“The American Indian is of the soil,
whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas.
He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned
the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings.
He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers,
he belongs just as the buffalo belonged…”
~ Luther Standing Bear Oglala, Sioux (1868-1937)
Celebrating Our Rich Cultural History
Today is July 1st, Canada Day, and festivities are going on all over Calgary, celebrating our country’s diverse multicultural roots. An important part of our country’s heritage is inextricably linked to the deep and valuable contributions of the First Nations peoples. To honour and celebrate this rich part of our Canadian culture, I present to you a taste of my first powwow experience.
Although my partner and I have wanted to attend a powwow for ages, for one reason or another the timing and opportunity never really presented itself until late September of last year, when we finally had the great honour and privilege of attending a powwow here in Calgary, hosted by the Treaty 7 Tribes and Nations: the Blood Tribe, Piikani Nation, Nakoda Nations, Siksika Nation, and the Tsuu T’ina Nation.
A Perfect Day for a Powwow
It was a sunny, gloriously warm and summer-like day (unusually so, for it was already early autumn) when we arrived at the powwow. Cloudless, azure-blue skies bestowed the perfect backdrop and I immediately knew what a special treat we were in for—and what a tremendous opportunity we had to capture something truly extraordinary with our camera.
The powwow began with opening ceremonies, lead by a prayer from one of the Chiefs. A spectacular Grand Entry of all the dancers in their beautiful regalia followed, and after that, there were dance competitions, accompanied by traditional drumming and chanting from various tribes.
My partner and I took turns taking photos and I shot a few short iPhone video clips to email to a friend (how I wish now that we’d taken our real video camera). In the end, the experience had such an impact on me that I decided to create a video to convey some of the beauty, the awe, and the poignancy we experienced that day.
“You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round… The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours… Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.”
~ Black Elk Oglala, Sioux Holy Man (1863-1950)
Treaty 7 Powwow: Sharing Our Culture
Here is the video of my first powwow experience, the Treaty 7 Powwow, held at Heritage Park Historical Village, in Calgary. I hope you enjoy it. For the best viewing experience, I recommend watching in full screen.
“We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned
cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay,
who will attack an owl ten times its size
to drive it off its territory. But above all of them
ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit.”
~ Tom Brown, Jr., The Tracker
This video represents an artistic departure from my usual affinity for saturated colour. Billed as “the most colourful parade on the planet”, this powwow completely lived up to its expectations: the colours of the traditional regalia were spectacularly vibrant. Yet, I had an unusually strong inclination to include some black and white portraits in the video. Although it felt odd to have such a clear preference for using black and white photography for such a colourful event, I feel that the monochromatic portraits convey something deeper, something ineffable, going beyond the immediate dazzle of colour.
Many thanks to my partner for helping me with the video soundtrack, some of the more complicated sound and video edits and transitions, and for figuring out the video codecs, render settings and other such things, of which I know nothing.
Image & Video Credits:
All photographs © 2014 madlyinlovewithlife
Treaty 7 Powwow: Sharing Our Culture video © 2014 madlyinlovewithlife