Atlantic Canada’s largest competitive powwow returns this weekend in its first in-person celebration of Mi’kmaq culture since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The sounds of rhythmic drumming and chanting were at the center of the Mawita’jik competitive powwow on Saturday at the Zatzman Sportsplex in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, the largest competitive powwow east of Montreal.
Named after the Mi’kmaq term for “let’s come together” and hosted by the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, the second day of the powwow drew more than 200 people. Friendship center spokeswoman Corinne MacLellan said the organization expects thousands of visitors to attend the event by the end of the weekend.
Garrett Gloade, one of the event coordinators, said in an interview that the powwow has generated local and international interest, with visitors and competitors coming from as far away as North Dakota and Minnesota. .
“It’s great to bring visitors to teach us these ways so that we can learn from them and grow from this and overall reconnect as a people, as Indigenous people,” did he declare.
Unlike a traditional powwow, the energy of a competitive powwow is a little more “intense”, Gloade added, with competitors vying for cash prizes totaling $87,000 in categories including singing and dance.
“So when it comes to our drums, you’re going to hear the best sound that comes out of these drums. You’re going to [get] the best of dancers. They’re going to give their all to bring something to people,” he said. “That’s the intention behind it all.”
One of the event attendees, Simon Nevin, competed as a vocalist with the Wabanaki Confederacy, a group of men from Indigenous groups from across Atlantic Canada and the northeastern United States. Nevin said he enjoyed the spectacle of Indigenous artists coming together to showcase their culture.
“The atmosphere, the songs, the music, that’s what’s going to pull you in,” Nevin said.
Jonathan Beadle, a vendor at the event, echoed the sentiment. Beadle was stationed at the Mi’kma’ki Strong stand, selling items from the Mi’kmaq-inspired clothing line. Beadle was “touched” to see the powwow draw such a large crowd, he said, and he looks forward to similar gatherings in the future.
“Big events like this excite me. It’s something that I think is more needed in the Maritimes,” Beadle said. “That’s where we find healing in our culture. It’s good for the body and the soul. I appreciate it being presented on such a big stage.”