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Peninsula Pow Wow
Grey Bruce, Ontario

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By Pat Mestern

While hawks soared effortlessly on the updrafts over the beautifully forested cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment, people of all nations gathered in a park on the Bruce Peninsula to participate in the annual Cape Croker Pow Wow.

Pow WowMeyaashiinigming Indian Reserve #27 Park is the ideal location for a Pow Wow. The area an important piece in the puzzle that is known as the Niagara Escarpment, an internationally recognized area of natural importance. As a designated world biosphere reserve, the Park is a member of an elite group of only 300 significant areas worldwide. The Park's significant wetlands, coniferous and hardwood forests are a national treasure. Wild ginseng, male fern, rare orchids, old age white cedar, large stands of sugar maple and white ash are prevalent within the Park's boundary, as are old field habitat's and kilometres of beautiful shoreline and limestone cliff. What a marvelous place to hold a celebration of life. Anyone who is interested in expanding their knowledge and understanding of native culture is welcome to attend.

While visitors who have been warmly welcomed at the gate, make themselves comfortable in self-provided lawn chairs around the arena, "Drums", each representing a group of singers and their Drum, gather in the centre under an arbor of cedar. Time seems to suddenly stand still. There is no need to hurry. Events unfold as they should without a rigorous schedule. As people stroll from craft booth to food purveyor they begin to shed frustrations and conflict. They visibly relax. This is the way of a Pow Wow. This is as it should be. All concessions are in keeping with First Nations traditions. A wide variety of quality crafts are available. Foods are available on-site, tasty and in keeping with traditional fare.

As Drum and song echo off the cradling bluffs of the escapement and carry for miles across the crystal blue waters of Lake Huron, one's feet begin to move in time to the primeval beat. You become one with the emotion of the Drum. This too is as it should be. The Drum speaks. It is the heartbeat of the earth and her peoples. It speaks a language familiar to all nations, all peoples. The Drum is a link to origins, a root of humanity.

Pow WowOn come the dancers, resplendent in outfits of feather, metallic cones, ribbons, grasses and fabrics. They become one with the Drum and Song. Through the dancers, stories are told of a hunt, the joy of life, a rite of passage. There is no embarrassment as dancers circle the arena. They are life. They are happy. No one dances for themselves. They dance for the Creator, the elders, the hunters, the sick and for those in need. They dance for the audience who have their own stories to tell. After a dance, gifts are presented to the Drum. Congratulations are given. Encouragement is generous. Dance styles include Men's Traditional, Women's Traditional, Women's Jingle, Men's Grass, Men's Fancy, Women's Fancy Shawl and the Hoop Dance.

Visitors are surprised to learn there is no religion represented at the Pow Wow, but they feel and see reverence, prayer and offerings. Ignorance of customs is celebrated as a bridge to understanding. Visitors are encouraged to question. Tolerance, objectivity and comprehension can only be achieved through understanding. Understanding can only be achieved through knowledge and knowledge can only be gotten through questioning.

Visitors are asked to observe certain rules during a Pow Wow. Respect is a key word. If you want to take pictures, please ask permission of the person you have approached. Pictures shouldn't be taken during announced Memorial dances. Tape recording must be done only with the permission of the lead singer of each Drum. You may participate in some of the dances such as the Two Step, Honour Songs, Intertribal Songs. Listen to the announcer who will give permission for all to participate. Don't be shy. Join the dance. If you are asked to dance, do so. It is rude and disrespectful to say no. Hats must be removed during Grand Entry, Flag Songs, Invocation, Memorial songs, Veteran and Honour songs. Everyone is asked to stand during certain songs and dances. Men are asked to stand during songs that honour women. Do not handle dance regalia as this is not a costume but a scared possession. As for the Park, leave no garbage. Clean up after yourself.

Pow Wow As the Pow Wow is a joyful gathering and a celebration of life, alcoholic beverages or drugs are not tolerated or allowed.

Neyaashiinigming Cape Croker Pow Wow will be held August 26 & 27, 2000. Cape Croker First Nations Park is located twenty minutes north of Wiarton on the Bruce Peninsula. Seniors and children under 5 are admitted free, otherwise a reasonable admission is charged. Weekend passes are available. Visitors pack a lunch or patronize on-site food concessions. Camping is available on-site. Plan to stay for several days. The Bruce Trail winds its way through the Park. Snake Trail Boardwalk, the longest on the Bruce Trail, winds its way through the park. Canoes can be rented for shoreline paddling and fishing. Volleyball courts and horseshoe pits are located on the shore. Swimming is exhilarating. The Park is used throughout the summer for Craft Shows, weather permitting. Come for the Pow Wow. Leave your heart in the Bruce.


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