Reflecting on a pre-pandemic pow wow experience

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Story and photos by Jeremy Derksen

Distant drumming and high, dusty falsetto singing carry on the wind. We pass through the shadows of the covered stands, sun gracing the meadows, swirls of colour flying in all directions as drums swell and surge, urging the dancers on. This is how I remember Canada Day 2019, arriving at the Beaver Lake Cree Nation's annual pow wow.

Thinking back on it now, in the midst of a pandemic, I regret that more opportunities for such gatherings are necessarily on hold. But since that is what seems best for our collective well being, here’s a little photo journey through one pow wow experience.

Photographer: Jeremy Derksen

Entering the pow wow grounds - Photo by Jeremy Derksen

Fancy dancers compete for the judges - Photo by Jeremy Derksen

 Joining the drum circle - Photo by Jeremy Derksen

Dancing together - Photo by Jeremy Derksen

While I could wish that pow wows and other gatherings were back, the recent message from the #ProtectOurElders campaign is a good reminder of one important reason for distancing that we often undervalue. 

Launched on May 28, 2020, and spearheaded by Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation from Treaty 6 Territory near Edmonton, the campaign exhorts us to protect the "living libraries" in our midst. While focused towards indigenous communities, we can all take a lesson from this message, and remember that elders of all backgrounds deserve our respect and care. That way, when we can all reunite, we will hopefully still have that irreplaceable presence among us. 

For more photos and reflections on the Beaver Lake Pow Wow experience, visit

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