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Bay St. George Powwow provides alcohol-free fun for thousands: Elder Calvin White

Elder Calvin White poses from a photo on Saturday at the 12th Annual Bay St. George Powwow in Flat Bay.
Elder Calvin White poses from a photo on Saturday at the 12th Annual Bay St. George Powwow in Flat Bay. - Frank Gale

Elder Calvin White said he don’t believe anybody in Newfoundland imagined you could bring thousands of people together and have so much fun and entertainment without alcohol involved.

He was referencing the 12th Annual Bay St. George Powwow in Flat Bay that has grown into a resounding success, if that can be determined by the number of people who flock to the event annually.

White said while he knew there was a strong movement of indigenous people in the province, he would never have imagined when the committee planned the first powwow it would have gotten this big.

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“I think the visibility of the people and because our (Mi’kmaq) are situated throughout the province, it came together,” he said. “It was like a wheel — the hub representing the founders and the spokes reaching out to so many strong aboriginal communities.”

He said some of the family names include the Barringtons, the Olivers and Pauls in Badger, along with powerful family descendants in Bay St. George, like the Brakes, Benoit, Mitchells, Webbs and Youngs.

“The populations of those and other families are so widespread, we (Mi’kmaq) were on par with the rest of the population,” White said.

He said the history of these families was kept alive and of course reached out to their family members, who told them what was happening when it came to cultural revival.

White said some of them were finding out something they didn’t know about but wanted to learn about.

“They felt that strong connection and that’s why we’re getting people here from Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick,” he said.

White said some of the people have connections to people from this area, while others are from other indigenous tribes who share a cultural background.

He said the powwow creation started out the intent of moving it around Bay St. George but once people gathered for the second year there was a realization the beautiful location, with the breeze off the ocean, the room for parking and camping and the infrastructure in place that Flat Bay was the right choice.

White said it would be expensive to duplicate in other places and it’s a Bay St. George Regional Powwow, with just two people from Flat Bay serving on the planning committee this year.

“It’s about the population coming together and it becomes inclusive. Where the people want to do it, that’s up to them but there’s no rumblings about anyone wanting it anywhere else but Flat Bay,” he said.

White said every year they continue learning and finding ways to accommodate people that attend the powwow.

He said the involvement of children and young people, who have accepted who they are, is great as they are the future and are strengthening the movement from the grassroots up.

“They’ve never been ashamed to say they’re Indian because they know who they are and are supported by the large gatherings that come to watch them participate,” White said.

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