Grand River ‘Champion of Champions’ Pow Wow celebrates 40 years

SIX NATIONS — The very first ‘Champion of Champions’ winner will lead out as the head female dancer for this year’s annual Grand River Pow Wow.

Pow Wow Committee member Kevin Martin said Lynn Migwans will carry the honour for this year’s 40th Anniversary celebration. Migwans first took the title at the pow wow’s inaugural gathering at Chiefswood Park in 1979.

This year’s pow wow is jam packed with a ton of special events. On Friday the celebrations kick-off with a night of free entertainment. Amos Keye will host the night at Chiefswood Park starting at 6:00 p.m. and promises to be an exciting night.

World Champion Hoop Dancer Ascension Harjo will perform. This is not to be missed. The Six Nations teen always impresses with his tricks and skills.

Ulali alumn Jennifer Kreisberg promises a powerful show, bringing a background in indigenous and jazz music. The evening carries on with dance demonstrations from the Six Nations with the Grand River Haudenosaunee Dancers and Oklahoma Stomp Dancers. Both of these promise to include participation dances that are always a visitor favorite.

World famous pow wow drum group The Boyz will take the stage to belt out some of their best roundys.

What exactly is a Pow-Wow anyways?

A pow wow is a social gathering of the Indigenous People of North America. Typically there are two kinds – Traditional and Competition style. The ‘Grand River Champion of Champions Pow- Wow’ is a competition pow-wow, one of the oldest and largest in Ontario. That means the dancers and drummers competing are skilled athletes and professionals who practice year round.

What happens at a Pow-Wow?

At the ‘Grand River Champion of Champions Pow Wow’, competitive dancers and drum groups from across the United States & Canada travel to “place” for a cash prize of either 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th in the style category they choose to compete in. This is done by collecting points throughout the weekend. At the end of the weekend the dancer with the most points is named the “Champion of Champions”. That winner holds the title the entire year and receives a huge trophy.

What do the costumes mean?

Indigenous people never refer to their dancing attire as a costume. This is a common slip of the tongue – so don’t worry if you accidentally called it that. A costume is something a person wears when they are dressing up as something they are not – for example at Hallowe’en you might see someone wearing a zombie costume. A better term to use is ‘outfit’ or ‘regalia’.

Why do different dancers wear different looking outfits?

There are 6 main styles of dance done at Grand River; Traditional Dances – simply called Men’s or Women’s Traditional, Medicine Dances – Men’s Grass and Women’s Jingle, and Fancy Dances – Men’s Fancy Feather and Women’s Fancy Shawl. Within those styles the dancers are again divided according to age to make for easier judging; Golden Age, Adult, Teen, Kids, and Tiny Tot categories.

Where do you get the outfits?

A dancer’s outfit is very personal and usually holds special meaning to each one. Dancers at the competitive level invest thousands of dollars and years of work into all the components that make up their regalia. Some dancers make thier own regalia from scratch. But there are also highly skilled Indigenous Artists throughout North America who bead, craft and sew all the pieces that make up a person’s regalia for a living. The compilation of a dancer’s outfit is often an expression of who they are. Sometimes they will put a symbol on their outfit that represents what nation they come from or wear feathers they earned in honour of an accomplishment they have achieved. Each person’s outfit is a piece of wearable art and means something special to the owner.

Can I take pictures of the dancers?

There are certain times during the pow-wow that you can’t take pictures. Listen to the emcees and they will let you know when it is not okay to take pictures. In general, it is okay to take pictures of the dancers during competitions. However if you are want to take a dancer’s picture when they are walking about the rest of the pow-wow grounds it’s always appreciated if you ask for their permission first. Don’t be nervous, most of the time they will be glad to.

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