Smithers celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day

A dancer performs a traditional dance during National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations in Smithers June 21. (Trevor Hewitt photo). More photos Page A13
(Trevor Hewitt photo)
(Trevor Hewitt photo)
(Trevor Hewitt photo)
Lothar Schaefer stands over his bike on the road between the villages of Mariquita and Padua in the Cordillera Central, the central branch of the Andes, on 9 March 2019. Debbie Wellwood’s bike pictured in front. (Contributed photo)
Participants try to keep an orange balanced between their heads during an audience participation element of the day. (Trevor Hewitt photo)
Participants learn how to make soapberry ice cream. (Trevor Hewitt photo)
Prince George powwow dancer Kelsey Abraham performs at the event in various regalia. (Trevor Hewitt photo)
A photo from a dance performed by the Ewik’ Hiyah Hozdli drum group. (Trevor Hewitt photo)
Prince George powwow dancer Kelsey Abraham performs at the event in various regalia. (Trevor Hewitt photo)
Children at the event take part in the moose calling contest. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Drummers, dancers and some delicious bannock.

As part of 2019 National Indigenous Peoples Day, Smithers held a barbeque and afternoon of celebrations on Third Street behind Coast Mountain College.

Sponsored by a number of local businesses and put on by the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre, the event was a chance for Smithereens, of all walks of life, to come together and celebrate Indigenous culture in Canada.

At it’s height there were over 225 people at the event.

“Over the years the celebration has grown into an interactive fun-filled day that helps build generational and cultural divides by inviting people of all ages, and from different cultural backgrounds, to come together to share knowledge and stories and celebrate the unique heritage and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis people,” said Annette Morgan, Executive Director with the centre.

“To support those teachings, the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre board has guided our organization into reconciliation events by partnering with the government and municipality to host sessions to renew the relationships with Indigenous peoples, based on the recognition of rights and respect. Today’s events speak to the excitement of that work over the next year.”

After opening comments, the grills lit up and the smells of burgers and hot dogs began to harmonize with the minty-yet-earthy odor of sage smudges burning throughout the field.

Shortly after, the dancing and singing began, kicked off by Kelsey Abraham and his daughter Bella Rain Abraham.

“In Witsuwit’en we don’t say hello, we say hadïh. Thank you to all the children, elders and people for coming and joining us today to celebrate who we are,” said Abraham.

As he explained, many of the traditional dances he performed have deep meanings and connotations within his culture.

“What I’m going to dance for you [now] is called a men’s grass [which traditionally] cleanses the [space] for the dancers behind us who are going to dance next,” Abraham said.

“For all the entertainers who are going to perform after us we send them good prayers, good feelings, [and] positive energy … so before our dance I’d like to acknowledge the Wet’suwet’en for allowing me and my daughter on their traditional territory so we could share our song and dance.”

Also on the docket for the day was a moose-call competition and traditional soapberry ice cream tutorial featuring Smithers own Mayor Taylor Bachrach.

The day finished off with another set of performances from Abraham and the Ewik’ Hiyah Hozdli Drum Group.

Morgan said that rough numbers for the event suggest around 700 participants throughout the day.

She said that it was great to see so many people come out for the day and that she was thankful to all the volunteers who donated their time to make the event a success.

“Next years planning kicks off in November!”

On the other side of town, Bachrach was also a participant in the Tears for Hope relay event, which will see a number of runners from Prince Rupert and Smithers complete consecutive 10-kilometre legs that culminate with a ceremony in Terrace tomorrow focused on creating a safe environment for Indigenous women and girls in the region.

“I was honoured to run the first 10km leg of the Tears to Hope Relay early this morning in support of creating safe communities for Indigenous women and girls throughout our region,” said Bachrach in a Facebook post.

The holiday was first celebrated in 1996 as National Aboriginal Day.

In 2017 it was renamed to National Indigenous Peoples Day.

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