Around the thick puddles of mud, and under the stormy sky, the Kehewin Powwow hosted hundreds of native dancers from everywhere from southern Idaho to Mexico for their yearly marquee event.
These dancers and singers compete across the continent, and descend to Kehewin once a year to perform in a tradition of generosity.
The competition powwow in Kehewin has been running for decades, and is one of the largest in Treaty Six, which covers the middle of Alberta and extends across Saskatchewan.
Usually later in the month, the committee decided to move the powwow to August long weekend.
“We’ve always ran a competition powwow here in Kehewin,” said Trevor John, councillor and powwow committee member in Kehewin.
“We host our powwow every year for our people. Kehewin is known in the powwow world for having a lot of dancers so when our dancers go to other nations, we are well represented.”
This year it is the celebration of Chief Kehewin’s 200th birthday. On Sunday night, they held a special (competition) in his name, under the traditional category.
“He was signatory in the treaty signing in Fort Pitt. He gathered other nations and helped negotiate that Treaty Six. That’s where Kehewin sits. That’s where Bonnyville sits and St. Paul,” said John.
Traditionally, powwows are meant to celebrate life, and act as a place to heal. It serves as time to pray for your family, health, community.
“That’s the kind of feeling we’d like our visitors to take home with them,” said John.
“Also, on Sunday evenings we host a band giveaway. What that is, is the nation members of Kehewin come up and help and give out gifts to all of our visitors. So that when they go home they take a piece home with them so they remember our celebration. It happens all over Indian country and it’s become a custom.”
These gifts include blankets or tupperware – useful items when camping or at home.
John stressed that powwows are meant for everyone to come and enjoy.
“Our celebrations aren’t for just native people, not just for Aboriginals: they’re for everyone. Everyone is more than welcome to come out and share their own culture and experience ours. Our culture is all about giving and sharing, and that same mentality from the treaty signing is here today. We still honour that.”