Indigenous ceremonies being postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19

You probably won’t be seeing ceremonies like powwows taking place anytime soon over the summer.

With summer fast approaching, traditional First Nation ceremonies and events set to take place over the coming months have been postponed or cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peguis, Manitoba’s largest First Nation, has already cancelled its high school graduation ceremony.

However, Chief Glen Hudson said this summer will bring even more cancellations including treaty days.

“Treaty days is looking ever bleak,” said Hudson. “Everybody from elders to youth look forward to this event and as far as the economic impact just alone our band puts up probably about $800,000 to this event and people get a chance to make money with their treaty stands and the various activities that go on throughout the week or 10 days I guess and beginning in mid-July.”

Sweat lodges are also affected by the pandemic, with some completely shut down. Others will try to open with social distancing measures but nothing close to full capacity.

One of those reopening with restrictions is run by the Southeast Resource Development Council Corporation (SERDC), which is made up of eight first nations in southeast Manitoba.

Louis Young, the mental wellness facilitator for SERDC, said having sweat lodges open is just as important now than it has ever been.

“Now people are going to sweat lodges to help deal with day to day stresses so it’s still quite important even though the purpose of it, the use of it has changed,” she said. “It is still very important for a lot of people. Like at our sweat lodge there are a number of people who are very regular attendees and there are some who only come periodically when they feel a need to attend.”

Young also added that Sundance’s, the most sacred ceremonies, will more than likely be postponed due to the size and community togetherness the ceremonies bring.

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