By Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – In Indigenous communities, the rhythmic pulse of the powwow resonates as an inviting heartbeat, welcoming all to partake in the sacred circle of life that defines this vibrant community. Within this circle, Chiefs from across Canada frequently gather, offering guidance and wisdom to powwow families.
Before a crowd of nearly 900 enthusiastic powwow dancers, Chief Alexis stepped forward to address them. “Allow me to introduce myself; I am Chief Tony Alexis, representing the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation. On behalf of my people, I extend my heartfelt wishes for the success of this remarkable celebration here in Samson.” Chief Tony Alexis carries forward a legacy of Cree leadership, being a fifth-generation leader and a descendant of Mitaushin Aranazhi, known as ‘Alexis Akanas’ in his Treaty Government name.
“It’d truly remarkable to witness the power and enthusiasm of this event, which has already seen over 900 dancers in attendance,” Chief Alexis remarked. “I hope to express my heartfelt appreciation for the warm welcome and remarkable success of the Samson Cree Nation celebration.”
Chief Alexis conveyed his gratitude to the powwow community, including the talented singers and dancers who infuse this event with vibrancy. He also recognized the dedicated individuals who painstakingly craft the beautiful regalia that enhances the splendor of this occasion.
He acknowledged the significant contributions of seamstresses, beaders, and numerous Indigenous families who have cultivated a thriving industry centered around crafting authentic regalia for powwow families. These skilled artisans play a crucial role in creating the distinctive appearance that we all admire. Their work elevates the grandeur of gatherings like the Samson Cree Nation Powwow, where thousands of people come together to witness a cultural renaissance and experience living history firsthand.
Chief Alexis also extended his appreciation to Chief Saddleback and his council, the people of Samson, esteemed elders, ceremonial leaders, knowledge keepers, and all those who uphold their community in a positive light. He assured them that their efforts were not overlooked, and his thoughts and prayers were with them.
“The theme for the Samson Cree Powwow is a path of healing and welcoming. This resonates deeply with all our communities as we grapple with various forms of trauma and hardship. Whether it’s the loss of loved ones, struggles with addiction, or other challenges we face, our prayers and hopes are united. We think as one, as if we are all children of the same mother, standing together in unity.”
“I stand here to offer my prayers and ask my elders and fellow community members to do the same, not just for you but for all of us confronting these issues in our respective communities. Most importantly, I am here to show my support. My uncles have roots here, and I have family ties to this place. It’s essential always to make time to remember and stand by our loved ones. With that said, I am deeply thankful to be here. In Alexis, we always extend an open invitation for you to join us during the second week of July. We hope to see you next year,” concluded Chief Alexis.
Following his impassioned speech, Chief Alexis engaged in an interview with on-site reporter Chevi Rabbit. By his side was his First Lady, Stephanie Alexis, who exuded positivity as they represented the Alexis First Nation community, embodying generational leadership with inclusive traditional family values.
“For us, it was always a time of celebration, a time to reflect on making it through the tough winter and ceremony time,” said Chief Alexis. These gatherings symbolize gratitude, recognition, and honour for their heritage and achievements.
Indigenous traditions, like powwows, are inclusive, regardless of one’s role within the community, he asserted. “When you’re there, there’s a place for everybody.” His message was clear: young people should recognize their place within these cultural events. “Once you get there,” he added, “you’ll find someone to provide you with the teaching and guidance you need to become part of it.”
Chief Alexis also emphasized the crucial role of youth development within Indigenous cultures. He described the rites of passage, commencing with physical development at age 12, followed by emotional, mental, and spiritual growth. “By the time they emerge,” he explained, “we hope they are contributing members of the community, society, and the tribe.” Nonetheless, he acknowledged existing gaps in this process and stressed the importance of addressing these gaps to heal the community from trauma and mental health challenges.
Chief Alexis concluded the interview by underscoring the importance of self-care and maintaining balance across mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life.
Throughout Canada, powwows continue to serve as a powerful catalyst for cultural pride, resilience, and unity among Indigenous communities. Chief Tony Alexis’s words will undoubtedly be remembered as an inspiring call to honour their traditions, support their youth, and strengthen their communities in the face of challenges.
A Glimpse into the Alexis First Nation’s Rich History:
The Alexis First Nation boasts a rich history, with Chief Alexis signing the adhesion to Treaty Six in 1877 on behalf of the Nakota people. Established in 1880, the Alexis Reserve (No. 133) is nestled near the sacred Lake Wakamne, with headquarters some 85 km west of Edmonton. While maintaining strong ties to their traditional hunting territories, the community has evolved with contemporary lifestyles over the years. Despite intermarriage with neighboring Cree communities, Alexis preserves its Nakota cultural uniqueness, celebrated through rich oral traditions.