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A Letter from Lynn: Attending The Squamish Nation Pow Wow

When I was a kid here on the North Shore, my dad would take me to the Pow Wow down on the reserve. It was always fun and full of activity, and the drumming seemed to go from the air to the ground, up through my feet and right to my soul. We would eat bannock and smoked salmon, and Dad would talk to the elders—many of whom he knew quite well. For many years, he owned a small watch repair shop on Lower Lonsdale, and after awhile he began to buy local crafts and carvings from the artists on the reserve. This meant long chats over cups of coffee. Dad was well liked; he gave a fair price and often told an artist to charge more! Some of these treasures he sold, but many he kept and he left them to me when he died.

Years later, when I was living in Northern Ontario, I’d go to the annual Pow Wow, which was held in September. The Anishinabek Pow Wow grounds on Lake Nipissing (just outside North Bay, Ontario) is a beautiful treed sanctuary. It’s been a peaceful and protected space for a very long time, and when it’s transformed into this annual celebration, it is a colourful, welcoming and exciting place to be. When I left the area, I knew it was a place and a tradition I was going to miss.

Last week, I saw a notice for the local Squamish Nation Pow Wow, and I thought it would be a good idea to take my 5 year old granddaughter. She loves to dance and sing, and if my dad had been here, he’d have said it was time.

The North Vancouver Pow Wow is held in an open field not far from the base of the Lion’s Gate Bridge. On one side of the field, there is a long, wooden lodge building and several large totem poles stand nearby. The Pow Wow was to last 3 days. I chose to take Laura on Saturday, and we arrived at 6:00pm in time to grab a burger and look around before the dancers’ grand entrance at 7:00. I told Laura to look for something special as we walked around the many craft tables set in a large circle around the field. I also wanted to go where the dancers were sitting, so I could meet them and have an up close look at their regalia. When they are in motion, they are a whirling flash of colour and it’s hard to appreciate the wonderful craftsmanship that goes into each outfit. I also like to watch the drummers as they hit the drums hard and sing in unison.

At the Squamish Pow WowLaura found a beaded hair ornament in one of the craft tents, and after some more looking around, we decided to go back and buy it. The man in the tent was dressed in an outstanding traditional robe of wolf skin—the head of which was mounted over his own. His face was painted, and in any other encounter, he would have looked quite fierce, but he smiled at Laura, told her the hair ornament would be two dollars and handed it to her with a grandfatherly gesture that made us both smile.

With some fanfare, the grand entrance was announced. Dancers of all ages and in all manner of traditional dress lined up at the entrance and prepared to parade into the centre of the field. The drumming and singing began, and Laura wanted to get into a place where she could best see what was going on. Elders were introduced followed by mothers and children. Then warriors and visitors whirled in a mass of colour into the centre of the field. Some of the dancers were from Ontario, and I wondered if I’d recognize anyone I knew. There were women and girls in jingle dresses, grass dancers, ribbon dresses, amazingly ornate beaded robes, and the some of the most spectacular and colourful feathered regalia I have ever seen. After elders had spoken and announcements were made, the dancing truly began.

I wondered how long Laura would want to stay and watch the festivities. I could watch all night! After awhile, I asked if she’d like to get down from the stands and see if we could get a closer look. People were kind and we made our way to the side of the circle where we could see the dancers up close as they moved clockwise to the drums. Laura began to sway with the rhythm, and when it was announced that anyone who wanted to join the dancers was welcome to do so, Laura’s eyes lit up. Like someone preparing to jump into skipping ropes, I watched her get up her courage, set her pace and go. She ran right to the man in the wolf robe and danced along with him. Laura whirled around the circle twice, and when the drums paused, she ran back to me happy, smiling and completely out of breath. “I know some of the kids!” she said, “they go to my school!” At Ridgeway Elementary School, First Nations teachers talk to the children about history and drumming and traditional dress. Laura is learning about hunting, fishing, healing plants and some of the things that happened when the settlers came. She has even learned a little about residential schools. Taking her to the Pow Wow wasn’t an introduction, it was adding to something about which she already knew. Maybe my dad has returned in the spirit of my granddaughter. It’s possible! He certainly resides in me.

If there is a Pow Wow in your area, treat yourself. It’s a wonderful experience.

Edited to add:

One of the people I met at the Pow Wow in North Vancouver was William Burnstick. The regalia he was wearing exemplifies the intricate and colourful bead and feather work seen at these annual celebrations. To see his work, go to www.WilliamBurnstick.com  His artistry is outstanding!

A Letter from Lynn: A Strange Encounter

I called up my friend, Steve, last night. He’s a successful musician, and has been a close friend of my son, Aaron, since they were three years old. We got to talking about the “old days”, and he reminded me of a story I thought might be fun to pass on:

Steve had moved to Nanaimo, British Columbia from Ontario, and since Aaron was living in Vancouver, it was easier than ever for them to stay in touch. One day, Aaron was visiting when Steve, searching the very new internet, found a site dedicated to For Better or for Worse. It was a really nice site. He saw some interesting comments and some respectful criticism, and he thought he’d get in touch with the guys who were writing it. He sent a pleasant note to say he was a friend of mine, he liked the site, and would they mind if he sent a link on to me.

The response was amazing. The guys who ran the site sent back a tirade of crude and ugly insults, saying there was no way Steve could know me, and to just #*&%%%#! – off!! Steve was astounded. Aaron decided to up the ante, so he wrote them a note of his own.”Hi”, he said, “You just got a message from Steve who is a friend of mine. He does know Lynn Johnston and so do I – I’m her son!” The response from the “fan” site was even more disgusting! They swore, and insulted him, and had a fine time with this piece of news.

“If you are truly Lynn’s son,” they said, “who was in panel three of the Sunday strip which ran on August somethingorother, and what was the punchline?” Aaron wrote back; “Darned if I know!” After all, he was my kid! He rarely read the work on my desk, and didn’t read the books until he had moved away from home! Both witty and wickedly creative, Aaron and Steve happily bantered with the “appreciation guys” until it got boring. They laughed about this for days.

Steve said he never went back to the site, and wondered what had happened to the two fans who had started it. If only they had believed Steve and Aaron!

Lynn J.

Watch FBorFW Animated Specials in Dutch!

We’re very excited to announce that KidHit.tv has dubbed Lynn’s animated specials into Dutch!

KidHit

Known as Familie Petterse in the Netherlands, the Pattersons appear in five of our popular animated specials – now, for the first time, in Nederlands!

 

Watch an Intro to the Dutch specials here:

You can catch the whole collection at KidHit.tv.

Want them in English?

We offer digital downloads from our shop:
1. The Last Camping Trip
2. A Christmas Angel
3. The Good for Nothing
4. A Valentine From the Heart
5. The Babe Magnet
6. A Storm in April

How About French?

Here you go:
1. L’Ange de Noël
2. Bon À Rien
3. Un Valentin qui Vient du Coeur
4. Le Piège à Filles