By Roland Lorente and Aline Saffore
Traditional dance plays a central role in powwows, friendly, festive gatherings of First Nations.
Midway between the sacred and artistic expression, dancers honour Mother Earth, their
ancestors, and their fellow Native Americans. They wear traditional outfits, called regalia, made
to reflect their identities. Regalia, Native Pride reveals the splendour of these creations and
gives the dancers a voice.
Stepping discreetly into a little-known world, exhibition creators Aline Saffore and Roland
Lorente travelled nearly 10,000 kilometers throughout Eastern Canada and attended over 20
powwows. Their harvest would prove bountiful: 30 portraits, 30 powerful encounters, a warm
welcome, and a deep conviction that First Peoples cultures are key elements of human diversity
that should be more well-known and preserved.
Here, on the grounds of the Maison Nivard-De Saint-Dizier, musée et site archéologique, six of
these 30 portraits are presented, providing a condensed version of the REGALIA, Native Pride
experience, a privileged encounter with six members of indigenous communities proudly
wearing their traditional regalia.
Why focus on regalia? Because they encapsulate the Native experience. Flamboyant and woven
from the thread of human existence, these outfits are products of both pain and resilience. In
them, we perceive the genuine spiritual path, nourished by renewed contact with the ancestral
spirits, at the heart of the dance. We feel the hands that have worked, sewed and embroidered
them. We hear the history of these peoples from the mouths of those who have experienced it.
We discover modernity in surprising forms. In motion, the regalia speak of fraternity and of
handing down traditions. They reveal a powerful sense of pride in identity and spirituality. And
they pay homage to the stunning vitality of contemporary Native culture.
A word about powwows
Powwows take place in summer. Each week, a different community hosts dancers, drummers,
families,friends, and dignitaries to celebrate the traditions of North American First Nations
people. Originating in the 1880s in the Great Plains, the custom later spread to many other
nations, though they were initially unfamiliar with the tradition. Today, there is a continent-wide
Powwows follow a protocol. Dances, an integral part of Native culture, take place within a circle,
the fundamental symbol of First Nations thought. At the circle’s centre are drummers, who guide
the dancers’ steps, accompany honour songs, and evoke the beating heart of Mother Earth.
Today’s traditional dances are a thriving mixture of ancestral practices and modernity: while it
has evolved, the powwow tradition has not been highly influenced by Western culture. In the
powwow, fundamental Native values are remarkably preserved.