Moosehide Gathering organizer Allison and her sister Shauna Kormendy laugh to think of the length of time the gathering has been happening.
“A long time,” they say.
As a young girl their great-grandmother travelled from the Northwest Territories to attend the predecessor to the Moosehide Gathering—an annual potlatch at which First Nations groups from all over the territories and Alaska would gather.
It was where their great-grandmother met their great-grandfather.
The sisters agree that the gathering must have been going on long before even that.
After a two-year wait, the Moosehide Gathering, as it is now called, is once more almost upon us.
The Moosehide Gathering is a four-day celebration held in Moosehide, a historic First Nations settlement located a short way downriver from Dawson City.
These days First Nations groups and people of all backgrounds travel from all over Canada and the world to attend.
The event begins on Thursday, August 2 at 1 p.m., with an opening celebration featuring speeches, prayers, a welcome from the Hän Dancers and the Canadian Rangers, as well as the lighting of the sacred fire.
The sacred fire will burn throughout the entire ceremony and will be left to burn out on its own when the gathering is finished.
Over the next three days, activities will include performances and workshops on a main stage, in tents and under an arbour, as well as arts and crafts for sale, a kids’ tent, a storytelling area and an all-day concession.
Workshops include demonstrations by performers, carving by Vern Swan, willow basket weaving, dream catcher making, fish net making, sweat lodges, and more.
Moosehide paraphernalia will be available at a merchandise tent, which is known to sell out completely in the first two days.
Each evening, a huge feast, prepared by chef Andrea Moses and her team of cooks, with help from volunteers, is provided free of charge for all guests.
At the feast, tradition is kept and elders are fed first, followed by volunteers and boat drivers, and then the public.
Last year some of the feasts were attended by upwards of 1,000 people. According to Allison Kormendy, there will surely be even more attendees this year.
Visitors are encouraged to bring their own potlatch bags (bags containing cups, plates and cutlery). If you forget your bag there will be some for sale at the merchandise tent.
After the feasting, this year there will be dancing and jigging late into the night, upon request of the elders, who complained at the last gathering that the festivities ended too early!
Performers at the event include the Hän Singers, the Tanacross Singers, the Kaska Drummers, Retrospect, Gramma Susie, Bill Stevens, Boyd Benjamin & Allan Benjamin, Michelle Olson, Ecka Janus, James Roberts and Tomas Kubinek.
Another new addition this year is the honoring of all the elders who have passed in the time since the last gathering. This will include the displaying of each elder’s name and an open mic.
Although this is the set schedule, there are still many additional activities that will evolve.
“You never know what’s going to happen until the day happens,” says Allison.
Until a few years ago, the gathering occurred every year. Now it is now biennial—because of the huge amount of organization needed, it was changed to an event that happens every second year.
For everyone, including the Kormendys, the event is highly anticipated. It is no wonder—the gathering is literally responsible, in part, for their very existence.
The Moosehide Gathering will be accessible by boat shuttles, which run from Dawson to Mooosehide late into the evening. Camping accommodation is provided for visitors, or they are welcome to rent accommodation in town.
Moosehide is a dry, drug-free event and all attendees will be screened by security before travelling to the site.
Everyone is welcome to the Moosehide Gathering, which is made possible through local funding, sponsorship, fundraisers (such as the upcoming performance by urban powwow group, A Tribe Called Red, at the Palace Grand Theatre on August 18) and by individual donations.
The event is run by the work of volunteers. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to volunteer their time at the Moosehide Gathering.