Each year on June 21st Canadians gather to celebrate National Aboriginal Day, which includes First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. The National Day began in 1996 to recognize the contributions of Aboriginal people in Canada. The 21st day of June was chosen as it is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, which was already a day of celebration for many Aboriginal groups around the country. In Canada there are approximately 1.4 million people identifying as Aboriginal, about 4.3% of the population. In the Slave Lake Region, roughly 2,500 people (or 25% of the population) identify as Aboriginal.
To celebrate and showcase the growing Aboriginal culture in Canada and to share such rich heritage, the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre hosted the national day of celebration for Slave Lake Region residents on Friday, June 20th. The day began with a group of grade 4 students and many community members walking from the Town of Slave Lake administration offices, through the downtown and arriving at the Native Friendship Centre around 11am.
About 150 people came to the celebrations, which included lunch – Indian Tacos (made with bannock and taco ingredients), and various entertainment – Little Metis Jiggers, hoop dancing with Petie Chalifoux (a world champion), fiddling and drumming and traditional hand games. A group of children in the grade three class at C.J. Schurter school participated in the festivities by performing as Little Metis Jiggers – performing an opening dance, a butterfly dance and a broom dance. Participants at the Centre were also able to engage in art and crafts, making dream catchers and fish scale art.
Lucille Cook, Executive Director of the Centre says that National Aboriginal Day allows Canadians to come together and learn more about each other and the Aboriginal culture. “We are proud of our heritage; we want everyone to enjoy our traditions, music and culture.” Cook is excited about providing the celebration each year as it goes a long way to provide a learning environment for all, and to eradicate stereotypes about Aboriginal peoples.
The Native Friendship Centre serves Slave Lake throughout the year with a regional food bank, an elder’s wisdom circle, a women honouring women circle, and numerous programs hosted by the Centre in collaboration with the Government of Alberta such as a job placement program. The Centre assists Aboriginal peoples from the Slave Lake Region and those travelling from other areas, as well as newcomers to the community. Staff at the Centre work with anyone who is in need and provide many resource referrals to other community programs.
For more information about National Aboriginal Day or the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre, call 780-849-3039. Also, if you would like to buy First Nation handicrafts made locally, head over to the Centre at 416 6th Ave NE to and take a peek at the amazing art and crafts available.