Tourists invited to dance at New Credit

Powwows are traditionally about artistic vendors, fair food and tourists taking photos of native dancers who don colourful regalia and dance to compete for points.But the Three Fires Homecoming held each year at the nearby New Credit reserve is a bit different.“I liken this powwow to a homecoming for our visitors as well,” said elected Chief Stacy Laforme at the event, “because they can reconnect here as well, even if they’ve never been here before.“They reconnect to nature and music and things that they’ve forgotten.”During the first welcoming dance, Laforme, accompanied by Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, waved in tourists and visitors from the stands around the dance circle and those in shorts and T-shirts shuffled along with the intricately dressed dancers around a great arbour set in the forest near the council house.“I don’t think we’ve ever had such a large crowd all dancing with us at once,” said Laforme. “It was great to see.”The elected chief said his council recently dropped the “new” from the band name and is now just the Mississaugas of the Credit, a name that developed from the mid-1700s when French fur traders did business with band members and found them reliable when it came to extending credit.Laforme said these days, the goal is to try and reconnect with other Anishinabe nations to form a wider family.“Our communities have come so far apart. We need an alliance and then we will have a really strong voice in Canada.”Politics aside, band residents, extended family who joined in the event, and visitors danced around a new wooden arbour, designed and facilitated by University of Waterloo students in the forested area behind the council house on the reserve.The dancers included bare-chested young men, young girls in jingle dresses that rattled with every step, hoop dancers and those with regalia made of colourful plastic ribbons.Standing out as she moved sedately around the ring was Nikki Sargent from Lac Seul, northeast of Dryden.“This regalia,” she says, pointing to her blindingly white outfit of leathers, feathers and beads, “weighs about 40 pounds.”Elsewhere on the grounds vendors did a brisk business in traditional foods like strawberry juice, Indian tacos, corn soup and scones, along with fair favourites such as pogo sticks, poutine, lemonade and freezies.But the powwow is also a chance for area artisans to show off their talents and a chance for visitors to find a hand-made belt, pair of moccasins, purse, shirt or custom artwork.Jerrilyn Russell ignores the shoppers in favour of focusing on her latest work, etching a drawing into a mug, all without a stencil or guide.“She sees the finished product before she starts,” says her Six Nations mom, Dawn Russell.“Most people can’t freehand a project like that but she’s got a gift. She’s been like this from the beginning.”Like many Indigenous youngsters, Jerrilyn was drawn to beadwork when she was an adolescent but, when she was around 15, she started to attend powwows and was inspired by seeing other artists’ works.Through a Hamilton program, she’s developing a business doing woodburning and glass etching and beadwork.“I like to bring my culture into a modern aspect,” she says.Last year’s powwow drew about 3,000 people and about 150 dancers, said an organizer from the New Credit Cultural committee.It was expected that this year’s event, with sunshine but temperate heat, drew even [email protected]@EXPSGamble