Celebrating the past and looking to the future

Dancers Quentin Tootoosis (centre) and Helen Waditika (left) lead the grand entry during National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations at Kinsmen Park on Thursday. (Jason Kerr/Daily Herald)

Denniss Adam is a long way from his hometown, but he’s never lost the things that made it special.

Adam, who originally hails from Fond-du-Lac, has made every effort to hold on to his language and culture since moving to Prince Albert, and days like National Indigenous Peoples Day give him every chance to celebrate it.

“I’m from the far north way up in Fond-du-Lac, and that’s the second hardest language in the world to learn,” said Adam, who’s been to every Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in Prince Albert since 2013, when it was called National Aboriginal Day. “Ever since I’ve moved here, I’ve kept my language and I’ve kept my cultural identity.”

Quentin Tootoosis dances at National Indigenous Peoples Day in Kinsmen Park on June 21, 2018. (Jason Kerr/Daily Herald)

Adam wasn’t the only one bursting with pride on Thursday, as Prince Albert residents in Kinsmen Park gathered to celebrate the annual day of recognition.

For most in attendance, Thursday’s activities offer a chance to not only showcase Indigenous dancers, singers and drummers, but to also celebrate the positive improvements made in Canadian culture over the years.

“We know that there have been challenges, historically,” said Prince Albert Grand Council director Al Ducharme, one of several dignitaries who spoke following the grand entry. “But what’s really important is that First Nations, Métis and Inuit people have made wonderful contributions…. All the people living in Prince Albert, 15,000 to 20,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit too, enjoy the life that is here. Again, there are challenges, but we work together, not only here in the City of Prince Albert, but in Saskatchewan.”

Ducharme said it wasn’t always the case that Indigenous people received recognition for their contributions. He’s thankful the government has set aside a specific day to commemorate them, and hopeful that celebrations like this one can help build bridges with the next generation of Canadians.

Helen Waditika dances at National Indigenous Peoples Day in Kinsmen Park on June 21, 2018. (Jason Kerr/Daily Herald)

“I think that the contributions that have been made by First Nations, Métis and Inuit people are incredible,” he said. “There would be no Canada for us to be a part of, if all of the people who came to this wonderful land didn’t cooperate and eventually come to love each other.”