M’Chigeeng powwow honours all the forms of creation

Cousins Raven White, left, and Danni Schwartz take part in an intertribal dance. photos by Warren Schlote

M’CHIGEENG – This year’s annual M’Chigeeng First Nation powwow was a well-attended event that invited hundreds of people to celebrate Anishinaabe culture over its two-day run this past weekend.

Serving as emcee was Wiikwemkoong’s Chris ‘The Pheasant’ Pheasant. As the dancers and drums got ready before grand entry, he walked around the grounds and asked the spectators where they had travelled from to attend the powwow.

Grand entry saw the eagle staffs start at the sacred fire and make their way to the eastern doorway of the circle. Howard Debassige, the powwow’s head veteran, carried the M’Chigeeng Staff. John Fox carried a special Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Staff in honour of his daughter Cheyenne Fox. Constable Murray Still carried the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Eagle staff. Outgoing Brave Pierre Debassige carried the M’Chigeeng Youth Eagle Staff and Christian Kaiser-Fox carried the Canadian Forces Eagle Flag.

“We are celebrating the good life right here in the heart of Manitoulin,” said Mr. Pheasant.

After the staffs and flags had assembled, head elder Leo Beboning offered an invocation and some delegates were invited to speak.

Dyan Roy and her daughter Melody Roy-Manitowabi travelled from Wiikwemkoong to attend the powwow.

“The powwow’s theme is ‘Let’s Honour the Creation.’ For me, that speaks to all creation, whether the earth or each other as humans,” said Chiefs of Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, a guest speaker at the grand entry ceremony on Saturday afternoon.

She began her remarks in her traditional tongue, the Cree language, and acknowledged the lands as being part of the 1836 McDougall Treaty and the 1862 Manitoulin Treaty. Regional Chief Archibald addressed the presence of intergenerational trauma and the purpose of powwows as a cultural event to foster healing.

“It’s really important that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder as we heal,” she said. “It will take many years to be where we were pre-contact and we need our allies to join us on the healing path.”

After her address, Mr. Fox thanked her and presented Regional Chief Archibald with a copy of his book, ‘The Fire Within: A Father’s Struggle for Justice’ which describes his ongoing quest for closure after the death of his daughter.

Serving as head male dancer was Matthew Pheasant, with sister Sophie Pheasant serving as head female dancer. Head youth female dancer was Kyra Cada and head male youth dancer was Noah Hare.

Redrum Motorcycle Club Spirit Island Chapter president Robbie Shawana, centre, leads the bikers as an honour song plays.

The host drum was Red Man, with Anishinaabe First Nation Singers attending from Batchewana First Nation and the M’Chigeeng Community Drum also adding to the event’s soundtrack.

The powwow also hosted a deafening roar from visiting Redrum Motorcycle Club members who had stopped in during their first-ever world run which took place on Spirit Island. The Indigenous motorcycle club has chapters across the globe and its mission is ‘spreading positivity on two wheels.’ This ride was in support of the Good Food Box program on Manitoulin Island.

Anishinaabe First Nation Singers from Batchewana First Nation drum up a song for an intertribal dance.

Over the two days of the event, attendees could visit the numerous vendors set up on site which offered diverse fare from food to clothing to jewellery. 

Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes also paid the powwow a visit. She wore a medallion in support of MMIWG made by Iris Hicks, and also received a copy of Mr. Fox’s book.