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St. Marys Pow Wow an excellent example of non-verbal communications

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Today, a guest blog by Sharon Pond, a senior associate here at BissettMatheson Communications. When she asked about writing a blog on the recent St. Mary’s Pow Wow, I told her it would need to be communications-focused. She said she could do that, and knowing her as the insightful, gifted writer that she is, I had no doubt. I think she nailed it.

A young woman walking past me said it best. As the drums beat loudly and the young native drummers chanted, she remarked to her companion: “I don’t know why, but when I hear that sound, all these emotions just well up inside me.”

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I was feeling the same way. I had gone to Fredericton to attend the 16th annual St. Mary’s First Nation Pow Wow, held last weekend on the city’s northside, next to the St. John River. I had been so moved by the pow wow experience, I felt compelled to share my impressions in this space.

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The setting was wonderful – perfect weather, which on the Saturday afternoon bought out what must have been 2,000 people, natives from across North America and many other non-native observers. The St. Mary’s First Nation Wolastoq Maliseet people made everyone feel welcome. As the grand entry of the dancers began under the main tent, I like just about everybody else pressed forward to see as much as possible. It was that moment which prodded me to consider the impact of the non-verbal communication happening all around me.

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Imagine five separate drum stations, taking turns playing as dancers of all ages moved in a circular pattern inside the tent, all dressed in elaborate native regalia, their gentle motion appealing and soothing. Children, teens, adults and seniors all moving their feet, going through various dances. My favorite was the “jingle dancers”, young women whose native dresses were adorned with hundreds of silver bells stitched to the fabric. The soft jingle of the bells as they danced was a treat for the ears.

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The visual spectacle and heart-pounding drums—in fact, just the privilege of witnessing an authentic pow wow—renewed my appreciation for native peoples. It was all speaking to me, communicating native pride and culture. I didn’t understand the words being sung by the drummers, but was certainly aware that each drum group was projecting a different tone, evoking a range of feelings. There was no doubt in my mind that everything happening around me was communicating, without traditional words but highly effective none-the-less, modern native values and pride originating in generations of native life, struggles and survival.


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Alan (Chicky) Polchies, one of the organizing committee members for the pow wow, gave identity to the voice I was hearing and feeling. “The drum beat is Mother Earth’s heartbeat, like we hear in the womb,” he said. “We began the summer pow wow to help revive and celebrate who we are as natives,” he continued. “We want people to see who we are. We’re all about peace and friendship; we are protectors of the earth.”

If you missed the St. Mary’s pow wow, there are numerous other pow wow opportunities over the summer where you can experience this truly visceral form of communication with the native culture. Check the New Brunswick pow wow trail 2015 schedule here, and enjoy. 

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