At 5:35 a.m. on June 20, Mary Lou Smoke, from Blind Rover, Ontario, began the Sunrise Ceremony, and set the tone for the 4th Annual Gathering at the Heart of Niagara. Against the backdrop of Niagara Falls, she spoke of how important it is to preserve one of the earth’s most precious resources: water.
The ceremony was held at Goat Island’s Terrapin Point, and at least 20 tribes were present, including the Confederacy of Natives from North American woodlands: Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscarora. “We gather together and share our prayer songs,” Smoke, a member of the Ojibway Nation, told ICTMN.
The purpose of the pow wow is based on the mission of the non-profit group, GATHON, Inc – to promote, support and share indigenous cultural and living traditions with all peoples. But it’s also about honoring Mother Earth.
Jill Morris, chair of the event, said that her inspiration comes from the documentary For the Next 7 Generations. In 2004, women from different parts of the world got together and formed The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. The alliance was concerned about the destruction of the earth. One of their projects was that documentary. “I saw their movie,” Morris said. “It was spiritual, and I started crying. It touched my heart.”
In the first year of the Gathering, Morris wanted the grandmothers to come to Niagara, because she had learned they had a workshop in Albany, N.Y. They were not able to come, but they dispatched representatives who offered them water blessed by the grandmothers. Morris said that if all like-minded grandmothers could do something to try to save the earth for the next generations, the world will be a much better place.
Morris said the Gathering is special because of its location. Goat Island’s Terrapin Point Park is as close as one can get to Niagara Falls, she said. The park is touted as America’s Oldest State Park, established in 1885, according to its website.
”Niagara Falls is big,” Morris said. “Some Natives of the area say it is the heart of Mother Earth.”