Last weekend was the Native Harvest Festival and Powwow at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. I had a lovely day there with some friends taking part in a variety of traditional Native Canadian activities. The day started with a drum circle to gather everyone together and then sing as the participants entered. (Check out the awesome longhouse in the background!)
The dance regalia is quite spectacular and many of the outfits are worth thousands of dollars. They are very detailed and reflect not only their particular tribes, but also their own personalities. It was fun to see some of the young people wearing an outfit that was not only traditional in style but that had a modern, youthful twist to it such as the young lady in the pink with rainbow fringe!
The opening ceremony was quite moving. All tribes were welcomed in peace and cooperation, as family and the countries of Canada and the United States were both honoured. It was quite interesting to hear the First Nations version of a Canadian national anthem and it was very moving to see the great respect paid to Native Canadians who had served in the military.
At the conclusion of the entrance ceremony, we had to dash over to one of the educational buildings as we were signed up for a mandella making workshop with the amazing aboriginal artist Moses. This was one of many free events and workshops held during this weekend. Really, the only thing we had to pay for was our food and anything we purchased from the vendors! This festival receives a large grant that allows them to provide these for free as an cultural education service.
A mandella is like a shield made for decoration, protection, and honour. The branch was bent into the teardrop shape and then we cut a piece of canvas to fit (animal hides were traditionally used). We punched holes around the outside of the canvas to allow us to tie it to the branch frame. We were given a sheet of traditional symbols as inspiration but some people chose symbols that held special meaning to them. Aren’t you surprised mine doesn’t have a butterfly on it? I chose instead to make a medicine wheel and a bear paw. The bear paw is a symbol of protection. The medicine wheel has so many meanings that it can be extensively studied for quite some time before learning about all of them but I chose it because it stands for the four directions of North, South, East, and West, the four elements of fire, earth, air, and water, it stands for community and family and healing.
Following our workshop, we headed back outside to the powwow and vendor area to grab a bite to eat. I had the three sisters soup (the three sisters being corn, beans, and squash) followed by a sort of take on Shepherd’s Pie made with venison. Yum! We sat down and ate while watching the dance competitions.
The hoop dancing competition.
The guys up on the right you will likely see several times on here as they were my favourites!
Those silver pieces dangling down from their outfits make the loveliest jingling kind of noise as they dance!
I had to take a picture of her. Clearly she has a love for bling! Just look at that sparkly fringe!
When the audience was invited to join the dancing and learn how to do them, we were told that “Females need to dance like the females and males need to dance like the males.” It was quite striking to see the difference in their dance styles. The women were much more subdued than the men. Even when you saw one of the younger girls (the older ones almost looked more like they were just walking than dancing) twirling around with her shawl (is it called a shawl?), it was far more controlled than the way the men danced. They seemed to spin around with complete abandon. Of course, I wanted to dance like the men! (Note: I didn’t. I was completely respectful. All of these photos were taken after asking for permission as well.)
There were traditional home life displays and cooking demonstrations.
You could try your hand at flint-knapping.
There were some great activities for the kids too including a replica of a dig site (my daughter and I have spent a weekend there on an actual dig and it was an amazing experience!) and teaching them how to make traditional clay pottery and corn husk dolls.
We took a look around the artisans’ booths as well. There were so many interesting items but the one to the right really caught my eye. They are roses made from animal hides and they are impregnated with scents so that they actually smell like real roses! Definitely the most unique booth was the one selling key chains and so on made from, not just rabbit’s feet but also coyote toes, beaver claws, rabbit, fox, and lynx tails.
This was a wonderful day and I learned so many new things! Can’t wait for next year!
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