Saddle Lake celebrates Christmas with virtual contests and festivities and urges community to stay vigilant

Venissa Cardinal's winning entry in the Saddle Lake virtual Gingerbread House contest. (Facebook Photo).

by Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter 

(ANNews) – The Saddle Lake Cree Nation Emergency Management Team issued a New Years Message that reflected on the many ways that 2020 has affected every member of the community and asked for continued vigilance in keeping the community safe and healthy.

“With most of 2020 in isolation and being home due to travel and other restrictions, we have learned to help one another, rely on each other in a time of need and realize how much we need our loved ones close to heart and home. As we watch our Nation coming together, this has been a blessing. We can acknowledge the gifts of spending time with family and reflecting on what is truly important.

“Unlike years past and going forward, this year will be a year that we tell our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of how 2020 has changed us, our families and our Nation.  And as people, we give Thanks to the Creator for what we have in life. Saddle Cree Nation is working together and will continue to work together in the present and future.”

The community health centre of Saddle Lake Cree Nation, which is located 171 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, celebrated Christmas 2020 by conducting multiple virtual events for their Nation members.

Festivities featured a gingerbread house contest, a cake baking contest, an ugly sweater contest, a light decoration contest, and a door decorating contest.

Terri Cardinal, a member of Saddle Lake and a child development specialist with Jordan’s Principle told CBC News reporter Penny Smoke, “We wanted to showcase their talents. We have noticed there are a lot of talented people that we weren’t even aware of.”

The Jordan’s Principle branch in Saddle Lake is made up of community health workers helping families access services like speech and language pathologists, paediatricians, as well as mental health services.

“The gist of it was mental health — with a lot of things going virtual now we had to get a bit creative,” said Terri.

Venissa Cardinal, who won first place for the gingerbread house contest by creating a gingerbread tipi village, told media, “I really wanted it to stand out, and look a little more Native and colourful.”

“I tried to make everything from scratch except the poles and the horse. The smoke is made of cotton candy.”

Leona Cardinal, who won the door decorating contest, said that Christmas decorating was her passion and that the contest allowed her to show off her skills and talent to the Nation.

“The inspiration comes from having children enjoy the beauty of Christmas,” said Leona to media.

After having some pine trees removed from her property this year, Leona had the idea to keep some of the refuse left over from the removal.

“I told my hubby I wanted to use some of the branches for decorating, so we kept some hanging around and when the door decorating opportunity came around, I put those branches to use.”

“We are hoping things do get better so we can do in-person services again, but until then we have to get creative to keep the connection with the community,” said Terri Cardinal.

“We will just try new things and hope they fly but the people seem to be stepping up.”

A singing contest held in November, promoted National Addictions Awareness Week, and was administrated by the Saddle Lake Eagle Healing Lodge.

To view the winners of the contests – or to see all of the submissions – visit the Saddle Lake Jordan’s Principle and the Saddle Lake NAAW 2020 Facebook pages.

The Saddle Lake Cree Nation Emergency Management Team acknowledged “all the efforts, work and planning that has gone into dealing with COVID-19 in 2020 and which will continue going into 2021. Many people have countless hours to support our Nation which include leadership, programs, security and community supports such as the Health Centre, Public Works, Education, Social, Wahkohtowin; all are committed to continue working for our Nation to keep our people healthy and safe.

“We have not done this on our own. We have asked for and received support from different levels of government, organizations and businesses. Without this support, we would have had a different outcome. We also want to acknowledge that families have done so much to keep their loved ones safe, this virus has had an impact and we thank you for being leaders in your own homes – being the parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts that care.

“We are not done, we need to continue being vigilant and continue taking precautions. We know the fatigue, the sadness, the frustration and the anger. We feel what you feel and we deal with it just as much as you do. We ask you to continue to keep your families, relatives and children safe. We are in a fight for our future and no one has more control over it that we do, each and every one of us.

“May Creator watch over us and our Nation. Hiy Hiy. We love Saddle Lake.”

Jake Cardinal is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Alberta Native News.

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