Akwesasne shows its true colours at powwow

By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario – For 14 years, the beat of a drum circle, a mesmerizing blur of colour as dancers tell the stories of their ancestors, and the allure of authentic cuisine aromas have thrilled thousands at the Akwesasne International Powwow.

This year’s event made it a dozen powwows for Suzy Burning, of Six Nations, which is an hour west of Toronto.

She donned an intricately beaded regalia with metallic cones to compete in the jingle dance portion of the two-day event at the Turtle Dome (A’nowara’ko:wa Arena) on Cornwall Island on Sept. 6-7.

Burning’s desire to keep her First Nation roots alive in her family has taken them across Canada and America.

“If we stop walking on this path we lose our tradition,” said Burning. “The drumming is very important because it grounds me and tells me who I am.”

She did remark that powwows are only one part of native culture, and credited Akwesasne for their superb effort to preserve and share it.

The event’s celebratory gathering of tribes included an array of intense competitions, which drew in over 250 dancers and nine drum groups from reserves across Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and the United States, and a mix of 12 traditional food vendors within a vibrant marketplace filled with 48 artisans.

Usually dancers fill the large field outside, but rain showers forced the entertainment to take place in the Turtle Dome. The bad weather and change of location caused a small dip in attendance and dancers.

Larry King, co-chair of the powwow and a district chief with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, described the event as a festival with a unique collective atmosphere offering plenty to natives and non-natives alike.

He acknowledged that the powwow was a popular attraction for many Cornwallites.

King also commended the Seaway City for events like Lift-Off and Ribfest, which have become summer favourites of Akwesasne residents.

“There’s only a river that separates us, so it’s great that our communities can come together and celebrate,” said King.

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