by Xavier Kataquapit
ATTAWAPISKAT – Recently, I attended the seventh Annual Mattagami First Nation Pow Wow. In recent years traditional leadership and Elders have been working hard to make the Pow Wow an annual event. Long ago these gatherings had been part of the culture.
Annual Pow Wows serve the function of strengthening the bonds we have in our community and keeping us grounded to our culture, our traditions and our heritage. It serves to remind us that we are First Nation people and that we should be proud of that fact.
The Mattagami Pow Wow gave me the opportunity to meet family, friends, make new friends and reconnect with people. I spent time with Nathan Naveau and Mark Carpenter, two singers and drummers I have come to associate with just about every Native gathering I visit in the north. They are two young people who sing beautifully at every event they visit, yet they have a sense of connection to the modern world as well. They give us a sense of hope in our future generations.
I met our Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, of Chiefs of Ontario and it was humbling and comforting to spend time with him as we set up his tent shelter in preparation for the day’s events. It felt good to speak with him and Mattagami FN Chief Chad Boissoneau as they told me about their time as children in Sault Ste Marie where they played as part of the Little Beavers hockey team. It reminded me that no matter how high a political office our leaders may hold, they still prefer to keep themselves grounded to their communities.
As I wandered the grounds, I met local Elders like Mike Naveau, Morris Naveau, Leonard Naveau, Lawrence Naveau and Frank McKay. It was good to hear the wise words of Elders Alex Jacobs, Agnes Naveau and Fire Keeper Morrison Solomon. Elder Mike Naveau, a traditional hunter and trapper who lives in a small log cabin facing Lake Mattagami, told me that he had been watching three eagles visit the community over the past few days. As we spoke, an eagle gracefully soared over the Pow Wow grounds keeping an eye on the day’s activities. Everyone was excited and we all took it as a sign of good fortune.
I spent time with those who have been part of the Mattagami FN leadership like former Chiefs Walter Naveau and Joyce Luke. It was good also to see a new generation of leaders like Jennifer Constant, Arthur Constant, Juanita Luke and Dana McKenzie. It was satisfying to watch young people like Max Worme, Kiara Constant, Jason Theriault, Brent Boissoneau, Neebin Prince, Coral Saile, Janelle Golinowski and Nolan Naveau all pitching in to make the Pow Wow great.
I looked at the beginning of life in two day old Scarlett Kimberly Juanita Luke and her infant brother Roman who were brought to the Pow Wow by their parents Jessica Vaillancourt and Scott Luke. Scarlett is the granddaughter of Juanita and Josh Luke.
On the Pow Wow grounds, I was surprised to meet a childhood friend Charlie Kioke from my home community, Attawapiskat. He was dressed in full regalia. I had watched Charlie take on this role when we were children attending Indian Days back home and I was happy to know that he had continued on this traditional path. I was also surprised to meet my cousin Margaret Okimaw and it was heart warming to spend time with someone I have known all my life.
I was reminded of my own community Pow Wows in Attawapiskat. Traditional gatherings had been suppressed for years because of European assimilation but by the mid 1980s our home community began hosting a Pow Wow. I can remember Elders like the late James Carpenter, who led us on the path to reconnecting to our traditional past. Others like Charlie, Adrian and Andrew Sutherland, Conrad Iahtail, Lindy Kataquapit and Xavier Wheesk have since taken on the role of preserving our cultural heritage as singers, drummers and dancers.
I felt proud as I left the Mattagami FN Pow Wow. I had filled myself up with fresh fish thanks to Larry Naveau and his family, pulled moose meat sandwiches from Betty Naveau and a feast of modern food served up by Tracy Harnack and her sister Winona. My day was full of excitement with traditional dancing, drummers and singers, under the watchful eye of the soaring eagles. I socialized with wonderful people from a baby two days of age to Elders in their 80s. The food was good, the laughter was plenty and there was healing in many forms which made us kinder and gentler this day.
It was everything a Pow Wow should be. Chi-Meegwetch Mattagami Nichineeneemuk.