The Potawatomi Gathering of Nations was held this year at Walpole Island First Nation in Ontario, Canada, from August 2-5, 2017. The last time they hosted a Gathering was in 2008.
The beauty of this place as an island just across the border between the United States and Canada was truly a wonderful sight to behold. The powwow grounds were especially beautiful being located right on the St. Clair River separating the two countries. The grounds were well shaded and offered many sites where one could sit back and watch the different sized boats and ships as they navigated the waters of this border river. The entire area was really a nicely-preserved place to be and seemed a bit set aside from the chaos of the modern world, and one knew that when one couldn’t send a text, make a phone call or check one’s Facebook status. It made one realize how things once were for Native people – how things were a bit different before the introduction of some of the technology that is now common. It almost seemed unusual to see minimal “devices” and to see people socializing with one another, learning each other’s stories and backgrounds, hearing about the way they lived and how they survived and what they are teaching future generations. It really was humbling to be there and to be part of this event.
The language and history conference started on Wednesday and continued into Thursday. The keynote speaker was James Vukelich, a leading voice in Native language revitalization efforts and spiritual teachings for over a decade. His keen insights on the interconnectedness of language and culture were developed in the field speaking with and recording elders and Native speakers of the language (many of whom have since passed on) in Canada, Michigan and Minnesota as part of the Ojibwe Language Dictionary Project. (cited from http://kizhenaabeg.weebly.com)
During the language and history conference, several other events took place. There were sweetgrass tying with Torey Day and stories from childhood by Linda George and Mtegok Kenomagewen with Kristy Phillips from Hannahville. On Thursday there was a self-paced language class by Justin Neely of Citizen Potawatomi Nation Language Department and 100 Years of Language from Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Language & Culture Department. Other presentations included A History of Citizen Potawatomi Band by Jon Boursaw and Remembering Azhdayoniqot; Geewadn Elliott.
Friday saw the start of actual workshops and cultural activities. The day’s schedule was compromised due to wet and windy weather. As a result, some were fortunate to be at the right place at the right time to participate in these events. Unfortunately, others were not so lucky. This was disappointing at times, but hosting a gathering of this magnitude is never an easy task. The weather is certainly beyond anyone’s control.
It should be noted that Friday’s workshop confusion was offset by the opportunity to browse the variety of vendors who were selling their wares and tasty specialty foods so the day was still very successful for attendees. This was the only day that seemed compromised; the other days ran quite smoothly to the benefit of all who were interested in the events being offered.
Saturday was the Potawatomi Gathering powwow with this being located at a different location than the events of Thursday and Friday. As described previously, this clearly was the place to be. It was here that one could walk along the river and enjoy the sights and sounds. The water was a beautiful turquoise color which made one feel as if one were on the ocean somewhere. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for a powwow! It was nice and sunny, mid 70s with a slight breeze off the river. It truly was a perfect setting to watch all the beautiful dancers of the Potawatomi Nation dance and laugh with one another.
Grand Entry started at noon with the veterans bringing in the flags and colors followed by a separate grand entry with the rest of the dancers coming into the circle. There were many intertribals, dance specials, and a handdrum contest. The main event was the crowning this year’s new Potawatomi Princess: Zhaawan Sprague from Match-e-be-nash-she-wish (Gun Lake) Band of Pottawatomi Indians. Congratulations to her and good luck with this year representing the Potawatomi Nation!
The majority of FCP members who attended this year’s powwow were the elders of the community. Jenna Paradies, FCP elder program activities assistant, said there were around 30 who made the trip either by the coach bus or their own transportation.
There were many stories shared and memories made during the trip. A huge thank you goes out to the entire Caring Place department who helped make this trip for the elders even more enjoyable. It was commented by other Potawatomi tribes to FCP members that they wished they, too, could have that many employees there with them to help them at this year’s event.