by Judy Johnson
The second weekend in July is an opportunity to share in something truly outstanding – a celebration of native cultural heritage at the Kettle & Stony Point Pow Wow. The 49th Annual Competition Pow Wow takes place July 13 and 14, 2019 at 9226 Lake Road (kettlepoint.org/powwow/).
The Pow Wow is a combination of many things: a social event for all ages and tribes, a spiritual and sacred occasion, a celebration of heritage and culture, and pride in one’s roots.
Organizers Brenda George, Debbie Bressette and Liz Cloud work hard throughout the entire year to make the Pow Wow happen. They bring together dancers from Canada and the U.S., vendors, drummers, singers, volunteers, and sponsors and manage the countless details that make a successful Pow Wow. More than 2,500 people attend every year.
From the moment you park opposite the Pow Wow grounds, you will be caught up in the excitement and anticipation. Elaborate, often bright regalia of the dancers moves in the lake breeze and sparkles in the summer sunshine. Natives and non-natives of all ages from babes-in-arms to elders move into the grounds, smiling and chatting.
There is always a bustle of activity. Booths beckon with goods for sale – art, jewellery, clothing, crafts, beadwork and more. There are food and beverage stands – some featuring fresh Lake Huron fish, native flatbread strawberry shortcake. Known as the heart berry for the wild berry’s shape, the strawberry is a sacred food in Ojibwe culture.
On both the Saturday and Sunday of the Pow Wow, people come early to be in time for the impressive Grand Entry which is the official opening. You might get a seat, but best to bring a lawn chair or blanket. Brenda George has been involved in planning the annual Pow Wow for many years and relates that every time veterans, flag bearers and dancers enter the grassy arena from the East, walking in the direction of the sun for the Grand Entry, she is so moved that her “heart pounds at the sight”.
Throughout the afternoon, about 200 dancers in full regalia compete in traditional native dances. Among the women’s dances is the Fancy Shawl dance, a whirl of colours and creative designs suggesting butterfly wings, danced by young women as they move into womanhood. Elaborate regalia with an eagle feather circle bustle is a feature of the men’s Traditional Dance. The eagle is the messenger to the Creator, flying highest of all birds and carrying prayers up into the sky. The men’s Fancy Dress Dance is very athletic and requires endurance by the young men who wear heavy regalia on a hot summer day. The Men’s Grass Dance movements imitate grass moving in the wind. The Jingle Dress dance, a healing dance, is an Ojibwe tradition, and other traditional dances each have their own meanings and movements, passed down through generations. Regalia is highly individual and holds deep meaning for a dancer.
The beat of the sacred drum and the sound of the singers accompany the dancers as they perform.
At the end of the day, everyone knows they have been a part of something very special. We say Miigwech! Thank you for giving all the opportunity to learn and share in this wonderful, unforgettable celebration.
Pow Wow Etiquette
Arrive early to get a seat. Bringing your own lawn chair is a good idea.
Check the Grand Entry start time on Saturday and Sunday and come early.
Follow announcements about when to stand, when to be silent, when to remove your hat, etc.
Clap and cheer the dancers – follow native folks’ lead.
Be courteous. Ask a dancer if you have permission to take their photo.
There are dances for everyone to join in, native and non-native, in regalia or not. When the announcer offers an invitation to dance, accept the opportunity to share in a time-honoured ritual.
No alcohol or drugs allowed.
Consider donating to honour and support the costs of these non-profit events. Go to the organizing desk to the left of the grounds entrance or find out if there’s a donation box.
Do not refer to dancers’ attire as a costume. It is regalia, imbued with great spiritual and personal significance.
JINGLE DRESS DANCER CINDY HENRY
by Judy Johnson
People who have experienced the Kettle & Stony Point Pow Wow will probably have seen Cindy Henry dancing in Jingle Dress. Honouring the Ojibwe cultural traditions is in the family: Cindy’s Mom is a Traditional Dancer and Cindy is a Jingle Dress Dancer, as is her daughter.
Cindy started dancing about the age of five. As a student in non-native schools, she was a target of bullying, surrounded by kids with hands clapping over their mouths imitating stereotypical war cries they heard in the movies and TV. Cindy fought back, constructively – by bringing her dancing regalia to school, educating other students about her people’s cultural tradition of dancing and showing them traditional dances.
Cindy’s passion for her culture and the dance is obvious as she describes when, according to tradition, she was in her Berry Fast of puberty, when a girl moves from childhood into womanhood, learning skills and knowledge from an older woman. During the year, the young woman is not allowed to eat berries, showing self-discipline, nor can she dance. “Can you imagine how difficult it was as a dancer, not to be able to dance, not even to move to the beat of the drum? When I was able to dance again, I valued it even more”, Cindy shares.
Later she became a Fancy Shawl Dancer and now, as she explains, “with more life experience, age and knowledge”, she embraces Jingle Dress Dancing, competing in Pow Wows in Canada and the United States.
Jingle Dress regalia has 365 metal jingle cones, one for each day of the year. During the dance one foot must always be in contact with the ground, keeping the dancer connected to Mother Earth.
The Jingle Dance is native Ojibwe. Originally cones were rolled from the lids of snuff boxes; now they are usually purchased along with beads and other regalia items from stores like Thunderbird Crafts in Kettle Point. The Jingle Dress makes the sound of icicles in winter during the graceful dance, harking to the healing qualities of Mother Nature during the dormant months of winter.
All the Pow Wow dances are spiritual but the Jingle Dress Dance is the only healing dance. Before the event, people bring gifts of tobacco wrapped in cloth with a tie of yarn or twine to a Jingle Dress Dancer which she carries during the dance; they request that she dance to bring physical or mental healing to a family member, friend or themselves. The Jingle Dress Dancer also dances for general healing of those who might not have asked, but also are in need.
Pow Wow regalia is made with much care; it has a great deal of spiritual meaning to the dancer. Other regalia, such as that worn by Cindy for Ceremonial occasions, is sacred, not to be viewed by non-participants in the Ceremonies.
- Kettle & Stony Point PowWow – July 13 & 14, 2019
- Exeter RAM Rodeo, Exeter – August 10 & 11, 2019
- Western Ontario Steam Threshers Show, Forest – August 15-18, 2019
See Festivals & Events for more events, dates, time and details.
Kettle & Stony Point First Nations
Ontario’s indigenous people call themselves the Anishinabek Nation (the “Anishinaabe”) and are comprised of 39 First Nation communities. Kettle Point or Wiiwkwedong is unceded territory (meaning ownership was not surrendered) that runs along Lake Huron’s shoreline from Lambton Shores to Sarnia. Officially known as the Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point, the community has a population of about 2,108.
How Kettle Point Got its Name
The First Nation is named for Kettles or concretions formed millions of years ago. Unique to only three locations in the world, these spherical rock formations are caused by erosion of underlying shale beds. The Kettles have cultural and spiritual significance to the Anishinaabe. Traditional stories teach that the Kettles are Thunderbird eggs and Thunderbirds are powerful spirits that bring rain to the land and its people. The point is said to be the nesting place for the Thunderbirds.
Culture & Beliefs
Anishinaabe cultural practices are centred on the “Seven Grandfathers” teachings of Wisdom, Love, Trust, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility and Truth. The Seven Grandfathers are also the core of the Anishinaabe’s seven clan cultural structure. The seven clans – Crane, Loon, Turtle, Bear, Hoof, Martin and Bird – each play a specified role within the nation. The Crane clan are the traditional chiefs; the Loon clan are the sub-chiefs; the Turtle can are the mediators; the Bear clan are the herbalists and guardians; the Hoof clan are the peacemakers; the Martin clan are the warriors and the Bird clan are the spiritual leaders.
The Anishinaabe were one of four indigenous groups that lived in southwestern Ontario – the Huron, Neutrals and Iroquois. Wampum agreements between the four groups declared the shared rights of all to use the land and its resources to feed their people. Products were fashioned from local resources such as flints for tools and weapons and “wampum” beads from shells. Wampum beads, a form of gift exchange, were used for storytelling, ceremonial gifts and the recording of important treaties and events.
First contact with French and British fur traders in the 1600s upset the balance of peace between the four indigenous groups. Traditional economic competitors, the French and English allied themselves with different indigenous groups: the French with the Anishinaabe and the British with the Iroquois. The Neutrals, so-called by Samuel de Champlain for their peacekeeping role between the Huron, Anishinaabe and Iroquois, were eradicated by the Iroquois when guns were sold for pelts. The Iroquois then turned against the Huron, who were nearly decimated by the mid 1600s. The Huron fled southwest seeking Anishinaabe aid and war broke out between the remaining Huron, their Anishinaabe allies and the Iroquois. Although the Anishinaabe were successful in pushing the Iroquois back to their territories along the St. Lawrence River, the Huron did not survive the conflict.
For more information, visit kspcommunityculture.ca.