Celebrating Canadian Aboriginal culture, the traditional powwow is a showcase of the dance, music and crafts of Canada’s First Nations peoples.

The contemporary powwows that we recognise today originated in the late 1900s and are typically held on reserves, bringing the Indigenous peoples of Canada together to honour their heritage and preserve the cultural traditions of their ancestors.

The summer months are a popular time for powwows in Canada and as these events aim to promote respect and awareness, non-Aboriginal guests are very welcome to attend. Usually powwows include ethnic music, customary dances that follow the beat of the tribal drums, and stalls displaying fantastic ornaments and art crafted by First Nations peoples. You’ll likely find carvings, jewellery and clothing as well as vendors serving up traditional dishes to try.

Learn more about the heritage of these communities on your next holiday to Canada with a few of the largest powwows you can attend this summer.

Kamloopa Powwow - Kamloops in British Columbia, early August

Western Canada’s foremost powwow, Kamloopa Powwow is one of the biggest of its kind in the country and celebrates, in particular, the influence of the First Nations peoples in British Columbia. The event is hosted on the powwow grounds near the Secwepemc Museum & Heritage Park, just minutes away from the riverside city of Kamloops with its diverse landscapes sculpted by lakes and mountains. Kamloopa Powwow offers the chance to discover the Secwepemc community’s colourful attire, spirited dances and storytelling. You can watch drumming competitions, marvel at the beautiful regalia worn by officials and pick up a skill in one of the workshops.

Kamloopa Powwow in British Columbia

Siksika Nation Fair – near Gleichen in Alberta, late June - early July

Holding numerous contests and sporting tournaments, the Siksika Nation Fair is an opportunity to see leading competitors take part in traditional dance, sports, cooking and drumming events. You’ll also see the pride of the First Nations peoples first hand in the vibrant parade and the Siksika Nation Princess Pageant. The Siksika Nation Fair kicks off with a traditional powwow on the first day and visitors coming to the event at the rural Siksika Nation Tribal Administration. Located an hour outside of Calgary, those using Canada car rental can drive down for the day or stay the weekend. No doubt you’ll also recognise Alberta’s claim to cowboy culture in Canada – with rodeo activities on site throughout the fair. You can also grab a bite to eat or stay for the evening feasts and explore the craft market for a keepsake from your first powwow.

Akwesasne International Powwow – Cornwall Island in Ontario, early September 

With Ontario’s convenient location, bordering the USA, its premier powwow attracts Indigenous Canadians and Americans every September. The Akwesasne International Powwow invites people from all walks of life to join in and experience the cultural heritage of Aboriginals across North America. The powwow takes place at the A’nowara’ko:wa arena on Cornwall Island, situated on Ontario’s stunning St Lawrence River. Over this weekend, you’ll see elaborate costumes, taste native dishes and dance to traditional singing and drums. One of the more exciting events features the Iroquois Smoke Dancers, who fearlessly circle the fire pit and dance as the flames rise. There’s also the opportunity to learn traditional wood crafts and see these customs in practice. Perhaps the most important take away from Akwesasne is its spirit of community and you could leave having made a few friends over the weekend.

Akwesasne International Powwow in Ontario

Image Credit: Benoit Rochon (wikimedia.org)

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