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Wisdom: Cultural Significance of a Pow Wow

Pow wows are powerful Indigenous gatherings where a number of generations come together to honour traditions.

Pow Wows are traditional First Nation celebrations, that are open to the public. Yet, they are not to be considered tourist attractions. In fact, Pow wows are powerful Indigenous gatherings where a number of generations come together to honour traditions, develop a sense of community, practice spiritual healing and share in traditional dances and song. Indigenous dancers are looked upon with a great sense of pride who join drummers and singers as they symbolize the power of Pow Wows.

Multiple First Nations communities hold their own distinctive Pow Wows at various times of the year.

First William First Nations typically celebrates two Pow Wows each year. One is held on the weekend of July 1, and the second is held in the Fall. Anemkii Wajiw (Mount McKay) has been a gathering place and location of traditional First Nation ceremonies for thousands of years. Their Pow Wow grounds are home to many celebrations.

Fort William First Nations Elder Rita Fenton says that she enjoys attending these Pow Wows, having attended her second one last year.

In August 2021 Anichinaabeg came together at the first in person Pow Wow in Thunder Bay, since the pandemic began. Biigtigong Nishnaabeg Chief Roy Michano says “Pow Wows are great. Without Pow Wows, I don’t know how strong we would be. It’s special to see all the little ones with us, everybody else just gets up and has a good time.”

In fact, like so many other Indigenous traditions passed onto their young, Pow Wows are also an important activity that strengthens, supports and unifies their Indigenous communities. Nicole Richmond, a member of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, definitely emulates the importance of being a good role model for their young people.

According to Anishinaabec News, Nicole Richmond, lawyer, wellness consultant and educator and Biigtigong Nishnaabeg citizen, enjoys being back in the circle again at a Pow Wow. Stating at the time this last event took place, “It feels great to be back in the circle after such a long delay and it feels good to be with another again in a way that builds our spirit and makes us feel good about ourselves as Anishinabe people.”

 “I am a Jingle Dress Dancer and a Fancy Shawl Dancer and I’ve been dancing since I was a very young girl. So one of my big jobs is to be a role model for the young people in the circle and make them feel welcome here.” Often these traditional dancers perform for local school boards and compete in various Pow Wow competitions.

Pow Wows are seen as a time for healing, ceremony and celebration as it brings together people of all ages.

For the region of Rainy River, the Couchiching First Nation Pow Wow is always a big hit. It celebrated their 28th annual Pow Wow. Held last year between June 25 and June 27, this annual event was rich in the traditions of the people, the music, dance and regalia as it highlights the beauty of these shared traditions.

Always known to be filled with the rich traditions of its people, Couchiching First Nation Pow Wow remains a very special experience. They facilitate the gathering of their people who gathered, too, throughout their history. Pow Wows serve to strengthen them as a people and as a community.

But Pow Wows need to also be understood and have specific expectations for audiences who come to witness these important culturally based celebrations.

According to there are some crucial do’s to remember.


  • Know the difference between Pow Wows. Some are traditional ceremonies, while others are performed as a competition.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as they are spiritual experiences for those performing.
  • Bring your own tobacco because offering tobacco to an Elder or dancer before asking a question is considered a sign of respect.
  • It’s a regalia not a costume event and the clothing worn holds spiritual significance.

Passing down this important tradition to their children is very important. This is why children are welcome at these Pow Wows. They are community and family events, that brings children together and gives them a visual presentation of Indigenous Culture. Pow Wows are vibrant methods of bringing life to Indigenous culture. They symbolize an artistic and creative celebration.

Attending Indigenous Pow Wows lets you develop a deeper understanding of culture, and tradition while at the same time respecting the significance of the singing, dancing, drumming and food at a Pow Wow.

Pow Wows strengthen a sense of community for Indigenous People and a give them a time to practice spiritual healing. They are a joyful proclamation of spiritual dance, song and sense of great pride. These events showcase what often describes as highlighting Indigenous dancers, drummers and singers as the embodiment of the power of a Pow Wow.

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