||July/August 2004 issue||
Rhythm of nations
|PHOTO BY NANCE ACKERMAN
Families meet up on the powwow trail under the spell of drum and dance
Story by Drew Hayden Taylor
On my wall is a photograph
of a man at a powwow. He is dressed in traditional Ojibwa
regalia, including an impressive feathered bustle on his
back, a leather vest and breechcloth and a multicoloured
roach adorning his head. He looks quite magnificent, proud
and utterly aboriginal. In his hand is a can of Pepsi,
and he's also wearing some pretty cool sunglasses. I bet
his stomach is full of Indian tacos that he chewed with
the non-native fillings in his teeth. He is a contemporary
powwow dancer, with a moccasined foot in two worlds.
The powwow. It is fabulous and fattening, and every
weekend in the spring, summer and fall, somewhere in
this country, there are a couple happening. In my travels,
I've been privileged to see powwows from the Okanagan
to the Ottawa valleys, from Oklahoma to the halls of
Yale University. Every one is different, yet each is
familiar. That is the nature of powwows. Some might
argue it's a state of mind. When I was growing up on
my reserve, Curve Lake First Nation, two hours northeast
of Toronto, the highlight of every summer was the powwow.
And the highlight of every powwow was the challenge
of sneaking into the grounds without paying the entrance
fee. Summers were boring on the reserve.
Once inside, we would eat ourselves silly — all the
fried foods an eight-year-old tummy could hold. There
was nothing more exciting than comparing the hamburgers
from three different tribal nations and, of course,
watching all the strangers flood into our community.
Our reserve practically doubled during the powwow. Visitors
came from all over, checking out the arts and crafts
and asking, "What kind of dance is that?" Different
native people from across the land in gorgeous, bright
outfits (do not call them costumes!). That was back
in the days of bottled pop, and all of us kids would
scour the grounds looking for the precious, empty, returnable
bottles that were as good as cash. Today, they're plastic,
and many native people are predisposed to diabetes.
The times, they have certainly changed.
For the rest of this story, visit your local newsstand or go to our store to buy this issue.
• In Depth: Rhythm of nations