The grandmother of powwows returns with a welcoming twist

WIIKWEMKOONG—The Wiikwemkoong Cultural Festival (aka the Wiikwemkoong powwow) usually hosts a competition powwow (known as the grandmother of all powwows) along with a bevy of cultural events and learning opportunities. But in the spirit of welcoming back visitors, dancers, drums and vendors to Thunderbird Park (Nimkii Bineshi Kaaning), this year admission is free of charge and instead of competing for first, second and third prizes, dancers and singers will each be given an honorarium.

The festival gets underway this Friday, July 29 with a welcome social hosted by Wikwemikong Lands and Natural Resources Department that will include entertainment and a feast. The social is aimed at welcoming the vendors and powwow participants back to the powwow grounds at 9A Complex Drive in Wiikwemkoong, the Wiikwemkoong Cultural Festival offers up an amazing weekend of events and activities for all ages.

“Toke-ba’s pre-powwow 2nd Annual Woodland special is in the works for Friday at Wiikwemkoong powwow grounds from 6 pm to 8 pm,” shared Wiikwemkoong Heritage Organization cultural events co-ordinator Sheena Wassegijig. The event calls out to all woodland dancers and scrubbers, with first, second and third place prizes and a small give away for the participants. “Woodland and old-style scrub categories of all ages are welcome. Snake Island Singers will be host for the specials.”

The Ms. Wiikwemkoong pageant also takes place on Friday from 4 to 8 pm, with Little Miss, ages 5 to 9; Junior Miss, ages 10 to 14 years; and Ms. Wiikwemkoong, aged 15 to 25 years (with some exceptions) and the Brave category, age 5 to 17 years (also with some exceptions). The pageant will include a dance contest, interview and public speaking by the contestants. The winners will be introduced around 10 am on Saturday. Contact Tracy Cleland for details at 705-859-3016.

Host drum for the weekend will be Blackstone Singers and invited drums include homegrown Wassnodin Juniors as well as Snake Island Singers and Drum Split. The drums are sponsored by Chase the Ace fundraising committee.

The master of ceremonies duties will be shared by Ruben Little Head and Allan Manitowabi, David Trudeau takes on arena director duties, US Marine veteran Wayne Pitawanakwat will be in charge of head veteran duties. Sheldon Sundown will be the Smoke Dance Singer, while Gerry Kaboni and Linda Eshkawkogan are the head elders for the weekend. Teresa and Darren McGregor will be female and male head dancers respectively.

The powwow itself will see grand entry taking place at 12 pm and 7 pm on Saturday and 12 pm on Sunday.

There will be a huge variety of activities taking place, including the amazing DerRic Starlight of Fraggle Rock and his puppets on Saturday, July 30 from 2:30 pm to 4 pm at the Cultural Pavilion and from 5:30 to 6:30 pm on the mainstage. Comedian, voice actor, director, author and pro-wrestling promoter, Mr. Starlight is an Indigenous puppeteer whose passion for the art has only grown since he first began performing for his nokomis in western Canada as a child.

A Men’s and Women’s Traditional Special, sponsored by Henry Eshkibok, will take place on Saturday and a drum roll call special sponsored by the Chase the Ace fundraising group will take place on both Saturday and Sunday. The Adult and Golden Age Special, also sponsored by the Chase the Ace Wikwemikong Fundraising Group, will also be on Saturday and Sunday. A Woodland Committee Special takes place on Saturday.

The Boys Grass Youth Special 14 and under, sponsored by Pahquis Trudeau, will take place on Saturday and the Men’s and Women’s Smoke Dance Committee Special by the Chase the Ace Wikwemikong Fundraising Group will take place on both Saturday and Sunday.

Buzwah Variety is sponsoring the Boys and Girls Teens Woodland Special by on Saturday and Sunday.

The Master of Ceremonies Special is sponsored by Wikwemikong Prevention Services on Sunday, as will a Koogaanasawin “Caregiver Role” (honor song) Special.

The Auntie—Niece Three Generation Special will be held in memory of Helena Trudeau by Alanna, Tara and Niibishens Trudeau on Sunday and a Spectator Dance Special hosted by Wikwemikong Tourism.

While the powwow is going on there will be plenty to take in at the Cultural Pavilion with workshops on historical information and drum demonstrations. APTN cameras will be rolling throughout the weekend filming vendors for one of their upcoming specials.