle staffs, head veteran Howard Debassige of M’Chigeeng, head dancers Pierre Debassige and Aiyana Nahwegabow, and head youth dancers Shade Kaiser and Autumn Peltier.

    Following a welcome by MSS Principal Jamie Mohamed, Manitoulin First Nations trustee with the Rainbow District School Board Grace Fox delivered an opening prayer, noting how proud she was of the youth and many dancers that turned out in their regalia for the event.

    Following Ms. Fox’s prayer, head youth dancer Autumn Peltier, one of Canada’s premier figures in the efforts to protect water, water walker and Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory Water Ambassador sang a water song.

    Providing the soundtrack to the day’s events were head drum Nimkee with Eli Fox and friends, assisted by guest drums High Eagle with Harvey Bell and crew and the Mustang Dwaagan with MSS students and Craig Fox.

    Among the flags and staffs that entered the dance arena was an MSS banner emblazoned with the slogan “Water is Life,” the central theme of the MSS powwow. “I am so proud that the students have chosen that as their theme,” said Michelle Jones, MSS Aboriginal Support worker. With the global focus on the struggle at Standing Rock and the ongoing challenges being presented to indigenous communities with threats to their water and way of life that are being played out across Canada and the world, the level of awareness of the importance of that issue speaks volumes.

    The powwow was documented in detail by Isaac Gosse, a senior Mustang and A-V expert. Mr. Grosse had agreed to film the Career Day that preceded the powwow and the powwow will feature in the final copy that Ms. Keatley will share with her colleagues in Toronto later this week as she makes a pitch for increased funding for the careers program.

    Dancers of all ages took part in the powwow, with plenty of intertribal dances offering opportunities for everyone to join in.