Nehiyo-paskwa-itsimowan Pow-wow at UBC – The role of the Drum and my Experience

In witnessing the Nehiyo-pasqua-itsimowan Pow-wow at UBC I focused on the dancing and the dancers. What the regalia means and how each style of dance differs. When reflecting more on the powwow I became curious about the role of the drum. Since this event was my first pow-wow I was able to learn many new things about the dancing, styles and protocol. In learning that the dancing is a celebration of life I was interested in what the drum meant. As Steve Teekens states
the drum has a spirit inside of it and should be treated well. …[the] drum came to the Anishnabe people during a difficult time, to help remind the people of the heartbeat of Mother Earth and to get more in tune with themselves and treat each other with respect. (2015, p. 178)
Therefore I view the drum as a strong connection to the land and the people that are in your life. In addition respect and humility are always something we can continue to work on and practice. This is a common value that I’ve seen in many Aboriginal traditions.
As known in Anishnabe culture you pretty much do not have a powwow or any other ceremony if the drum is not present; without the drum there would be no powwow (Teekens, 2015, p. 191). In other words the drum was a central part to the powwow on March 26th. The drums provided the rhythm for the dancers to move to and enables both the drummers and dancers to express their connection to Mother Earth and respect for others. The drum working with the regalia and dancers further illustrates the importance of celebrating life and being respectful; to live life in a good way.
In addition to the roles that I was curious about, my own role was mostly as a witness. I sat down and watched the drumming and dancing but also walked by each vendor and had some food that is known to be at powwows such as Noras sxusum (Indian icecream). I also joined in a round dance where we danced around the drummers and where it really felt evident to me that the powwow formed a community, one of which I was thankful to be a part of and hopefully will be a part of again in the years to come. The formation of a community can also be viewed in the circles of the pow-wow with the men and the drums, sometimes the women circling them singing, then the dancers and finally the ancestors (Teekens, 2015, p. 183-185). Though it is not my place to go further into this as I am just learning about the four circles around the drum I feel as though it is yet another example of creating community is a respectful and humble way. Where each circle works together and is given respect in order to form the pow-wow.

Taylor, D., H. (2015). Me artsy. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre.

Attached below are the slides where my my critical questions, reviews etc. are present.

2nd Annual Nehiyo-pasqua-itsimowan Pow-wow @ UBC

Huff – Poison Exposed and the Issues of a Largely Non-Aboriginal Audience

In viewing Huff I felt a great uneasiness. As the play exhibits some very dark issues, such as rape, death and alcohol abuse, I questioned whether these issues should be presented to a presumed mainly “non-Native” (Nolan, 2015, p. 29) audience as I was worried about how these images may be the only ones that the audience becomes familiar with; that the Aboriginal university professors, good parents and partners, youth workers, etc. were not visible in the performance. However I believe this play can be viewed as exposing poison. Through Wind’s survivance story poison exposed is at almost every turn of the story. The poor conditions of some First Nations reservations living conditions are mentioned as well as stating that his brothers are the “products” of the reserve school system (Nolan, 2015, p. 29). By accusing the audience of not caring and often acknowledging the white audience for it there is this accusation of non-Aboriginal Canadians at large. When the non-Native Canadians see on the news that a reserve has poor drinking water or that there continues to be many missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (higher amount than other women) they can be exhibited through this play as doing nothing to help. They are just witnessing parts of the issues while Huff exposes the poisons that his community and family face and where these poisons came from. Non-Aboriginal Canadians are then called to not just view these issues but do something about it as it is a wider Canadian problem, not an “Aboriginal problem.” This is exhibited by an audience member taking the duct tape and bag off of Wind, though as we see later the individual must also work to survive and ultimately Wind decides to live.
I remember after the show, hoping that Cliff Cardinal (who performs this one-person show) had a great support system of friends and/or family because performing a play like this must take such a toll on a performer; living these events each day over and over would be draining of the spirit, mind and body. Therefore I wish that decolonial love was and is practiced plentifully. Also, in reference to the issue of a mainly non-Aboriginal audience, I hope that the audience walks away with feeling at least some form of responsibility for working on changing these systems that perpetuate these living conditions and issues.

Nolan, Y. (2015). Medicine shows: Indigenous performance culture. Toronto, ON: Playwrights Canada Press.

The Talking Stick Festival – Reel Reservations Day 3 – Number 14 (Marie Clements)

Number 14 Reel Reservations – The talking Stick Festival

(Above are presentation slides)

When I came to view the film, it had already started and I sneaked in at the moment where the actor playing Jordan is driving. Immediately felt the tension in the room and found it very hard to breathe. Knowing that the crash was going to happen just from the energy in the room and the music of the film made everything uneasy. Then for me, since I missed the beginning, the story of who this young man was began to unfold. I first found out how loved he was by his family and friends. Slowly I got to know who Jordan was with his love of playing hockey and how he was a responsible and caring young man (who just made a bad choice by drinking and then driving). Having the story of Jordan unfold after almost living the tragic incident with him, really made me wish that Jordan could be alive today to live out his potential. This reminded me of the discussion we had in class when Dr. Dangeli asked us how Jack Charles Vs. the Crown would be perceived if he started with the ending? In asking this question of the film Number 14 I feel as though I had to put the pieces of the film together more by myself. Starting with the traumatic reenactment of the crash as I did (yet the film was not intended to start that way) I felt it to be puzzling but also a position in which everyone can put themselves. This is because many of us have been driving at night and with not knowing the circumstances it makes the situation more relatable in a way that may take away from the story of Jordan. Therefore it is important that Marie Clements started with a bit of a background on Jordan as a person so that we came to know him and then feel like we lost him, somewhat like Jordan’s family.
I also decided to look at Number 14 as a form of 8th Fire. As stated in Medicine Shows, the eighth fire is an extension of the Anishinaabe Seven Fires Prophecy. A suggestion and wish that now is the time for Indigenous peoples and settlers to work together to achieve justice and work in a good way together (117). As a form of story telling, I see how this is exemplified in Number 14 with Jordan’s friends and family (both Aboriginal and settler) working on this project. The weight of his death was not solely carried by the Aboriginal community but the larger community and even other neighbouring communities. Story telling becomes a powerful tool in having people work together. Similarly to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Bad Medicine discusses, this film presents what some would think as Aboriginal issues as Canadian issues. We all make mistakes and know that sometimes these choices can really harm us. But by Clements having more than just Jordan’s accident told we are able to know him and his family as people not a “bad choice.” We see how possible it is for people who have made so many good choices and are working towards great things to be in the situation of an tragic accident.