This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Grand River Champion of Champions Pow Wow. Since its beginning in 1980, the pow wow committee has built up a festival that is known throughout the province as one of the best events of the entire summer.
It was late in the 1970’s when a group of four families who had been travelling to pow wows across the country, joined together and started fundraising to host a pow wow on Six Nations. Committee member Charlene Bomberry was involved from the beginning, “We used to travel all over. We went to Chicago a lot, that was a good one. Then one time we were talking and we said, ‘We should just host one at home. We keep going to them all over the place, we may as well,’” said Bomberry.
Four families all put in loans of $500 each to start fundraising together. The collective would hold turkey shoots, catering and yard sales throughout the year and by the summer of 1980 enough money was raised to hold the very first ‘Champion of Champions Pow Wow’ at Chiefswood Park.
Now 35 years later, the pow wow has been recognized as one of the biggest and best outdoor festivals in Ontario. Financial support comes in from various organizations each year. “Band council pays for the park and secures the arena for us every year as a rain site” said Bomberry. “The Six Nations Community Development Trust Fund is sponsoring all the first place prizes and they sponsored some advertising as well. We got some money from Ontario Ministry of Tourism for advertising as well.”
Although the committee has been invited by organizations to move the pow wow elsewhere along the Grand, it remains at Six Nations. “We’ve got dancers that came here in 1980 that still come 35 years later,” said Bomberry.
The Grand River Champion of Champions truly is a labor of love run by dedicated volunteers and has been from the beginning. Bomberry said, “Everybody always enjoys it. Even the people picking up garbage.” Committee member Nikki Skye also added, “I think for a lot of them it is doing something positive for the community. When people talk about ‘what goes on in your community’ they can go ‘well there is the pow wow…’ And then for them to be able to say ‘I am a part of that’ and that they have a participation in that. It’s a bonus to a lot of young people too. It can go into their portfolio, their resume, any kind of volunteer experience like that. I think that really helps.”
There is always an open invitation for people to join lend a helping hand working security, the gates and to help with tear-down and cleanup after the pow wow concludes. The committee can sign off hours needed for community service or high school completion as well. If you are interested in volunteering this year you can reach them at 519-751-3908.