From Metis to Dene to Inuvaluit people and well beyond, Yellowknife’s National Indigenous Day celebration was a party, but it was also a recognition of Canada’s rich cultural heritage as a whole.
Free fun and free fish, fresh from Great Slave Lake, as well a gorgeous sunny day helped bring thousands of people – young and old – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – to the shores of Frame Lake and Sombe K’e Civic Plaza on Chief Drygeese Territory Friday afternoon.
The event, sponsored once again by the North Slave Metis Alliance, had a distinctively Metis flavour but also saw a wide range of Northerners, both in the crowd and on the stage.
As is the case every year for this event, the lineup for a delicious fish lunch is astonishing, as it stretched well back from the serving tent to beyond City Hall.
Throat singer Tanya Roach, who hails from Rankin Inlet, Nunuvut, along with her singing partner, Annasea Grave from Cape Dorset, Nunavut was among the performers.
“(Indigenous Day) means continuing a culture that is inheireted for me and to find empowering and healthy ways of expressing who we are,” Tanya said.
Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya says that there’s no doubt, there are many challenges ahead for Indigenous Canadians, but he adds that Indigenous Day is an opportunity to set them aside for a bit and celebrate all things Indigenous.
“It’s a day that everybody in Canada, but especially the Northwest Territories, takes time in the day to celebrate Aboriginal people and their culture, values and principles. It’s a day where we all get the pleasure of coming out and talking to everyone. It’s reconciliation at its very best,” said Yakeleya. “People are putting aside their issues for day and joining the various cultural activities this year.”
The event’s long-time host, President Bill Enge of the North Slave Metis Alliance, was fairly beaming as he sat in his chair stage-side and watched the multitude of performers soar and the crowd swell.
He thanked, in no particular order, the people he represents, everyone who came out, all the generous sponsors that help make the celebration happen and of course the cooperative weather.
Organizers say that the exact number of dinners handed out is tricky to estimate because second helpings do go out.
But they say that of the 8,000 plates and sets of cutlery brought to the site, not many of them don’t get used up.