Up to 500 people are expected to gather for Alexander First Nation’s traditional powwow, to be held this weekend.
“It fluctuates from year to year, but we’re expecting a big turnout because it’s the first one we’ve had since 2019,” said Kiana Cardinal, a member of the powwow committee.
“We plan it months in advance, and we usually keep it close to the traditional day we signed a treaty in August 1877,” said Cardinal. The original Treaty Six was signed in 1876. A year later Alexander signed an adhesion to Treaty Six on Aug. 21, 1877.
This weekend's powwow runs from Friday, Aug. 19 to Sunday, Aug. 21.
For Cardinal and councillor/lead organizer Audra Arcand, the community powwow is a way to create a warm village setting that embraces all participants, no matter whether they are Indigenous or non-Indigenous.
The powwow carries many traditions: a flag raising, singing, dancing and drumming, prayer, and a gift giveaway. Perhaps the most spiritually moving is the grand entry, when Chief George Arcand joins the ceremonies dancing and carrying the eagle staff, a one-of-a-kind sacred symbol that represents the traditional band’s culture.
Followed by joyful dancing, drumming and storytelling, Audra Arcand describes the ceremonies as “beautiful and very emotional.”
Cardinal goes on to say the powwow is divided into numerous dance categories, from “tiny tots to the golden age, and each dance has its own meaning and story, and many have a lot to do with healing. A powwow is more of a showcase of healing than a competition,” Cardinal added.
The three-day powwow will have multiple sessions throughout the weekend, each beginning with a grand entry. There is a 7 p.m. session on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, as well as a 1 p.m. session on both Saturday and Sunday.
“In between the sessions we have what we call ‘intertribals.’ Everyone is welcome to dance. It gives dancers and drummers more time to practice. It’s very much an inclusive dance.”
The event also includes meal breaks and initiations of young people into the powwow circle or paying respects to someone who is sincerely admired.
“The goal is to enjoy ourselves, the music, the dances, and mostly to bring the community together. It’s what we’ve done for generations — bring tribes together, and that’s what we’re still doing — bringing people together.
The powwow is free and will have limited vendors but plenty of parking. Alexander First Nation is 35 kilometres northwest of St. Albert on Highway 642.