I’m not sure how I stumbled onto the Noongam Traditional Powwow but am I ever glad I did. The cultural celebration took place this weekend at Queen Juliana Park, which is across from Dow’s Lake (intersection of Carling Avenue and Preston street). Admission is free although donations are encouraged.
We arrived at noon on Sunday to watch the preparations for the Grand Entry and the start of the powwow. Because this is a cultural celebration and not intended as entertainment, there are limited concessions and scheduled activities. There is plenty of seating available but make sure to bring lawn chairs or a blanket (and an umbrella). Before the powwow got underway my boys were happy to run around the back field with a group of other children who were hiding from the hot sun and playing with pine cones underneath the trees.
Because a powwow is a cultural event, there are rules and etiquette, which vary depending on the region. The National Aboriginal Veteran’s Association has written a helpful guide, “What’s What” and “Who’s Who” – Pow Wow Etiquette about what to expect when you attend a powwow.
We had not expected to be invited to join the Grand Entry today but were very excited when the MC invited the audience to participate. One of the dancers explained the rules to us before we entered the dance circle (no photographs, children walk beside their parents), showed us the basic step, and then provided adults with tobacco to make an offering upon entrance to the dance circle.
Not 2 minutes into the circle, it started to rain. The drizzle was a welcome relief to the heat of the day! My youngest didn’t understand stepping in time to the drum beat and was quite happy to march alongside my husband but I spent almost the entire entry watching our four year try to keep his step in time with the drum beat. He was mesmerized by the dancers and elders that we followed. Despite the rain we were honoured to participate: you could feel the rhythmic drums and singing in your chest and it was amazing to watch the dancers in their beautiful regalia.
Our powwow experience was interrupted by the unrelenting downpour but I’m glad we had the chance to participate in our first powwow today. We hope it won’t be our last.
Listings for Ontario powwows can be found at:
Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey. You can find her at her blog, My Points of View