St. Mary’s First Nation hosts first ever New Year’s Eve powwow

St. Mary’s First Nation hosts first ever New Year’s Eve powwow


St. Mary’s First Nation hosts first ever New Year’s Eve powwow's Profile

When Ann Paul walked into the gymnasium at Chief Harold Sappier Memorial Elementary School in Fredericton for a New Year’s Eve powwow, the hairs on her arms and neck stood up.

The energy in the room was palpable, she said. She’d watched four generations of her community slowly revive their culture, starting with her own mother, Maggie Paul, and the New Year’s Eve powwow — the first ever for the community — was a testament to how far they’d come. 

Her own children and grandchildren were in attendance that night, along with nearly 200 others, and her son Possesom Paul was the powwow’s master of ceremonies. 

Although the powwow was held at a St. Mary’s First Nation (Sitansisk) elementary school, Paul said the event was open to people of all ages and places, including some who came from as far away as Boston.

Abigail Brooks and Bronson Acquin-Mandisodza of Sitansisk Wolastoqiyik organized the powwow, help by several volunteers.

Paul said they wanted to host a New Year’s event that wasn’t centred on alcohol. Powwows traditionally are alcohol-free events, Paul said, making this one a great attraction for families and children, who are sometimes left out of New Year’s events because of alcohol, she said.

When midnight came around, Paul said the party didn’t stop. People danced on until 1 a.m., and she said she was so excited she couldn’t fall asleep until close to 4 a.m.

The night was a celebration of identity, Paul said, and there was so much beauty that she wanted to share it with everybody.

“Everybody knows who they are. Everybody is starting to know who they are.”

Scroll through the photos and watch the video below to see some of the beauty Ann Paul wants to share. 

On the left, a man in a red and green dress dances. On the right, a woman in a green and rainbow jingle dress dances with an eagle fan in her right hand.
The New Year’s event was a chance for everyone to come together, said Paul. Dancers included a man who performed a grass dance, left, and a woman in a jingle dress with an eagle fan. ‘We dance for the seven generations from before, for us and the seven generations that are to come.’ (Ann Paul/CBC)
A young girl and boy with their back to the camera hold hands.
Her community holds powwows, Paul said, to teach young children to dance and participate. ‘When they go out with us, they don’t know how to dance, but I could see them looking at the feet and what they’re doing.’ (Ann Paul/CBC)
Two groups of men sit in two different circles, each surrounding a drum. They hold sticks to beat the drums with.
The Wabanaki Confederacy drumming group, left, travelled to the powwow from Maine, and there was also drumming from the New Brunswick-based Muskrat Singers, right. While recording them, Ann Paul said she thought of her mother, Maggie Paul, who helped bring back traditions such as the powwow several years ago. ‘I started crying because it stirred the emotions of what we were bringing this back for in the first place,’ Paul said. (Ann Paul/CBC)
A girl holds several hula hoops above her head as she performs a dance in a gym.
This hoop dancer was one of many who travelled to the powwow in St. Mary’s First Nation. Ann Paul said many people were there from Boston, who stayed in nearby hotels so they could attend the event. (Ann Paul/CBC)
WATCH | See how a powwow family dances and drums its way into a new year: 

St. Mary’s First Nation hosted its first-ever New Year’s Eve powwow.

Dozens of people from across the Maritimes and Maine celebrated the start of 2023 together at the St. Mary’s First Nation (Sitansisk) powwow.

Two women face each other with a potato pressed between their foreheads.
Ann Paul, left, did a potato dance with her best friend, Judy. A potato dance is meant to bring fun into the powwow and help both friends and strangers connect with each other. The potato has to stay between two dancers’ faces, and the last pair standing wins. (Ann Paul/CBC)
A young man in a green sweater stands in front of a microphone and holds a tiny drum in his hands.
The event also held a hand-drum competition. At the end of the performances, the competitors stand facing away from the judges, who announce the winner by touching them on the back. (Ann Paul/CBC)
A man wearing a black shirt stands facing away from the camera. In front of him is a microphone and people sitting on bleachers in a gym.
Wolastoq Grand Chief Sakom Ron Tremblay speaks to the powwow family. (Ann Paul/CBC)
A woman wears a t-shirt that says 'NYE POWWOW VOLUNTEER'
Angee Acquin was one of many volunteers who helped pull the event together. (Ann Paul/CBC)
Powwow dancers stand in a gym wearing feathers and colourful clothing.
Members of her powwow family usually don’t dance together between the fall and summer, Paul said, making the New Year’s Eve event special. (Ann Paul/CBC)
A group of people stand in a line inside a gym, each holding up a different flag.
When the clock struck midnight, the powwow family celebrated the New Year with a round dance, which Ann Paul says is a friendship dance and a double beat song, where everybody joins hands in a circle. ‘We dance for our ancestors, we dance for today and we dance for tomorrow.’ (Ann Paul/CBC)
(CBC News Graphics)

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