This year, National Aboriginal Day will kick off six days of celebration and recognition in Central Alberta.
“These events are important because they are an acknowledgement of our heritage as the first peoples of Canada,” said Raye St. Denys, executive director at Shining Mountain and president of the Métis Local.
National Aboriginal Day is a day to recognize the significance of culture and achievement for First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.
The event to commemorate National Aboriginal Day, June 21st, will take place at the Iron Ridge Junior Campus in Blackfalds. A tipi will be raised at dawn to signify the beginning of the celebration.
At 1 p.m. there will be prayers, an honour song and a proclamation reading. The proclamation serves as recognition of heritage and emphasizes the significance of National Aboriginal Day as a celebration of culture.
This is the first time the National Aboriginal Day event will take place in Blackfalds. Due to last year’s severe flooding, celebrations were withheld as any suitable venue still had “Inches of water everywhere,” said St. Denys. Without last year’s celebrations, spirits are high for the upcoming events.
“I’m looking forward to having this in Blackfalds. I have my family here to enjoy the day with,” said St. Denys. She said this year is important because the Aboriginal community in the surrounding area has a chance to celebrate close to home.
There will be displays, games, performances, music and cake until 6 p.m.
June 24th marks a significant Métis holiday – Jean Baptiste Day. The events for this day will take place in Rotary Picnic Park in Red Deer from noon until 6 p.m. Activities to celebrate include First Nations, Inuit and Métis stories, songs and dances.
At 6:30 p.m., the Fourth Annual Turtle Awards will take place at the Golden Circle.
The Turtle Awards are designed to recognize influential and significant members of Aboriginal communities. These awards are meant to bring to light the achievements of community members, recognize those who maintain traditional practices and even feature a lifetime achievement award.
St. Denys describes the Jean-Baptiste Day event as a smaller celebration than June 21st, and explained that it is more of a celebration of Métis heritage than of other Aboriginal groups. She added that a delicious Aboriginal treat called bannock will be served on both National Aboriginal Day and Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations.
June 25th and 26th will have open houses at various Aboriginal organizations.
Canada’s Multicultural Day falls on June 27th. This day serves as a day for all Canadians to embrace their heritage and to express different values of culture in the nation. This day will be celebrated on the Ross Street Patio in Red Deer from 5 to 8 p.m. If weather is poor, performances will be moved indoors to The Hub on Ross.
“We’ve always had fun. The drums and fiddles and music speaks to us,” said St. Denys of the Aboriginal Day celebrations and the subsequent week’s activities.
“It’s so good to be gathered together. All of the events are free, so we just hope everyone comes out to be a part of this community.”