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Social distance dancing for the elders

(Chloe Emond-Lane The Eastern Door)

A small powwow took place at the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre on Saturday, to help lift the elders’ spirits after being isolated for close to three months now.

Senior patients and residents were able to watch the performances through the hospital windows while their loved ones gathered outside in the hospital parking lot.

While the annual Kahnawake powwow had to be cancelled due to restrictions on public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, this powwow celebration was a creative way to get families to connect.

A fair amount of people attended the celebration while also respecting the social distancing requirements.

Family members could be seen frequently waving and smiling enthusiastically at their relatives. Many elders could see their kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren from the windows.

Tina Stacey’s 95-year-old grandmother is at the hospital. “I was telling her (Stacey’s daughter) on the way here that you have to dance for the elders that need prayers for healing, and just to get through this time because they can’t get physical contact with their family.”

Stacey’s oldest daughter Kaié:wate Jacobs danced the smoke dance and her younger daughter Ie’nahkwenhá:wi Rice danced the jingle dress dance.

The sound system was connected to the intercom in the hospital so the elders could hear the music and the emcee clearly.

Mouchie Goodleaf helped out with the PA and sound. Goodleaf often plays music for the residents and patients by setting up speakers and pointing them toward the hospital.

His father Buddy Goodleaf watched the powwow on Sunday and Mouchie happily pointed him out. “He’s in the window, over there,” he said. “I haven’t seen my father since March and I went to see him every day before all this.”

Dancers, singers and drummers of all ages set up to perform. The grand entry kicked off at 1 p.m.

Theland Kicknosway, a young dancer, came all the way from Ottawa to participate in the event.

“My mother and I, we are both powwow dancers and we were invited to share our dance styles. I performed the grass dance and my mother is a women’s traditional dancer. We are very honoured to be able to share a bit of our style, a bit of our culture with the elders here in Kahnawake,” he said.

Don Barnaby regularly emcees and dances at powwows in different parts of Canada. He helped with finding some of the powwow participants. Barnaby was able to get five or six jingle dress dancers, which he explained was lucky, given that it was such short notice.

“There’s such a big difference in being able to be with other dancers and be with a live drum. It feeds your spirit like nothing else feeds your spirit. It’s the best medicine,” Barnaby said. “We are able to provide the best medicine the elders could get, medicine that doesn’t come in a pill. We are able to help feed their spirit in that way and that’s huge.”

Barnaby spoke about the importance of this powwow, not only because it brings the community together through traditional song and dance. This powwow was organized specifically for the elders, and in that way, people are showing their appreciation for what the elders taught the community.

“It’s hard enough that they have to be away from their family and be confined. They are planning on doing more outdoor events for the elders and it’s really lifting their spirits,” Barnaby said.

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