SUNSHINE ALLEY – The 26th annual Whitefish River First Nation (WRFN) Wawaskinaga Traditional Gathering and powwow formed the tail end of the First Nation’s homecoming week, offering families the chance to reunite and celebrate all that the community has accomplished in the past year.

“Welcome to our home and sacred space here next to Dreamers’ Rock,” said WRFN Ogimaa Shining Turtle at the Sunday grand entry ceremony. “Chi-miigwetch for spending your time with us this weekend. It is an honour to have you sit with us.”

Homecoming week began on Tuesday, August 13 with a kick-off lunch barbecue at Sandy Beach. Later that evening, a ball game took place followed by games night at the community centre.

August 14 brought a lunch-hour fish fry at LaFarge followed by prize bingo at the community centre. At 6 pm, the community hosted an outdoor family dance for all ages in the appropriate location of the Shawanosowe School’s parking lot.

Band councillor, storyteller and elder Esther Osche led a tour of Bell Rock at 11 am on Thursday, August 15, sharing the traditional significance of this land with those in attendance. At 5 pm, Dale McGregor and Family provided fabulous fiddle music at a community feast and dollar auction at the community centre.

On Friday, the community hosted family fun day at the ball field at 11 am, and then a student awards celebration and dinner at the community centre.

Saturday marked the kick-off of the powwow. Grand entries took place at 1 and 7 pm on that day and again at noon on Sunday. Friday night featured a community feast and sunrise ceremonies took place every morning at 6 am between August 15 and 18.

At Sunday’s grand entry, Martin Kimewon carried the Wiikwemkoong flag, Scott Hogarth carried the cancer spirit staff, Richard Shawanda and head veteran Mike Pitawanakwat carried the WRFN veterans’ staff, Deacon Jacko carried the Shawanosowe School eagle staff, Louise Jacko carried the Gitchitaa-kwe eagle staff and Ogimaa Shining Turtle carried the WRFN community staff. Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare was present on Saturday to carry the Union of Ontario Indians eagle staff.

The Whitefish River First Nation royalty for 2019-2020 are, from left, Lil Miss Wawaskinaga Delilah McGregor, Junior Miss Wawaskinaga Aurora Megwanabe and Miss Wawaskinaga Shania Splane. photos by Warren Schlote

Dan Fox served as emcee, Curtis Paibomsai was arena director, Gerry and Linda Kaboni were head elders and the head dancers included Lisa Cywink and A J White in the adult category and Carter McGregor and Aurora Manitowabi in the youth division.

Visiting royalty included Miss Wiikwemkoong and Little Miss Wiikwemkoong and Jr. Miss Genaabaajing (Serpent River First Nation).

WRFN’s own royalty crowned at this event were 15-year-old Shania Splane from Attawapiskat who took the title of Miss Wawaskinaga, 10-year-old Aurora Megwanabe from WRFN who was crowned Junior Miss Wawaskinaga and Delilah McGregor was acclaimed as Lil’ Miss Wawaskinaga.

Head elder Gerry Kaboni offered an invocation before the start of the dances. Biitaabines served as host drum, with Whitefish Bay Singers and Wasanode Jr’s as co-host drums. Waabinong Giizis and Anishinaabe Connection also drummed for the Sunday powwow.

George Steel and Viola Day won the mixed category in the canoe races with their fierce push toward shore.

Canoe races took place Sunday morning, with Kristen and Kelsie McGregor taking the women’s division and Viola Day and George Steel winning the mixed category.

This was organizer Sandy Jacko’s first time running a powwow and she said the help from her strong team and even the help of visitors made it all run smoothly.

“With homecoming week, we wanted our community members to take pride in our community. Our students did some cleaning and restoration work at the beach this week. It’s great seeing them taking ownership and making their home a little better,” said Ms. Jacko.

“We’re a small community, but we can accomplish great things.”