18th Manito Ahbee Festival kicks off in Winnipeg

The 18th Manito Ahbee Festival, which celebrates Indigenous arts, culture and music, kicked off in Winnipeg with the lighting of a sacred fire on Thursday.

Executive Director Lisa Meeches said she expects Indigenous influencers from across the country will be at the five-day festival, which features everything from a powwow to sports.

It started with a youth empowerment celebration at the Red River Exhibition Park. 

“The message is about the next generation of Indigenous people that are willing to take on the role of just becoming the decision makers,” Meeches said. “We’re preparing them … for that journey.”

Students walk around the old red river exhibitions grounds while attending the first day of the Manito Ahbee Pow wow
Students attending the first day of the Manito Ahbee Festival. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/ CBC)

“Its important for Indigenous youth to just have a say … because I don’t feel like we barely do get that,” said Madison Sinclair, one of about 2,500 students who registered for the event.

In addition, sporting activities got started with a golf tournament at the Breezy Bend Country Club.

Student, Madison Sinclair talks about her experience at the first day of Manito Ahbee
Madison Sinclair, of Sagkeeng First Nation, went to the youth empowerment event. (Alice Teufack/CBC)

On Friday, a tipi raising contest will be held and the powwow will start in the evening. There will be five dance categories with numerous specials and a singing competition with a grand prize of $12,000 with invited drums from Alberta, Minnesota, Wisconsin, as well as  local groups. 

On Saturday, the Red Road Runway Fashion show will be held.

Boogey the Beat Performs for the youth at the Manito Ahbee Next Gen Event
Boogey the Beat performed at the festival. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey / CBC)

“We’ve been making big splashes as Indigenous people on The Can, Carpet Festival and New York and L.A. and all of these amazing runways,” Meeches said. “We wanted to bring that to Manitoba.”

There will also be a ribbon skirt contest, Inuit and Dene showcase and Miss Manito Ahbee will be crowned.

Students take in the food trucks at the old red river exhibition grounds for the first day
About 2,500 students registered for the festival’s youth event. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey / CBC)

In addition, there will be a contest, with the chance to win up to $5,000, for Indigenous entrepreneurs pitching business ideas. 

Ball hockey and basketball tournaments will take place Saturday and Sunday. And there will be horse racing at the Assiniboia Downs on Monday.

Free transit shuttles will be available.