Record number of specials held at 23rd Whitefish River First Nation powwow

Patricia Manitowabi and Randy Rivers, head dancers, lead the dancers at the 23rd annual Whitefish River First Nation powwow at Sunshine Alley. photo by Alicia McCutcheon

SUNSHINE ALLEY—Set in arguably one of the most iconic powwow grounds on the Manitoulin powwow circuit, the Whitefish River First Nation (WRFN) powwow took place over the weekend of August 20 and 21.

The WRFN powwow includes a host of community events and dance specials, a record number this year, Brianna McGregor, a member of the powwow committee, explained.

This year Katrina Manitowabi of Sudbury was crowned Miss Wawaskinaga, Sierra McGregor of WRFN was named Jr. Miss Wawaskinaga with Laila Taibossigai, also of WRFN, awarded the title of Little Miss Wawaskinaga. Brianna McGregor explained that the girls are the community’s representatives on the powwow trail over the course of the year.

Katrina Manitowabi, Miss Wawaskinaga, Sierra McGregor, Jr. Miss Wawaskinaga and Laila Taibossigai,  Little Miss Wawaskinaga. photo by Brianna McGregor
Katrina Manitowabi, Miss Wawaskinaga, Sierra McGregor, Jr. Miss Wawaskinaga and Laila Taibossigai, Little Miss Wawaskinaga.
photo by Brianna McGregor

The theme of this year’s powwow is ‘Honouring our Families’ and following an invocation doing just that, Patricia Manitowabi and Randy Rivers, head dancers for Saturday, made their way around the powwow arena, blessing the grounds before the grand entry began.

New to the 23rd annual powwow, as part of the grand entry, the Sgt. Charles Golden Silver Star Rifle Team gave a 21-gun salute to honour veterans past, present and future, with much enthusiasm from the crowd and dancers.

Master of ceremonies Dan Fox explained the dancers’ roles as they danced, explaining to visitors that women’s traditional dancers are the protectors of our waters, jingle dress dancers are healers and fancy shawl dancers “are our butterflies.”

There were eight dance specials this year, all offering up cash prizes, thanks to generous sponsors. One of the crowd’s favourite specials was the Team Dance Special, which was won by father/son duo Dan and Nakia Garcia of WRFN, who took the title in a dance-off.

Other powwow events included an auction, potluck feast, smoke dance exhibition and community breakfast. The annual canoes races, which were to take place on the Sunday, had to be cancelled due to the high winds at Sunshine Alley.

This fancy shawl dancer is all ablaze in her fire-motif shawl and moccasin tops.
This fancy shawl dancer is all ablaze in her fire-motif shawl and moccasin tops.