On the first Saturday in March hundreds of people come out to ‘shake their tail feathers’ at the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre’s Annual Midwinter Pow Wow. Drumming, dancing, singing and food – it’s a celebration of spring being just around the corner and a welcome chance to let loose after a long, cold winter.
Dancers come from all over Six Nations Territory, (Niagara, Haldimand, and New York State), to attend the event. Grand Entry is at noon and six pm. At these times, traditional dancers in full regalia (hand-beaded and feathered tunics, skirts and headdresses), will follow a procession through the grounds. There are special dances; Smoke Dances, Hoop Dances, and children’s dances. Make sure you get the okay to take photos first. Some of the dances are Sacred, and should not be photographed.
Thankfully, albeit not traditionally, the Pow Wow is held inside the gymnasium, so guests and dancers stay warm in any kind of weather. Vendors line the perimeter of the gym selling traditional First Nations arts and wares. Outside, in the Pine Grove, adjacent the gym, the traditional Firekeeper attends to the Sacred Fire and holds the medicines. Guests are welcome to respectfully take a small handful of the medicines, or a medicine bundle, filled with Sage, Sweetgrass, Cedar and Tobacco, and place them in the fire. The medicines are used to communicate thoughts and prayers to The Creator.
The Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre charges nothing to attend the event, however, the canteen is one of their biggest fundraisers of the year. Stop by for some traditional fry bread (ham on scones), corn soup, Indian tacos, or a hamburger or hot dog. The proceeds support their Life Cycle Programs; from pre-natal health, to Elder care, and every stage of life in between. There are fitness and nutrition programs, Employment and Training, Education Programs, craft workshops, and special events. Almost all of their programming is free and is open to everyone.