Abegweit First Nation held its first large powwow in two years on P.E.I. this weekend — and everybody was welcome to join.
Hundreds of people took part in the two-day celebration, which participants also referred to as a Mawi'omi, the Mi'kmaw word for a gathering.
The Abegweit powwow is normally held in Scotchfort every year, but was put on hold during the pandemic. The event is one of the first powwows of the summer season for First Nations in the Atlantic region.
"I look forward to this every year, because it brings all the children and the parents and cousins and aunts, uncles together to be a part of our community, and how we choose to share this with the rest of the public," said elder Doreen Jenkins.
"There are stories and wonderful regalia and all that pulls at the heartstrings, to be able to watch these young children growing and being very active in their culture, and not being ashamed."
Drummers and singers from all parts of the Maritimes participated in the festivities, which is an opportunity for people in the Indigenous community to reconnect with each other.
But members of the Abegweit First Nation emphasized the gathering was for everyone, not just Indigenous people.
"To us is important to educate [non-Indigenous people] of the Mi'kmaw ways," said elder Junior Peter-Paul. "The celebrations that we have here at the Ma'wiomi, when we do things like that, we don't disinclude anybody outside. We welcome them in, you know. It's for everybody."
"I tell everybody who would listen that you're welcome to come out," said Tee Sock, a member of the band. "It's such a step in the right direction, with Truth and Reconciliation and being a part in our community, and [to] allow us to be part of your world as well."
Margo Gillis is a first-time powwow participant. She said she wanted to take part in the celebrations because she wanted to learn more about Mi'kmaw traditions.
"After the past couple of years, I think it's really important to involve oneself in reconciliation," she said.
Chief Junior Gould said the band aims to be inclusive while ensuring everybody's views are respected, including those regarding ceremony and the gathering's religious significance.
While photography of the traditional grand entry to a powwow is oftentimes not permitted for cultural reasons, Gould said he encouraged filming because it allows traditions to be passed down more easily to future generations.
"We have a rich cultural history, but it's a verbal history. It's a visual history," he said.
"It has to be recorded in whichever way our children need. It can't be in a classroom or a curriculum. It has to be something that you are part of, an experiential experience. And that's [how] our culture has to be preserved."
Eleven-year-old Taite Wooldridge has been a grass dancer since he was three.
"[You] get to see all the different kinds of dances. Some you may have never seen before, some that you may know very well," he said.
"It's good because I get to connect with my culture, and be around my family and friends."