As the annual powwow of the Miawpukek First Nation got underway in Conne River Saturday, participants say this years event won't feel like previous years.
Trevor Stride, operations manager for Miawpukek First Nation Radio in Conne River, will take up his usual role of master of ceremonies at Saturday's powwow.
But for a number of reasons, Stride says, this year's powwow feels a little bit different.
"Because of the pandemic, everything is all messed up, of course," Stride told CBC News. "But we're getting through it."
The Miawpukek powwow typically features three days of dancing, chanting, drumming, sacred ceremonies and food sharing. But with COVID-19 restrictions limiting activities to one day — and a capacity of 250 people — Stride says Saturday's powwow would feel like a subdued event compared to previous years.
"We would normally have 2,000 people here, 2,000 plus, actually," he said.
Capping attendance at 250 also means the event, which normally attracts hundreds of participants from across the province and beyond, is open only to members of the Miawpukek First Nation living in the community.
Still, Stride is banking on a memorable day.
"It's going to be the same thing, just with a small crowd," he said.
Stride said the fact that this year's powwow is going ahead at all is already a good sign. Last year's event was cancelled altogether, saying a year with no powwow was "terrible."
"I think it was emotional for some people," he said. "They expected it here yearly, and everything turned upside down."
Powwow carries special purpose this year
Mi'sel Joe, Chief of Miawpukek First Nation, said he was also preparing for a different kind of powwow this year.
"It's a tough time in our country, a tough time in our community," he told The St. John's Morning Show.
Since a powwow is a time of remembrance, Joe said this year will be spent reflecting on the lives of the children lost to residential schools.
Attendees are being asked to wear orange shirts in memory of those children, and red shirts to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and girls.
But, Joe says, there'll be plenty of time for celebrating, too.
"We'll come together, we'll eat, we'll drink, we'll dance and it will all be on behalf of the missing children and women."
Though this year was supposed to mark the 25th annual powwow, that celebration will be pushed to next year. Trevor Stride, for one, is excited.
"I think it's going to be the big one."