Everything was fairly well perfect for the latest three-day celebration for the Samson Cree Nation.
The First Nation — one of four that make up Maskwacis — held its annual Pow Wow at the Maskwacis Bear Hills Park Aug. 11 to 13, which started off with a headdress ceremony for recently elected Chief Vernon Saddleback on the Friday night prior to the grand entry.
The ceremony, according to Pow Wow chairperson Vincent Saddleback, is quite a common occurrence during the event and is part of the historical protocol when a new chief takes office.
“It’s part of our heritage that goes back centuries,” he said of the event that drew chiefs from a variety of First Nations in Alberta.
For newly elected Chief Saddleback, who won the band election back in May, the ceremony is a very important piece of honouring First Nation culture.
“While it’s really important to go through the mechanics of simply democracy in action, you still have to have the ceremony to honour our side, our culture,” Chief Saddleback explained.
“For me, I won the election and that’s great I’m chief. I’ve got a job to do, go to the office, do my role. But to finally go through this ceremony, I all of a sudden feel what it means to our people. That for me is the significance of what happened here.
“It’s now real and if I ever had any doubts, they are now gone. I’m now chief of Samson Cree Nation and the ceremony just cements that for me.”
However, the ceremony was just a small part of the pow wow, which is known to draw upwards of 15,000 visitors to the event. Along with the grand entry held each day, there was a drum competition for a top prize of $15,000 as well as several dance competition categories — including traditional, special, chicken and grass and jingle — plus a princess pageant and a parade.
There were also a number of sports events that were part of the pow wow weekend, such as golf and slo-pitch tournaments, hand games and a five and 10 kilometre run.
Even with all of the events going on, Vincent explained the pow wow is all about family and healing.
“Pow wows used to be a healing ceremony, which is why everyone wears different colours as they draw on the healing spirits for those with ailments,” he said.
“To this day, the drums and songs are sacred and even sitting in the crowd, the people feel better. That’s what it is all about — letting people’s spirits come out to play and celebrate the culture through gathering together and friendship.”
As for Chief Saddleback, the pow wow theme pretty much piggybacks his vision for the Samson Cree Nation.
“It’s a simple vision of healthy families, healthy homes,” he stated.
“It means during my term I want to focus on child poverty in our community. We have a lot of social issues, but they all seem to stem from that one issue.
“I want to make sure all our kids are fed, have a bed, their homes have a stove and fridge, their homes are healthy with good roofs, windows and no mold. If I can pull that off in my term, our people will be emotionally, mentally and spiritually healthier people.”
He added, if that can happen, the whole community with be better and likely more prosperous as a result.