This year marked Manito Ahbee’s 10th anniversary.
This Festival of All Nations has spanned a decade-long tradition of showcasing the rich and diverse talents, culture and teachings of Aboriginal artists, spiritual leaders and other public figures.
The annual gathering is an opportunity for local and international visitors to experience the spirit of celebrating Indigenous heritage, cultural rebirth and renewal.
As it does every year, the festival offers a vast array of events to choose from: the Ignite Your Spirit Showcase, Indigenous Music Awards Red Carpet and Award Ceremony, the Indigenous Marketplace and Tradeshow, and of course, the International Pow Wow, just to mention a few.
The festival was named after the sacred site in Whiteshell Provincial Park – an Ojibwe word meaning “where the Creator sits”. Manito Ahbee is one of the most important Aboriginal gathering sites in Turtle Island (North America), and the name of the province of Manitoba is derived from this name.
The festival is also a space to honour and learn about the Creator and the Seven Sacred Teachings: Love, Respect, Courage, Honesty, Wisdom, Humility and Truth, through the Ignite Your Spirit Showcase.
It is a celebration of affirmation and empowerment of the legacy of tradition and the emerging of contemporary identity.
As Manito Ahbee takes patrons and newcomers on an extensive journey through inspiration, here is my photo journey through this year’s festival:
The 2015 Youth Cultural Education Day – “Ignite Your Spirit Showcase”, held at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, was part of Manito Ahbee’s space for youth to hear lessons and insights into all aspects of cultural heritage and live life with balance through the Seven Sacred Teachings. They brought an array of speakers and performers to share a talk on each of these traditional concepts.
Among those who came to speak and perform was the amazing and talented Sierra Noble, who shared her adversity, insight and wisdom on the Sacred teaching of Love; an empowering talk and performance.
Another Sacred Teaching. Truth, was explored by stand-up comedian and youth advocate, Paul Rabliauskas. He not only came to garner a few laughs but to also share his story on Truth.
He spoke about growing up on Poplar River First Nation, an “isolated community up North” in the more humble life of rural Manitoba. Rabliauskas recalled jokingly the chores of “taking out the slop buckets” and “setting up snares for trying to catch rabbits”.
He moved to Winnipeg with his family when he was still in grade school and they lived in the North End.
Having both Ojibwa and Lithuanian descent, he said it wasn’t easy growing up having such a different last name. Being teased became a connection between his identity and laughter, and he reflected on how humor is a significant factor in his culture, which means it’s easy for him to make other people laugh.
“Humor is such a big part of our survival”, he added.
As a youth advocate, Rabliauskas is able to reflect on his own experiences with adversity and with overcoming hardships by being honest and true to himself. He really enjoys reaching out and speaking to young people and recognizes that kids have a real sense of knowing when they’re being lied to.
Rabliauskas is conveying his gift of humor, sharing and advocacy and is relating his wisdom and self-reflection in a way that really connects to youth. He is doing a fine job of inspiring the joy and truth in that wisdom.
The Manito Ahbee International Pow Wow is the most essential gathering at the festival. It’s a vibrant and diverse assembly of singers, dancers and spiritual leaders from Nations of Turtle Island and beyond.
Grand Entries (all dancers enter pow wow arena at once) are said to have originated when Native people were forced onto reserves and to have dances for the public to observe.
Today, they are a tradition of uniting and sharing among participants in the spirit of celebrating and honouring heritage and identity.
Songs and dances, many of which have been passed down through the generations, are incorporated and presented today for social occasions but have had different meanings in earlier times.
This year’s dance competitions included Women’s Northern Traditional Dance, Women’s Jingle Dress, Women’s Fancy Shawl, Men’s Traditional, Grass Dance, Fancy Bustle and Prairie Chicken Dance.
The vast movements seemed endless and rhythmic. A large group of talented singers and dancers were all in motion, marking beat and sound on the floor of the MTS Centre stadium.
Spectators couldn’t keep their eyes off the striking display of energetic and captivating dances. The audience also kept careful watch of the many intricate regalias woven, knitted and put together with so much beauty, hard work and dedication.
A positively large amount of young participants, including toddlers took part in the Pow Wow tradition, and it won’t stop there. They foretold the future of these cultural gatherings, generations of dancers, singers and drummers yet to come.