As you cruise down Brantford’s scenic Highway 54, don’t be surprised if you hear the Grand River Champion of Champions Pow Wow before you actually see it. Follow the sound of beating drums and First Nations song and before long you’ll be met by one of the most colourful celebrations your eyes have ever encountered.
For over 35 years, the Grand River Champion of Champions Pow Wow has been attracting dancers, singers and spectators from across North America. They descend on Ohsweken Speedway in the Six Nations community of Ohsweken, for two days of First Nations music, dance, arts, crafts, food and connection.
While Pow Wows are held across the continent, the Grand River event is widely known, partly because of its competitive edge. The dancer that accumulates the most points over the course of the weekend is deemed the “Champion of Champions” and, just like Stanley Cup champions, their name is engraved on a large trophy. There are also impressive cash prizes up for grabs in a variety of dance and singing categories.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: 5 TIPS FOR AN AMAZING POW WOW EXPERIENCE
Watch, listen and learn – If you’re unfamiliar with First Nations culture, watch the Master of Ceremonies for cues on appropriate behaviour including when to stand to show respect and when quiet is expected.
Capture the moment – With such colourful regalia, come prepared to snap some truly share-worthy pics for all your social feeds, but be sure to ask dancers’ permission first. Also, listen to the Master of Ceremonies, who will inform the audience when photographs should not be taken as a sign of respect.
Bring a lawn chair – While there is onsite stadium seating, the popularity of this event means those bleachers can fill up quickly. To be safe, pack a portable lawn chair so you can enjoy the festivities in comfort.
Try something new – While all your summer favourites like hamburgers, hotdogs and lemonade are available from the onsite food vendors, the Pow Wow also offers you a chance to get a taste of a cuisine that you may not have tried before. Choose a few different items from the amazing selection of traditional First Nations fare like corn soup, fry bread, Indian tacos, wild game and wild rice. As not all vendors will take credit or debit cards, be sure to bring some cash.
Take home a memento – The Pow Wow attracts some of Canada’s leading First Nations artisans, and browsing the many vendor booths you’ll find at the park also gives you an opportunity to meet the talented artists. Bringing home a cozy pair of hand-stitched moccasins, some bead work or a beautiful piece of jewelry is a wonderful way to always remember the experience. Again, it’s a wise idea to have some cash on hand.