Brokenhead Ojibway Nation celebrates Treaty Days with new powwow arbour

Brokenhead Ojibway Nation’s new arbour got rave reviews last weekend during the first powwow held in the ceremonial space. 

The arbour is called Maamawiitaawiinan, which means “gathering place” in Anishinaabemowin, and replaces a former venue that was used for gatherings in the community, about 65 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

“It’s an amazing facility,” said Brokenhead Chief Gordon Bluesky.

Bluesky said the arbour is a permanent structure with new features like Astroturf and tornado straps. 

“There was a lot of positive feedback in terms of the turf, how the arbour looked… It was really well built,” he said.

Bluesky said the arbour was completed with plenty of work from previous leadership under Chief Deborah Smith. He said the late Elder Ralph Kent was also instrumental in getting the idea off the ground. 

Brokenhead Chief Gordon Bluesky, centre, stands with Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson, left, and others at the Treaty Days powwow. (Submitted by Gordon Bluesky)

He said there are still a few details to work out, like drainage, washrooms, showers, and a parking lot to consider for future events. 

Bluesky said creating a campground is also being discussed. 

“We’d love to put together a campground that would really accommodate the type of camping and requirements that are needed for bringing that many people into one location,” he said.

Treaty Days celebrations

The arbour had an official grand opening on Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, before hosting last week’s celebrations during Treaty Days, marking the 151st anniversary of the signing of Treaty 1. 

Folks from other communities came to celebrate, with Bluesky counting at least 400 people being fed during the feast. 

Ruben Bunn from neighbouring community Sakgeeng First Nation danced in the Grand Entry and said he liked the astroturf.

“It makes it easier on the feet,” he said.

Ruben Bunn dances during the grand entry at the Brokenhead powwow last weekend. (Submitted by Ruben Bunn)

Bunn said Brokenhead has flourished with the new arbour. 

“It’s a wonderful place,” he said.

“I love the way they had started to develop not only their arbour, but their community. Since we’re like a half hour away, you can’t miss it. So we went over there and looked at it a few times and watched it from the ground up as it was being built, and I must say that is one beautiful arbour.” 

Bluesky said the arbour is more than a recreational area, it’s a place that brings a new sense of pride to Brokenhead. He said the arbour is already rented out to an organization to use this month.

“All I’ve heard is that people are looking forward to coming to next year’s powwow,” he said.

“I think there’s a renewed sense of pride in our community. We’re now put on the map. I’ve even heard — I don’t want to talk down to anyone else’s arbour or their facilities or anything — but I’ve also heard that we have the best facility for arbour now in Manitoba.”

He said the initial intention was to bring people together in a good way and celebrate culture. 

“I think we’re going to watch over the next few years and the next decades, as we enjoy Maamawiitaawiinan, is that you’re going to start to see this transition for our young people and obviously for our older people, too, to see these types of things happen within their lifetime… I think we’ve come full circle in terms of our own reconciliation.”

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