National Aboriginal Day set to go in Prince Albert

A member of the Thunderingsky Dance Troupe performs at the 2016 National Aboriginal Day festivities in Kinsmen Park. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Dancers, trappers, musicians and artisans are poised to take over the Art Hauser Centre today with one goal in mind: increasing cultural understanding.

A variety of musical, culinary and artistic events are scheduled throughout the afternoon, as National Aboriginal Day celebrations kick off in Northern Saskatchewan.

Event organizer Janet Carriere said the annual event is a great educational opportunity for local residents who are looking to understand more about their aboriginal neighbours.

“We need to create a better understanding in our communities amongst aboriginal and non-aboriginal people,” Carriere explained. “It’s an opportunity for non-aboriginal people to come out and experience some aboriginal culture in a relaxed atmosphere and foster a better understanding”

Since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report in 2015, Carriere said she’s starting to see improvements in relationships between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. The progress is slow, but it’s there, and events like National Aboriginal Day have helped.

“We probably still have a long ways to go, but I see a definite shift in thinking within our community and it’s a good shift,” she said.

Carriere added that National Aboriginal Day isn’t just about education, it’s also about developing pride. Part of the festivities involved demonstrations of Indigenous ways of life. Carriere said these demonstrations help give young aboriginal people a sense of place and belonging.

“As young aboriginal people see that there is a meaning behind the drum, there is a meaning behind the dance, there is a meaning behind the sash, and once they learn that meaning, it will give them a better sense of pride. If we can get a better sense of pride in our younger people, then we can help the healing happen in our community.”

Unlike past Aboriginal Day celebrations which were held at Kinsmen Park, this year’s event will take place at the Art Hauser Centre. Carriere said they didn’t want to move, but weather forced their hand.

“It’s unfortunate we had to move it indoors because we really were excited about this year’s celebration,” she said. “We brought in the trappers and the beading and the sash making. Those were all new things that we brought in to try to demonstrate a little bit of aboriginal culture, and we’ll still do it. It just would have been better on a nice sunny day in the park.”

National Aboriginal Day celebrations get underway at 10 a.m. today with a pipe ceremony. There will then be a break until 2 p.m. when the grand entry begins, with entertainment and demonstrations to follow. There will be a free barbeque at 5 p.m., with live entertainment until 8 p.m.

@kerr_jas •

National Aboriginal Day Schedule

9 a.m. – Teepee setup

10 a.m. – Pipe ceremony

2 p.m. – Grand entry, followed by activities and demonstrations

5 p.m. – Free barbeque, with live entertainment until 8 p.m.

All events take place at the Art Hauser Centre.