It was a spectacle steeped in aboriginal tradition, heralding the beautiful colourful regalia, the traditional dancing and drumming.
More importantly, it was an event – the first of its kind in Leamington – that offered an assurance that the future of the aboriginal heritage and the continuation of its traditions is in good hands.
The Caldwell First Nation Rejuvenation of the Spirit 2016 PowWow, held on the Caldwell’s recently purchased parcel of property on Bevel Line, was a colourful celebration of their culture and heritage, as well as a repatriation ceremony.
The event attracted about 6,000 people from throughout North America and featured singing and dancing competitions, vendors selling traditional wares, and of course, the Grand Entry.
And grand it was. Over 300 dancers of all ages, sporting beautiful traditional regalia, made their way around the circle as Charging Horse provided the drumming and singing.
Veterans and dignitaries, too, joined in the ceremony.
Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky welcomed the guests to the celebration. “Today, we are truly fortunate to have several nations gathered here in peace, as well celebrate the repatriation of ancestral lands to the Caldwell First Nation,” said Gretzky. “By joining together in celebration, the many nations represented here today show their willingness to build relationships with one another.”
“This event is a testament to the unwavering dedication and perseverance of the Caldwell First Nation,” she continued. “For over 200 years you have fought to reaffirm your rights to these lands, and in doing so, you have also taught Canadians from all walks of life the value and impact of your traditions to our shared history.”
Essex County Warden Tom Bain was on hand, not as a spectator, but as a dignitary invited into the circle for the grand entry, as well as a judge for the junior dance competition.
An admitted newcomer, Bain said he was a little nervous about judging but had gone through a training session in preparation for his assignment.
Caldwell First Nation Chief Louise Hillier said the decision to host the powwow came about quite suddenly in April.
Chief Hillier credited Lonnie Dodge with getting the ball rolling and gathering a tremendous group of volunteers to tackle the incredible amount of work involved in planning a powwow in just a couple of months.
The co-operation was unbelievable as well, said the chief — especially with the municipality.
She said the powwow was a social gathering that helped showcase and share cultural traditions and ensure these traditions are passed on to the younger generations.
Chief Hillier said it was a celebration to let everyone know that the Caldwell First Nation is alive and well and flourishing culturally.
“It’s a beautiful sight,” she added, as more than 300 registered dancers in full regalia danced in the circle prior to competition.
Emily Kechego was on hand, attending her first powwow. The mother of six-month-old Royce was busy dressing her son in traditional buckskin flaps, moccasins and a breastplate. Travelling about 90 minutes from Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Kechego said she was starting early when it came to teaching her son about his heritage.
As far as the powwow, Kechego said she was glad they made the trip and was especially happy that the powwow was at night, which allowed her to enjoy it while escaping the stifling heat.