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8th annual Salmon Festival welcomes the spring return

Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Dance & Society host more than 1,200 attendees

More than 1,200 people gathered at the 8th annual Salmon Festival hosted by the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Dancers and Society (GNDS) at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre, on May 27 and 28.

The two-day event is a cultural show of thankfulness and appreciation for the return of the first spring salmon, Sabrina Clifton, program manager for GNDS said on June 2.

“It’s to celebrate the first catch of salmon, which is always shared with family and friends,” she said.

Eleven dance and cultural groups, with more than 500 performers from around the north of the province came to share songs and traditions in the biggest Salmon Fest held so far. One group had 120 performers attend the ceremonies held in Prince Rupert.

Twenty-two vendors of artists, drum makers, beaders, regalia craftspeople had displays and booths for festival-goers to enjoy.

Ceremonies with traditional protocols were opened on May 27 by Murray Smith, with the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Dancers performing the hallowed Mothers’ Cry created by Clifton’s mother, Camilla Haines.

Clifton explained the reverence behind The Mothers’ Cry as a retelling of when First Nations children were stolen from their families and placed in residential schools. The hallowed song enacts through dance the children being taken from their parents and then returned years later, toward the end of the song.

Clifton said the song starts off quite dark and lamenting, but spirits are elevated toward the finish when the joy of children being returned is felt.

“My heart is happy now. We have won,” Clifton said is the translation of some of the words, adding Mothers’ Cry is never performed last leaving ceremonies on a solemn note.

Due to the song having emotionally triggering elements for some there are always performances after it to have participants and audiences feeling happier and lighter. As well, support workers from IRSS are always made available to assist those in need.

Next year’s Salmon Festival 2023 has already been booked at the civic centre in Prince Rupert for May 26 and 27. The festival is always the weekend after the May holiday long weekend, Clifton said.

K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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