Manito Ahbee is one of the largest annual gatherings of Indigenous Peoples on Turtle Island.
This year the 18th annual five-day festival (May 18-22) takes place at Red River Exhibition Park on Treaty No. 1 Territory, the ancestral and current-day lands and waters of the Anishinaabek (Ojibway), Nehiyaw (Cree), Anishininew (Oji-Cree), Dakota, and Denesuline Peoples, the heartland of the Métis Nation and home to many Inuit.
The festival features Nations from across the continent, many of whom are coming together to celebrate and socialize. Some will take part in one of the world’s largest pow wows, and some will compete in a range of sporting events like ball hockey, golf, 3-on-3 basketball and the new Manito Ahbee Cup Adult rec hockey tournament. On the arts and performance side of things, there’s The Spirit Visions 48-hour film challenge, and countless acts on the Ignite Our Spirit Performance Stage that are sure to grab your attention.
Plus, there’s the huge Manito Ahbee Marketplace where you can purchase a host of items from Indigenous creators like regalia, mukluks, clothing, jewellery, music, art and so much more.
Open to all to experience, Manito Ahbee is all about educating and exposing visitors and participants to the Seven Sacred Teachings of love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility and truth.
Here's just a few things to know before you go, along with some tips on some must-see experiences.
The best way to kick-off your Manito Ahbee experience is at the Lighting of the Scared Fire (Thursday, May 18 at Red River Ex park). During this family event, you'll witness delegates, elders and dignitaries from around the world come together to make a tobacco offering to the fire before participating in a pipe ceremony and the blessing of the hand drums.
Know before you go (particularly when it comes to the Pow Wow)
Manito Ahbee’s International Pow Wow starts Friday night at 7 p.m. in Red River Exhibition Park. It is traditionally the largest pow wow in Canada and the second largest in North America, with over 800 dancers and drum groups in attendance. The colourful regalia of the dancers is truly remarkable, while experiencing drum groups in person can be a transformative – it's so incredibly powerful.
This is a sacred event, so if you are new to pow wows here’s some etiquette guidelines to follow, covering aspects like how you must ask to take pictures of participants, how you should never touch eagle feathers or regalia, and when you must stand.
This year there are a wide range of dance categories, which you can watch via live stream on powwows.com.
More spectator opportunities and what’s new
Along with all the amazing regalia and styles during the Pow Wow, Manito Ahbee’s Ignite Our Spirit Performance Stage will be the place to see so many performances.On Sunday, May 21, the stage (also right at Red River Exhibition Park), will host the “Treaty 2’s Got Talent” contest, while there will be performances from jigging groups, musical entertainment and Inuit and Dene cultural performances on the stage all weekend long.
New for 2023 is the Red Road Runway fashion show (May 20, 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.), featuring collections from locals like Ann Mulaire, along with Zazegaakwe from Treaty 3, and She Holds the Sky Designs by Karonienhawe Diabo, a Mohawk designer of the Kanien’kehaka bear clan of Kahnawake who just showed this year during New York Fashion Week!
And, as mentioned above, this year there’s so many sports to see.
The Ball Hockey Tournament runs from May 20-21, as does the 3-on-3 official Hoop It Up basketball tournament (with the winners from many of the categories earning the right to go compete at the Hoop It Up Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona in October). Both events will be held onsite at Red River Ex Park. As you’ll see above, the Indian Horse Relay returns for 2023, making the most of Manito Ahbee’s new venue (last year was the first year it was held at the Red River Ex) which is just up the road from Assiniboia Downs racetrack. Chances are, you’ve never seen horse racing like this as a single rider will ride three horses bareback to win!
For more sports, check out Manito Ahbee’s sports site.
Tickets and more info
Perhaps the most important thing to know about Manito Ahbee is that it’s open to everyone, promoting the unity of all nations on Turtle Island. You don't have to be Indigenous to attend any of the events, and it is a great way to learn about customs and histories from across the continent. In fact, you are encouraged to ask questions, as Manito Ahbee is all about the sharing of cultures.
The festival also continues to strive to be more sustainable each year. This year they are working with the Recycling Warriors program.
Ticket this year can be purchased online. Single-day passes are $16.50, while a three-day pass is just $38.50. Kids five-and-under are free. Tickets can also be purchased onsite along with at the Centennial Concert Hall box office. Here are the full ticket details.
Indigenous restaurants in Winnipeg
Looking to support local Indigenous restaurants while you're here for Manito Ahbee? Our latest article on Peg City Grub features a number of Cree, Ojibway and Métis owned-and-operated spots, along with a food truck and gourmet food service too.