TicketMOMster review: Manito Ahbee Festival @ RBC Convention Centre / Republished today in honour of National Aboriginal Day
Many moons ago, I thought it would be interesting to take an Aboriginal Spirituality course while working on my BA in University.
My ancestors are primarily from Ukraine and I knew almost nothing about Aboriginal culture despite living in Winnipeg all my life. But I was always curious.
I anticipated that I’d learn about Aboriginal beliefs and way of life, but what I hadn’t anticipated was that I’d connect with it so deeply. The more I learned, the more whole and open I felt. I developed this respect and connection to the environment and the world. It was so powerful.
And then I learned about the damage Western society had inflicted on their culture. It was truly heartbreaking. The effects of residential schooling were particularly eye opening and it provided me with a broader understanding of why there was so much hardship and pain.
I see that pain almost daily. I see people lying on Main Street, I see people with their fists to their mouths…it breaks my heart every time.
And despite doing really well in that class (and taking more classes afterwards), I still have no concrete answers; no solutions.
Pow Wows remind me of the resilience and power of a culture to revive and survive against all odds. They give me hope.
I don’ t go to many Pow Wows, maybe one a year. Sometimes I bring my young daughter, and sometimes when they’re too late or I want to stay longer than an hour, I don’t.
Today I told my husband I’d be gone for 2 hours. Ten hours later, I came home. I just couldn’t leave.
I arrived at RBC at around 1 p.m. and there was a huge line for tickets. I already had my ticket, so I went through security and up to the third level.
As soon as I walked into the room, I could hear the drums and the singing. It took everything in my body not to burst out crying and run towards that sound. I don’t know what was wrong with me, I was so emotional.
I found a seat on the bleachers and spent the first half-hour trying not to look like a freakin’ sobbing nut. I was successful…I think.
I can’t tell you if one drum group was better than the others or even who my favourite was. I just don’t know enough about it. I only know how it makes me feel.
I arrived at the perfect time. Everyone was getting ready for the first Grand Entry. If you’ve never been to a Pow Wow, I highly recommend you arrive early enough to see the Grand Entry. It’s extraordinary.
The drums and singing starts and then the leaders guide the procession onto the floor. To see that many dancers gradually take the stage and dance at the same time is visually stunning. The colours and the feathers and the porcupine hair, the sounds of the drum and the jingle dresses, the women dancing with their head held high, strong and proud. The men full of rhythm, feathers pulsing to the beat.
Everyone dances like there are springs hidden under the floor. Like they’re being pushed up by the Earth’s rhythms. Almost like a puppet in reverse, the power coming from the floor as opposed to the sky.
Today, I realized all the dancers have one thing in common. Calves and knees made of steel. These dances can go on for quite some time, especially if you’re at the front of the procession.
After the procession there was inter tribal dances followed by the dancing contests (Golden Age, Teen and Junior). I enjoyed all the dances immensely.
It was so wonderful and impressive to see the elders dance. And the kids all warmed my heart. Some of them were so tiny and yet they had that beat, that rhythm in them.
I left at around 5 p.m. and grabbed some sushi for dinner. Why not? I was sitting back on the bleachers at 7 p.m. Just in time for the Square Dance Competition. I watched the tiny square dancers and smiled with pride like they were my own children.
Then the Announcers started the second Grand Entry. They called all the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and children to come to the floor. My heart sank. The families followed the procession and then the Announcers called all the jingle dress dancers to take the floor so they could perform a healing dance for the families and police officers who are working on their cases. The dance was beautiful, but in a painful kind of way.
The second Grand Entry was just as stunning as the first and then there was more inter tribal dancing followed by the competitions.
My favourite female dance was the junior women’s fancy shawl dance. I was totally captivated as they spun and twirled around the floor, their shawls flying around their bodies like wings.
My favourite men’s dance was the senior traditional dance. They were so spectacular to watch, they took my breath away.
I do hope after reading this review that you’ll attend the Manito Ahbee Festival next year. If I could buy everyone a ticket in Winnipeg, I would. Everyone should see it.
If I close my eyes and plug my ears I can hear the drums pulsing in my body. I can hear the singing. I feel connected to the Earth and its rhythms. That sounds so strange doesn’t it? Coming from a Ukrainian woman with transparent skin? So be it. I’m going to sleep with a smile on my face, full of gratitude and respect for a beautiful culture and event.
Happy National Aboriginal Day.
TicketMOMster is a Rock and Jazz-loving Mom; single-handedly keeping Ticketmaster alive in Winnipeg. Follow her musical journey here: www.facebook.com/TicketMOMsters