The 2014 National Aboriginal Day (June 21) celebrations started early in Alberta this year when dancers, drummers and entertainers from the Aboriginal community gathered on June 15 to perform during the first of many farmer’s market venues that will take place in St. Albert this summer.
National Aboriginal Week is just about to get underway as many local, regional and provincial organizations, agencies and communities take the time and make the effort to join Canadians from coast to coast to celebrate Aboriginal culture and tradition and to reflect and remember the important role that Indigenous Canadians have played in Canada’s history. Initiated in 1996 by then-Governor General Romeo LeBlanc, Aboriginal Day falls on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and a time when Aboriginal peoples traditionally gathered to share, trade, celebrate and reunite with loved ones. When the day was introduced, the message was clear that “all Canadians are encouraged to participate” in the many festivities, and to “celebrate the values, traditions and cultures” of Canada’s First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples.
Early celebrations also took place on June 6 when select Edmonton Public Library locations hosted a variety of events that included storytelling with Richard Van Camp, Traditions of the Métis People with MJ Belcourt, a Red Power Squad performance and film screenings at the Stanley A Milner, Londondary, Jasper Place and Whitemud Crossing locations.
On Tuesday, June 17 the Edmonton and Area NAD Media Launch, hosted by the TELUS Eagles will celebrate NAD with a celebration from noon to 1 p.m. at TELUS House Edmonton, located at 10020 100 Street. There will be more NAD celebrations at noon on June 19 at Edmonton City Centre, Lower Level East by the Churchill LRT entrance. The entertainment will include traditional and contemporary performers.
Celebrate National Aboriginal Day at Edmonton’s Canada Place on June 21 where the theme will be Honouring Mother Earth and where activities for children and youth get underway at 9 in the morning and continue until 3 p.m.
On June 20 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. the Royal Bank of Canada will host a celebration at the 102nd Street and Jasper Avenue Park where the money they receive from a $5 a plate lunch that includes a buffalo burger, chips and a pop will be donated to the Amiskwaciy Academy Hot Lunch Program. Expect dignitaries, entertainment and lots of fun.
Also on June 20 you can make your way to the Heritage Park Pavilion in Stony Plain to enjoy activities sponsored by the Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services Region, together with community partners including, the Town of Stony Plain, Parkland County, Paul First Nation, Alexander First Nation, Enoch Cree Nation and Parkland School Division.
The Bent Arrow NAD celebration gets underway at Parkdale School (11648 – 85 Street) on June 20. The day of celebration will begin at 9 a.m. with a Welcome & Prayer, and a free pancake breakfast. Teepee stories, face painting, bannock making, crafts, games, a bouncy castle for the children, as well as Powwow dancers and drummers will be available for all to enjoy before the morning concludes at 12:00 p.m. with a mini round dance. Everyone is invited to attend.
On June 21 the Edmonton Queen Riverboat will celebrate NAD with its annual breakfast taking place from 9 a.m. through noon hour. The tasty, free breakfast meal includes mounds of exquisite sausages, tasty scrambled eggs, hot pancakes, perfectly roasted baby potatoes, toast, coffee, various fruit juices and more. The River Queen, owned by the Lesser Slave Lake Indian Regional Council, sails three times daily throughout the summer, treating its guests to an intriguing menu, an educational journey and a different look at the waters, shoreline and city from the middle of the North Saskatchewan. Highly recommended!
Join the Sun and Moon Visionaries on National Aboriginal Day (June 21) for a 1 p.m. Artisan Fair and Community Cultural Exhibits, a 3 p.m. Grand Entry & Ceremonial Honouring and a 4 p.m. Main Stage Concert. This event takes place on the south side of the Alberta Legislature building.
An NAD and Summer Solstice Celebration co-hosted by the Creating Hope Society, Canadian Native Friendship Centre, Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, The Works Festival, Alberta Native Friendship Centre and the John Humphrey for Peace and Human Rights will take place on June 21 in Churchill Square from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Family activities, traditional and contemporary entertainment and some great food await!
The annual St. Albert Aboriginal Day Festival gets underway at noon with a Grand Entry at Lion’s Park on Sunday, June 22 – bring a lawn chair and enjoy the culture of First Nations, Métis & Inuit people in one of Alberta’s oldest Métis communities.
Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centres and Nechi Training, Research and Health Promotions Institute will celebrate NAD on June 27 at the Lodge (1 Poundmaker Road) with activities that include storytelling, bannock and jam and more.
There are also a variety of impressive looking events taking place in Calgary to celebrate Aboriginal Awareness Week Calgary. From June 15-21 Calgary’s Awareness Week Celebration will reflect the pride of First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities as we take in their rich heritages, traditions, and cultures. The theme for 2014 is “Keeping the Circle Strong.” Organizers say, “The theme celebrates Elders and traditional teachings that have kept the cultures strong for many generations. This theme also expresses how the traditional teachings help us to live a life that will inspire and produce healthy future generations. In “Keeping the Circle Strong” we honor the past, present and future of our communities and continue to walk in the footsteps of our grandfathers and grandmothers.”
The week culminates with a Family Day Powwow Festival on June 21. This event takes place at Shaw Millennium Park from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. and is slated to be a day whereby the community comes together to celebrate local Aboriginal cultures and traditions in a family-friendly environment. Family Day encourages people of all ages to visit story corner, talk to Elders, partake in traditional games, and more.
Special Guest International film star and entertainer Gary Farmer with Black Eyes Creez Pow Wow will entertain participants from 4 p.m – 9:00 p.m.
As Family Day wraps up make sure you stick around to witness a traditional Powwow within the city. Dancers and drummers of all ages are invited to participate in this community celebration of traditions and cultures. Watch from the sidelines or get involved, it’s up to you but make sure you bring a chair!
Aboriginal Canadians are the prime movers and organizers when it comes to developing and hosting NAD events, but government support and mainstream society’s willingness to get aboard the celebration train to honour and remember the deeds and achievements of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, has done much to enhance the popularity of the unofficial holiday. Last year nearly two and a half million Canadians attended or participated in over 1600 National Aboriginal Day events that were held across the country. Figures indicate that the numbers of people attending the events has been rising steadily over the years. And that’s good news for festivity organizers who utilize the special day not just to introduce and teach the general public about Native lifestyle and culture, but also to celebrate such things as community and individual achievement, economic development initiatives, academic achievement at the end of another school year, historical site restorations, new creations, saluting community Elders, remembering war veterans, and more.
compiled from various sources by Ennis Morris