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'We are all connected': First Nations communities celebrate culture and tradition in North Bay Pow Wow

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To the beat of the drum, dancers, young and old, took the centre stage inside the Canadore College gym to perform a spiritual dance. As they danced, they said a prayer of thanks to the ancestors and for healing.

Dancers from many generations made a prayer of thanks to the ancestors and for healing as part of their dancing. (Eric Taschner/CTV News Northern Ontario)"We're dancing for those who can't dance anymore," said dancer Cody Sackaney, a member of the Timiskaming First Nation.

"For those who are sick, our ancestors who have passed on, our family and people close to us that we love."

34-years ago, a group of young students at Canadore College wanted to organize a yearly Pow Wow to celebrate their heritage and the neighbouring First Nations communities. The college is carrying on this tradition.

“As a Nipissing (University) student, a lot of us thought it was important for us to join the Pow Wow committee for the Canadore Pow Wow just to show the support between the two institutions," said committee member Genelle Manitowabi.

Representatives from several Ontario and Quebec Indigenous communities travelled to join in for the spiritual healing.

For many, this healing is needed as unmarked graves are still being discovered across the country.

"My father went to a residential school. My grandparents did, my uncles and aunties did and it really hit me on a personal level as well," said Sackaney.

Nipissing First Nation Deputy Chief Mike Sawyer said many family members and survivors are still feeling the effects and trauma.

"We're here to help one another and support one another as we start going forward in the future while recognizing the past," he said.

Up until 1951, Pow Wows were forbidden through the Indian Act unless it was for a special occasion. This grave moment in First Nation’s history still haunts generations 72-years later.

"We're here to celebrate our culture, our identity and our resilience," said Canadore College First Peoples' Centre Cultural Advisor.

"It's so important for us to all get together."

Members from Indigenous communities all over Ontario and Quebec travelled to join in for the spiritual healing Saturday. (Eric Taschner/CTV News Northern Ontario)The theme for this year’s Pow Wow is ‘Supporting One Another’ in recognition of the difficulties the COVID-19 pandemic brought us.

"This is a way for us to show we are all connected," said Manitowabi.

Officials said the celebration doesn't end when the drum beat stops and everyone goes home, as culture and teachings are always passed on to the next generation.

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