Couchiching First Nation to hold 30th annual powwow this month with expanded event

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Couchiching First Nation is preparing for their 30th annual traditional powwow and organizers say they are looking forward to seeing the community come together with singing and dancing.

“Now you see young ones that are taking up [singing and dancing] at like kindergarten grade. You’re getting that lifetime of exposure to it and that’s really something to see,” said event organizer Sandy Bruyere.

Since this year is a milestone for the community, Bruyere said they have made things a bit bigger than usual.

The event takes place from June 23 at 5 p.m. to June 25 at 11 p.m. at the Couchiching Heron Landing Golf Course, just west of Frog Creek Road.

Grand Entries are on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Specials will run on Saturday and Sunday and have been expanded to include teens (13 to 17 years old) and juniors (6 to 12 years old) categories in addition to adults that are above 18 years old.

In addition to seeing the younger generation champion their traditions, Darren Yerza, another member of this year’s organizing committee, said he looks forward to the opportunity to come together without restrictions.

“Just to come together again without the restrictions,” he said. “And watching our children come out, singing and dancing and just…following the ways.”

Host drum in attendance will be Yerxa Traditional and the invited drum group is the Whitefish Jrs from Big River, Saskatchewan.

Whitefish Jrs are a well-respected and championship drum group known throughout the “powwow trail” and were last invited to drum at Couchiching First Nation’s 25th annual powwow.

The feast will take place on Saturday, fish fry will take place on Sunday, and breakfast will be served on Saturday and Sunday. Both events are open to the public, Bruyere said, adding that the fish fry includes “more of a traditional kind of native cuisine.”

He added that it will be the biggest event they are hosting this year, while alluding to a land claim coming up that will also bring excitement to the community. “But it’s not quite at the finish line yet.”

Yerxa added that the day celebrates and showcases what Couchiching has to offer.

“I think some of the other things that come to mind too is the just the awareness that it brings, bringing back those teachings and following the proper protocols,” he said. “it’s really special to have a celebration like this and have the community come together.”

In the past, powwows hosted have also included opportunities where people can make their own regalia and introduce people back into the ceremonial circle at each of the Grand Entries, which Yerxa believes is one of the most beautiful things in their culture.

Last year, one of the most special moments was allowing the youth and kids to enter the circle first, he said.

Bruyere feels honored for the opportunity to put on a bigger event like they did five years ago and acknowledged the immense commitment and sacrifice required to plan these events.

“Because we take time away from our loved ones to help put this on. We’re basically on site probably at least 18 hours each day when the powwow is actually taking place so it’s a big commitment,” he said.

If it wasn’t for the staff at Couchiching First Nation who have all stepped up to take on duties and help coordinate the event, nothing would have been possible. “Most definitely, pretty hard without help, that’s for sure,” said Bruyere.

Bruyere has been involved in arena directing since around 2016 but took on more of a co-ordinator role in 2018.

The passing down of knowledge from former committee members has helped everything come together, he said, creating a connection between old and new co-ordinators so that new members have been “taught over the years,” and don’t need to figure out everything from scratch.

Yerxa added by saying that one of the biggest things they’ve learned from their spiritual advisors is letting go of the need to control how things turn out.

“Not trying to control everything, but just allowing things to happen. And when we allow things to happen that way, and in a good way, things just work out. And we’ve been pretty successful following those simple directions from our elders,” he said. “It’s pretty remarkable what happens over the weekend when this comes together.”

For more information on the Couchiching First Nation powwow, visit their Facebook event page online.