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Experience the power of Canada's biggest Pow Wow at Manito Ahbee 2016 - Pow Wow Manito-ahbee - credit Mike Sudoma

Pow Wow Manito-ahbee - credit Mike Sudoma

By: Mike GreenApril 13, 2016 // Festivals & Events

Winnipeg's annual Manito Ahbee Festival has been revamped, with a new date (May 18-22), some new locations, and a new set of events that is sure to continue to "unify, educate and inspire" during this "gathering that celebrates Indigenous culture and heritage."

2016 marks the 11th year for Manito Ahbee, which since its inception has invited nations from across North America to share their music, cultures, and wisdom with all peoples.

From last year's opening ceremonies (photo by Bob Bergen)
From last year's Lighting of the Sacred Fire (photo by Bob Bergen)

It is open to everyone, promoting the unity of all nations on Turtle Island. You don’t have to be indigenous to attend any of the events, and it is a great way to learn about customs and histories; in fact, you are encouraged to ask questions, as Manito Ahbee is all about the sharing of cultures.

It all starts off with the Lighting of the Sacred Fire on May 18 at the Oodena Circle at The Forks. The ceremony will see elders, the board of governors, sponsors, and staff introduce the festival to the public at 11:30 a.m. with an offering of tobacco to the sacred fire. This will be followed by a showcase of music and dance.

The opening of last year's Pow Wow (Matt Duboff)
The opening of last year's Pow Wow (Matt Duboff)

The second big public event of Manito Ahbee is the CELEBRATE: Indigenous Music Concert which takes place at the Club Regent Event Centre on May 20. Historically, Manito Ahbee has always had the Indigenous Music Awards (previously titled the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards) as part of its roster, but for 2016 the awards have been put on hold for a year with the CELEBRATE concert serving as the ultimate showcase for indigenous recording artists from across North America featuring the likes of Susan Aglukark and William Prince.

On May 21 and 22 the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg is where you want to be to witness and take part in the one of the biggest celebrations of indigenous cultures in the world.

Drummers during last year's Pow Wow (photo by Kaylee Smoke)
Drummers during last year's Pow Wow (photo by Kaylee Smoke)

The showcase event during these two days is Canada's largest -- and North America's second largest -- Pow Wow, a two-day competition where the dancing, singing and drumming will have your senses soaring to new heights.

Over 800 dancers will be representing nations from around North America, with competition categories ranging across age and style.

Manito Ahbee 2015 (photo by Mike Sudoma)
Manito Ahbee 2015 (photo by Mike Sudoma)

You'll marvel at the grace, speed and athleticism, along with the vibrant, flowing fringed regalia as women dancers compete in Fancy Shawl. The footwork, movements and rhythmic sounds of the Jingle Dress Dance -- a healing dance -- is incredibly moving as well.

On the male side, the sheer size, colours and patterns of the dancer's regalia is astonishing. Your heart will pound when you watch the Men's Grass Dance, where the movements are in unison with the beat of the drum groups, while the power and endurance of dances like Fancy Bustle, Prairie Chicken, and Traditional are captivating. (If you can't make it to Winnipeg for Manito Ahbee, you can also watch the live stream of the Pow Wow at powwows.com.)

(Photo by Matt Duboff)
(Photo by Matt Duboff)

As well, you'll be treated to the fast footwork and high tempo performances from the Métis community during Getting Jiggy With It, the jigging and square dancing competitions (also May 21-22 at the Convention Centre).

During all of this excitement at RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg you can also meet and purchase works of art and crafts from artisans at the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Indigenous Marketplace and Trade Show, where you can browse over 80 booths. There will also be an Art Expo and Art Challenge this year, where you can see the best in bead work, quill work, ribbon skirt, and Star Blanket.

Trade show (photo by Kaylee Smoke)
Last year's Indigenous Market Place (photo by Kaylee Smoke)

For a full list of Manito Ahbee events, along with ticket information and conference times, check out manitoahbee.ca

Lede photo by Mike Sudoma

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