Honoring connections to the past: Blue Water Traditional Pow-Wow returns this summer

Jiingtamok. The gathering of friends. A celebration.

After a few years’ hiatus, the Blue Water Traditional Pow-Wow is returning. Free and open to the public, the event will be held on Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Fort Gratiot Light Station from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“It’s been years and years since there's been a pow-wow right here in Port Huron, and was something we were interested in bringing back,” says Andrew Kercher, Community Engagement Manager at Port Huron Museums, one of the organizations supporting the event. “We kind of wanted to be a platform for the local indigenous voices, so we worked with organizations such as the Blue Water Indigenous Alliance to put together a small committee and decided it would be a traditional pow-wow.”

Not all pow-wows are the same as there are two different types: competitive and traditional. The competitive pow-wow is more focused on competing in dance and other categories for monetary prizes and awards, whereas the traditional is more about coming together with friends to have a good time, without the high competitive factor and prizes.

Joe and Joan Jacobs dance at the Saganing pow-wow.“Traditional pow-wows are more geared towards educating people and allowing them to experience, participate, and be a part of our cultural celebration. We try to draw people from the audience and the community to dance together,” says Joe Jacobs, who is a member of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia.

Joe and his wife Joan, of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa, both worked alongside the museum to provide the knowledge and wisdom of the culture and traditions to ensure a spectacular event.

Joan is involved in preparing for the event’s Princess Pageant where the young girls compete for the title of the princess by dancing in traditional regalia. When crafting some of the regalia it can take up to one year to complete.

“I’ve made jingle dresses for the dancers and that's made with 365 tobacco cones on it,” she says. “Each day you say a prayer with the cone, so it takes a whole year to make one of those.”

Sponsors and partners for the event include the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, St. Clair County Parks & Recreation, FireKeepers Casino & Hotel, Blue Water Indigenous Alliance, and Port Huron Museums. For more event details, visit bluewater.org/event-detail/2022-blue-water-traditional-pow-wow.

Read more articles by Harold Powell.

Harold Powell is the Community Correspondent for The Keel and owner of Phantom Pen Media offering multimedia services to individuals and organizations across the Blue Water Area. He is a current board member for the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce and the most recent Chamber Choice recipient at the Eddy Awards. Harold is an avid volunteer for the YMCA of the Blue Water Area as well as Bridge Builders Counseling & Mentoring and in his spare time, enjoys spending time with his son, writing and listening to music, playing video games, and not folding laundry.