Hundreds of people gathered on Pow Wow Island to honor IRS system, 60’s Scoop and Day School survivors through the power of song and dance.

Ogimaawabiitong was proud to host the 3rd Annual Healing Your Spirit Pow Wow from August 12 – 14, on Pow Wow Island in Wauzhushk Onigum Nation. The gathering saw hundreds of community members come together through the weekend to gather and show support for those who survived through the Residential School (IRS) system, the 60’s Scoop and Day School.

The three-day celebration of life featured host drums Zhaawaanong Binesiik, Ogichidaa, co-host drums Whitefish Jrs and Whitefish Bay Singers, and invited drums Hanisha, Agency One and Brown Eagle.

Approximately 20 dancers, an unheard-of number for night one, were ready to kick off the celebrations on Friday night, foreshadowing the amazing turnout for the weekend.

Saturday’s celebrations started with Grand Entries at 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Saturday night Ogimaawabiitong held a ceremony/honor song for IRS, 60’s Scoop and Day School Survivors. Elder Ronnie P McDonald and Sherry Copenace conducted the ceremony and invited survivors and families to join in.

According to Danika Crow, pow wow organizer and Cultural Services Manager at Kenora Chiefs Advisory (KCA), approximately 100 survivors participated in the healing ceremony. She acknowledged all survivors that were unable to join in at this time.

The Grand Entries were repeated once more on Sunday before the specials commenced and hundreds of community members came out to show their dance skills.

Reno Cameron, Cultural Coordinator for KCA, was present for all three days of the pow wow. He spoke on the importance of honouring the survivors, “I look at them as heroes because we wouldn’t be here if they didn’t make it through [what they did]. So, when we have this pow wow, it helps them heal.”

“When I danced with everyone, all I saw was tears… not tears of sadness, tears of joy. They are healing and are being recognized for what they have done.”

Cameron said a personal highlight of his was getting to watch all the children take part in the dancing.

The weekends festivities were treated with a special guest from northern Alberta. Dean Cunningham, a Metis man from Gift Lake, Metis Nation in Alberta, has been riding his horse across Canada to Ottawa to raise awareness of some of the issues that impact indigenous people today.

Cunningham and his horse were invited into the circle to walk among the dancers, a first for the area in quite a while according to Cameron.

The pow wow was a great success with continued healing for all, Crow said “I am honored coordinating Ogimaawabiitong’s Pow Wow is a part of my job! Next year will be our fourth year coordinating the pow wow and it is just so nice to see the growth. Each year it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

“To be a part of a weekend ceremony where you are honouring those who [survived through the Residential School system, the 60’s Scoop and Day School], it’s just a really powerful feeling.”

“It’s a ceremony where we can get that healing from the drums and dancing, that is what it is all about. It’s medicine for your heart and mind, body and spirit,” she concluded.

All photos taken by Willow Photography + Design