As Newfoundland and Labrador celebrates Come Home Year, the community of Flat Bay on the province's west coast has brought back one of its biggest traditions for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The annual Bay St. George Powwow is making a triumphant return to Flat Bay, with three days' worth of celebrations in honour of Mi'kmaw culture. Under normal circumstances, the event takes a full year of planning. However, thanks to COVID-19, things only started to come together about three months in advance.
Arlene Blanchard-White, chair of the Bay St. George Mi'kmaq Cultural Revival Committee, had a dozen thoughts run through her head as the powwow started to come together.
"How do we do this?" asked Blanchard-White. "Are we going to be able to hug? Because as Mi'kmaq people, we're huggers. Is that going to happen? Are we actually going to meet?
"You start planning from scratch. It is really no different this year as if we were planning our first powwow. You just put your gears in motion, you start planning, and the closer we get it's like, 'Oh, it's really going to happen.'"
In the end, organizers managed to pull everything together, and anticipate a full weekend of events for attendees.
They'll offer a variety of workshops, teachings and activities on the itinerary, including language sessions, local performer showcases, scavenger hunts, dance teachings, karaoke and beading circles.
In addition, the powwow will mark the return of the sweat lodge, considered a sacred ceremony in native cultures across North America.
"It's our hospital. It can be our library. It can be a place for laughter, a place for crying, healing and celebrating," said Kenny "Mutchie'' Bennett, the sweat lodge firekeeper.
"To me, in our cultural revival, it's as important as dance, as important as drum, maybe as important as language. It's cleansing mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually."
For those feeling close to Mother Nature, Newfoundland Naturals will guide visitors through a medicine walk through a portion of Flat Bay.
Owners of the farm, Byron Alexander and Jasmine Jesso, are thrilled with the way things have turned out.
"We're in the back of the powwow grounds," said Alexander. "It's an amazing spot to bring people together in our culture. They worked on this trail for the last few months just to have this available for people when they come up to the powwow and to be able to see the medicinal plants that are right in your backyard."
"What a huge honour to be asked and be able to share knowledge," said Jesso. "We're very honoured to take part, especially this year. Come Home Year is going to be huge. The powwow hasn't gone on [because of] COVID. To be a part of that is absolutely astronomical."
The annual Bay St. George Powwow takes place through Sunday in Flat Bay.
LISTEN | Learn about sweat lodge in this interview with CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning: