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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Sah Gii Bah Gah powwow returns

David Colburn
Posted 6/17/21

NETT LAKE- In the Anishinaabe language, “Sah Gii Bah Gah” means “moon of the bursting buds,” according to a trivia post on the Bois Forte Nutrition Education Facebook page.But …

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Sah Gii Bah Gah powwow returns

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NETT LAKE- In the Anishinaabe language, “Sah Gii Bah Gah” means “moon of the bursting buds,” according to a trivia post on the Bois Forte Nutrition Education Facebook page.
But in the life of the Bois Forte Band, and particularly those living at Nett Lake, it means the renewal of the traditional three-day Sah Gii Bah Gah pow wow, traditionally held the first weekend in June, that was canceled last year due to concern over the coronavirus pandemic.
The spiritual significance of the observance was not overlooked entirely last year, however. A Nett Lake drum circle still gathered with a small group of dancers to sing the songs inviting the blessings of the spirits upon the re-emergence of life.
“Every spring we have that ceremony after the lake opens and before the leaves come out,” tribal elder Gene Goodsky said last year. “We’re asking for growth of all plants, rebirth of all the animals and the birds. We’re asking for rebirth of everything. We’re asking for regrowth of the wild rice. What we’re doing is feeding the lake.”
This year there were far more than a handful in attendance at Sah Gii Bah Gah. In fact, several attendees said they couldn’t remember ever seeing so many tents encircling the pow wow grounds, and organizers brought in a semi-sized mobile shower unit to accommodate the overnight crowd.
Michael Dunkley Jr., who is originally from Red Lake but now lives in the Vermilion sector of the Bois Forte Reservation, has been dancing “for many decades” and was glad for the return of Sah Gii Bah Gah.
“It’s like a breath of fresh air,” he said. It’s like having our heartbeat back again. This is what we live for, this is our life, dancing to the drum and the songs and feeling the heartbeat of the nation.”
James Cloud III is part of a family singing group, P Town Boyz, that came from Ponemah to join 20 other drum groups at the pow wow.
“It feels good to be back out around the pow wow circle,” Cloud said. “A lot of us didn’t feel safe in the beginning (of the pandemic), even with our own family. When we first came together we were going live on Facebook and people really liked seeing that. It feels good bringing our drum back out and traveling with our families again.”
Terry Goodsky was a familiar voice behind the microphone announcing the songs, dances, and other components of the pow wow.
“Once COVID came in, everybody was afraid,” Goodsky said. “Now that everybody’s mostly vaccinated they want to dance, they want to sing. It’s actually good to see people not wearing masks because you can look at them and see that they’re happy. They’re smiling. That’s what it’s all about.”
Another tradition, the Lake Vermilion Traditional Pow Wow, will be returning to the Lake Vermilion pow wow grounds next weekend from Friday, June 25 through Sunday, June 27.

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