People & Places

Portrait of a Kitigan Zibi Powwow

Every June, something magical and uplifting takes place at Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg: the Algonquin Anishinabeg community, located an hour and a half away from the unceded territory of Ottawa, hosts its annual Traditional Powwow.

Photo by David Trattles
Photo by David Trattles

The powwow itself is a celebration of life and Indigenous resiliency. For the community of Kitigan Zibi, however, it ignites pride within past, current, and future generations. It wasn’t that long ago these gatherings were outlawed, yet through the strength and perseverance of the community, celebrations of indigeneity such as this flourish.

Photo by David Trattles
Photo by David Trattles

Central to any powwow are the singers and dancers, who travel from all over Canada and the United States, going from one powwow to another along what is known as “the powwow trail”. But often unnoticed are the powwow committee, the emcee, the arena director, and the veterans, who ensure everything runs smoothly. Surrounding it all are the vendors, who sell Indigenous art, fashion, and foods.

Photo by David Trattles
Photo by David Trattles
Photo by David Trattles

Perhaps the most heart-warming aspect of the Traditional Powwow is the young ones, some whom can barely walk yet can be seen bouncing on their tiny feet in the powwow circle. Those tiny tots are the future of Indigenous nations, and their presence in the powwow circle speaks to the positive, bright future that lies ahead.

Photo by David Trattles

The community openly invites anyone to the powwow. The Kitigan Zibi Traditional Powwow and other similar gatherings are extremely important to the revitalization of the community’s cultural identity. These events offer a place for elders, youth, and everyone else in the community to not only preserve and maintain their cultural expressions but also to share with the world who they are as a people — and to share the message that through everything they have gone through, they are still dancing, singing, and praying as their ancestors once did.

Photo by David Trattles