The RCMP and Prince Albert Police Service are hoping to put reconciliation into action later this month as they host a second feast round dance in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous people.
The event is the second of four set to be held in various communities across Saskatchewan. It was held in Saskatoon last year.
“It’s important from the RCMP side of things in regards to reconciliation,” said Supt. Terry Munro, who is in charge of ‘F’ Division’s north district.
“Holding a round dance gives us a way to give back to the Indigenous community and be part of that help and that healing.”
Munro said that as a First Nations person himself, he understands the importance of holding events like this. He said it’s important for police organizations to be involved in the healing process.
RCMP officers from across northern Saskatchewan will be attending, as will the RCMP’s senior management.
“It’s part of the police giving back and helping the reconciliation process throughout Canada,” he said.
“One of our things is to be part and parcel in reconciliation with our Indigenous communities.”
Janet Carriere of the Prince Albert Indian Métis Friendship Centre is serving on the organizing community as a community representative.
“We are doing it to honour the families of missing and murdered people in Saskatchewan,” she said. “Traditionally, we do them four years in a row, and then we have completed our commitment.”
Each of the four events will be in partnership with different police agencies.
“In the Indigenous community, almost every family has been affected by a missing or a murdered person. Coming together and eating together and dancing together is very important, but the ceremonial part is the most important … so we create good things with the creator,” Carriere said.
“A lot of traditional ceremonies and feasts and dancing were illegal for many years. In order for Indigenous people to have a sense of identity, it is important we hold Indigenous ceremonies.”
Erin Parenteau, the Prince Albert Police Service’s Indigenous Resource Officer, explained the importance of the feast and round dance.
“The feast and round dance are instrumental for future relations between Indigenous persons and police services,” she said.
Round dances and feasts are held for several reasons, but are also commonly used to celebrate the life of a deceased loved one, she said.
“The feast portion is held in order to feed the community as well as to make food and prayer offerings to the spirit world. It is believed that when feeding the spirits during feasts, it helps them to remain at peace as the spirits have no reason to wander among the physical world,” she said.
“During a round dance, a giving of gifts is held as a way to give back to the community that came to support the family in their time of need.”
The feast and round dance the RCMP and Prince Albert Police Service is putting on will honour multiple families who have missing or murdered loved ones.
The committee organizing the event has been meeting since the spring. Many are contributing to the event, as there is much that needs to be gathered and planned ahead of time.
“A lot of the things we need to have in place for this need to be gathered naturally. It’s very important, so we’ve had people hunting, we’ve had people picking sweetgrass and sage, and teas and the medicines, Carriere said. “We’ve had a lot of people putting a lot of work into this.”
She emphasized that all are welcome to attend.
“I would like to invite our whole community to come,” she said.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing when non-Indigenous people attend events such as this. We are welcoming, we are accepting. They are more than welcome there and can ask anyone (about) proper protocols if they’re not sure. We want to teach in the spirit of reconciliation.”
Parenteau added that anyone who has a family member loved one or friend who has been missing or murdered is encouraged to contact her so they can meet and that person can be recognized.
Like Parenteau and Carriere, Munro is looking forward to the event.
“A round dance is part of healing,” he said.
“It’s part of bringing everyone together. It’s about holding hands and being part of a healing process, part of a journey. When you can have all walks of life and all different agencies involved, it’s amazing to see.”
The Second Feast and Round Dance is set for Saturday, October 26 at the Senator Allan Bird Memorial Centre, 2300 9th Ave. West, Prince Albert. The pipe ceremony and feast will start at 4 p.m., with the round dance to follow from 7 p.m. until midnight.
Attendees are asked to bring blankets, feast dishes and containers. Parenteau can be contacted at 306-953-4259.