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Wednesday, August 30, 2023

mawi'omi : gathering


As a target in the Sixties Scoop, dancing has a special significance for Bert Mitchell. (Stacy Janzer/CBC)

The Lennox Island First Nation on P.E.I. celebrated a mawi'omi on the weekend, with some participants drawing a direct line from tragedies in the past to Indigenous pride in the present.

Mawi'omi means "gathering" in the Mi'kmaw language. This year's festivities included dancing, singing and drumming in Mi'kmaw regalia, as well as art displays.

Wet weather forced celebrations under a tent Saturday, but the sun came out for Sunday.

"To me, being outside, seeing the people going around the sacred arbour, it just warms my heart as a Mi'kmaw person," said Lennox Island Chief Darlene Bernard.

"I love this. It's just wonderful."

The mawi'omi is an important opportunity to pass on traditions and culture on to the community's young people, Bernard said.

"We're seeing all the kids out in their full regalia. They're so proud, and they're dancing. They're out there and they're dancing. They're not shy at all," she said.

"At the end of the day, it's all about the children and how we help them to understand their culture and traditions. And that they can be proud of who they are."

It's something male head dancer Bert Mitchell of Manitouwaba is particularly proud to be part of. 

'I would never give it up again'

This is Mitchell's 13th Lennox Island Mawi'omi. He began dancing when he was a little boy.

"We were a remote community. We didn't have regalia or fancy stuff like that, but the drum would move us," he said.

Darlene Bernard, outside in head dress.
It was wonderful to see the sun come out on the second day of the mawi'omi, said Chief Darlene Bernard. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

But that ended for him in the Sixties Scoop. Mitchell said he was 11 years old when he was apprehended and "taken out of the culture."

Now that's he had the opportunity to get it back, he said he doesn't plan to stop dancing again.


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