Yesterday Tim and I attended our first event sponsored by the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT). It was quite interesting; we stayed to see a significant amount of the dancing and the discussions. Although I know that I felt a bit of an outsider, there was a strong attempt to make the day welcoming to all. We thoroughly enjoyed some of the dancing and presentations, and we did our best to support the community by buying some materials from the vendors. One in particular was a little shop where the the parents of the owners (grandparents of the young woman we spoke to) had written a cookbook with a native flair. We bought one and took it home; Tim was quite excited to find nearly a chapter on different kinds of cornbread, and some presentations on different techniques common among the native peoples. It was a great day, wonderfully bright and sunny.
The announcer was quite good: he was from Alberta, brought in for the event. I’ve done my own bit of announcing at rodeos, and it is not an easy task to keep people watching and waiting between unpredictable events. One has to be quick thinking and knowledgeable about the reason for the gathering: one has to be able to speak on a whim about far-ranching subjects that bring people together to celebrate what is happening. And one has to have an element of timing that is sufficient to keep people’s interest, and yet not be continually demanding that they listen.
The event was held at Downsview Park: once the Downsview Air Force Base of my youth, the area is being converted to general use as a large, urban national park, and sections are being built up for housing. The organizers of the event brought in stands and made an arena, through which they introduced all the participants and performers. I was particularly interested in the agenda: I had not known this, but the Pow Wow’s stricture was the same as what I am familiar with at our rodeos. We all sat in stands that were arranged in an arena; there was a grand entry, anthem, prayer and a posting of the colours. It was quite a bit different from what I’ve experiences in my culture, but the structure helped to make me that much more comfortable.
Some of my pictures are at left; more are my flickr site. Unfortunately, I realized after we had arrived that I had forgotten my camera card, and it was too late to go back to get it. So I made do with my cell phone. Which was good enough, but not the quality I was used to. I did get a few shots of the arena as things started. In many ways, set where we were, it was not too difficult to forget that we were in the middle of the city. There was one tree that over-arched the festivities; the announcer referred to it as the prayer tree. It seems that in the city there were some aspects of their usual activities that were not possible, but that tree was supposed to be the base from which they would at least agree to recognize the things that were missing. I suppose we all compromise when we shift places.