When the email from Adventure Central, a destination marketing organization based in central NL, floated into my inbox this past June, I was ecstatic. Did I want to attend the Miawpukek First Nation’s 21st annual Powwow? My response could be summed up in two words: Hell yeah.

With absolutely no first hand knowledge of the province’s First Nation, I was more than willing to make the 600 kilometre trek to Conne River to attend the Mi’kmaq powwow as a media representative. I was stoked to take in all that the powwow had to offer – the bright and colourful regalia, the interesting traditions and customs, the sweat lodge and sunrise ceremonies, the medicinal walks & talks with Chief Mi’sel Joe.


Photos by Wendy Rose for The Overcast

In the midst of a world totally foreign to my Wonderbread townie ways, I felt like a fly on the wall, soaking up the cultural experiences unfolding around me. My voice recorder and camera totally ratted me out as the ultimate annoying tourist, but hey, I was here to spread the word about this extremely interesting and aesthetically mesmerizing event – a reality that really drove home the “fly on the wall” feeling.

w1I couldn’t help but wonder – Was I exploiting a huge group of people for the sake of a few bylines and a couple of freelance cheques? Or was I simply taking in and expressing a perhaps slightly unknown experience on the province’s south coast? I prefered to stick with the latter, for the sake of my sanity.

Colleen Lambert, who takes care of the tourism related events, as well as cultural events and recreational events within the community, gave me a little more insight on the appreciation vs. exploitation dilemma I was battling – an emotional tug of war that grew stronger every time I was told to put my camera away for certain aspects of the powwow’s events roster.

“The very first time we had the powwow, it wasn’t done as a tourism attraction,” Lambert explained. “It was done as a community celebration of our heritage … As it grew, in terms of attraction participants, it became a tourism event as well,” Lambert said.

“There’s a fine line,” she added, in reference to inviting tourists to experience the Miawpukek First Nation Powwow vs. exploiting the culture and its events. “We very much try to keep our culture and our spirituality – we don’t really want to sell our spirituality.”


To avoid “selling’”spirituality, the powwow and all of its related events are free. The feast, the medicinal walks and all spiritual ceremonies are free of charge to all attendees, as these events are viewed as sharing culture and wisdom – the goal of the powwow, to First Nation members and tourists alike.

With Lambert’s refreshing take on my internal conflict, I departed the interview with a newfound confidence – confidence I needed for my upcoming interview with the Chief himself. Unaware of my mental struggle, Chief Joe eased by mind by happily extending an open invitation to anyone, anywhere, to come on down to the powwow.

Thanks, Chief. Maybe I’ll see ya in Conne River again next year, with a crew of uncultured east coast townies in tow.