Montreal Lake Cree Nation revives its powwow after a 25-year hiatus
- Bee Bird | July 12, 2023
The Montreal Lake Cree Nation (MLCN) celebrated National Indigenous People’s Day with a traditional powwow, something the community hadn’t done in a quarter of a century.
It was held at the Senator Allen Bird Memorial, which located about an hour north of Prince Albert.
The community held its first powwow in 1994 and its last one in 1998. It’s been so long, no one really knew why the tradition ended.
However, the current leadership recognized the positive impact powwow and other ceremonies have in other communities and decided to revive the tradition.
Carol Naytowhow, MLCN councillor, remembers the powwows from her childhood and is excited to see them return.
She said the powwows took place at the lakeside, where an arbor once stood.
Although she was young at the time, she recalled the excitement of watching the dancers.
“That memory is always there,” said Naytowhow.
She’s glad the community was able to come together and host a powwow even if it was just for the day.
Naytowhow said the community has faced its fair share of issues over the years and have been looking at positive ways to engage with the young people on the reserve.
The school committee was brainstorming new strategies to help at-risk youth overcome obstacles, and revitalizing ceremonies was one of their plans and so the powwow planning began.
Gerald Ballantyne was the arena director shared his thoughts about the event, while he was on duty.
He appreciated the leadership for not only finding a positive way to bring the youth together, but also reintroducing cultural traditions.
“We talk about our kid’s spirituality, our kids acknowledge that there is a higher power in regards to healing,” said Ballantyne. “This is really what it’s all about. It’s all about healing.”
For the community it was about celebrating resilience and strength by reclaiming long-forgotten traditions and passing them on to our future generations.
MLCN community members have been talking about rebuilding the powwow arbor by the lake.
“The committee, they might want to expand in the future, bring back that arbor to our community of Montreal Lake and would like to see a full three-day powwow in the near future,” said Ballantyne.
Glen Daniels, from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, attended the celebration to give his blessing to the reserve through his dancing.
He said if the powwow returns next year he will return.
“Most definitely, if I’m invited back, guaranteed I’ll be here,” said Daniels. “I’ll be the first person here again.”
The community’s efforts to revitalize the culture was inspirational to many in the community and many left feeling optimistic about the future.