M’Chigeeng powwow signals community re-opening and revitalization

The men's traditional dance always leaves spectators spellbound and in awe.

M’CHIGEENG—Following the grand opening of the first Jiingtaamok (traditional powwow gathering) at the M’Chigeeng Powwow grounds since the advent of the pandemic, M’Chigeeng Ogimaa-kwe Linda Debassige delivered a message of hope, looking forward to the re-opening of the community and its social events.

Ogimaa-kwe Debassige began her remarks by acknowledging the recent passing of beloved community elder Kate Roy baa. “I have spoken with the family and they have agreed that Kate baa would have wanted this celebration to continue,” she said. “She was a great supporter of our traditions, language and culture.” Ogimaa-kwe Debassige called for the assembly to honour and acknowledge Ms. Roy. “She was an elder, fluent speaker and purveyor of our knowledge and traditions, a member of our community who helped build our community.”

Ogimaa-kwe Debassige continued her opening remarks by acknowledging the vacuum the restrictions needed to deal with the pandemic had created in the community. “It has been many years since we have been able to come together,” she said. “Many of us have not been able to come together. Today we start to hope to re-open.”

Ogimaa-kwe Debassige welcomed everyone to the community and to enjoy the opportunity to once again get together in celebration of community, traditions and culture.

The eagle staffs were brought into the arena under the watchful eye of Head Veteran Justin Debassige. MC Greg (The Goose) Sutherland noted that there were no flags being carried into the arena during this Jiingtaamok. “Today there are only the eagle staffs,” he said. The M’Chigeeng staff was carried by Giideh Sergeant Justin Joseph Debassige, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran of 31 years who saw service with the United Nations in Egypt following the Egyptian-Israeli War, the Wiikwemkoong Warrior staff by Raymond Jackson and the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising was carried by Eli Fox.

Following the staffs were head dancers Stacey and Wes Cleland and youth dancers Noah Hare and Scarlette Shogga, who led a procession of dancers into the dance arena that included M’Chigeeng Princess Kyra Bayer and Ms. Wiikwemkoong Niibishens Trudeau.

Following the posting of the eagle staffs, Head Elder Jean Debassige delivered an opening prayer to the Creator in Anishinaabemowin.

Saturday’s skies were threatened with dark clouds on occasion but did little to dampen spirits as the powwow got underway and smiles soon brightened the skies. Sunday’s celebration was held under sunny skies with near-perfect temperatures for dancing.

Laughter and expressions of joy and greeting vibrated across the grounds as community members spotted familiar faces in the crowd.

There were plenty of vendors on hand and the lineups for food went swiftly as appreciative customers restocked their supplies of sweet grass and other medicines and picked up mementos of the occasion.