Rama First Nations Annual Pow Wow

As far back as we can remember the Chippewas of Rama First Nation has been a meeting place for visitors. A community that is known for its hospitality; from the earliest explorers, to the fall fairs in the 1920’s. From the powwow under the big tent at the Rama Ball Field, to the competition powwows at the MASK arena, our community continues to enjoy being a host to the many guests who frequent the community on a daily basis.

In the early 1970’s there was no song and dance happening in Rama First Nation and no sign of local powwows in the surrounding area. Emerson Nanigishkung, Co-founder of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation Thanksgiving Powwow, was working at the Native Canadian Centre in Toronto and had been surrounded by drumming and dancing on a weekly basis. Being inspired to bring back tradition in his own community, he said “I’m from the area, there’s nothing going on, so hey let’s try it”.

Emerson also recalls how Rama had always been noted for its hospitality. In 1977, with the support of Rama First Nation band members, the community held its first annual Thanksgiving Powwow at Victoria Park. “It was a real community event [and] there was a lot of volunteerism at that time.” For generations people have gathered at Rama particularly in the autumn or harvest months to celebrate, socialize, eat, and have fun together. The following year, the entire community got involved in what was then a non-competition powwow held every Thanksgiving weekend. The Old Mall, which now houses Casino Rama Resort Administrative Offices, Victoria Park, the ball field at Rama, and also the Orillia Roller Skating Place were all used as venues for the annual Powwow.

In 1986, the Rama Powwow again made another transformation as a result of a ‘Social Recreation Needs Assessment’ (SNRA) which began in 1983 and extended into 1985. The community was canvassed in what was referred to as ‘Kitchen Dialogue’ by former Chief Ted Williams who held leadership during this time. This was where members of the SRNA committee went to each household to ask a series of questions and sit in the kitchen (a place of comfort) to discuss the people’s dreams and aspirations that they had for the community. “Many of the success’s we find we have today have come from these kitchen table discussions.” relates Ted Williams, “Powwow was part of that talk and some members of the community built on this”. James Simcoe and Emerson Benson were both prominent and influential in rejuvenating the powwow at the time.

Over the years, Rama First Nation has witnessed an expediential growth of the powwow, which was once mainly a small event where about a dozen community veterans would attend along with guests from Walpole, Wiky, Sarnia, and even Milwaukee. Now a competition powwow, the event has grown substantially, hosting between 3,000 – 5,000 visitors each year. It is an honour to have so many guests visit Rama to partake in the event which has been part of the community’s culture for several decades and continues to evolve. Had it not been for the indomitable will of a few individuals in the 1970’s, we would not be celebrating so many years of powwow at the Chippewas of Rama First Nation.

Photo Credits: Robert Snache, Spirithands Photography located at spirithands.smugmug.com

The Chippewas of Rama First Nation 2017 Powwow will take place on August 19th and 20th at the John Snake Memorial Multi-Purpose Grounds located at 6030 Rama Road, Rama, Ontario. The community celebrated the unveiling of the grounds in honour of  the late John Snake, Rama’s Cultural Coordinator for many years, who was instrumental in the early planning stages for the site. For more details contact the Chippewas of Rama Culture and Research Department at (705) 325-3611 or email benc@ramafirstnation.ca. Miigwech (“Thank you”).

Article written by a member of the nation.

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