Prince Albert was home to the only celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Navy League in Canada on Saturday, Sept. 30.
The No. 5 Navy League Cadet Corps W.K. Reed served as host for more than 100 cadets, staff, and dignitaries. The weekend’s main event was an anniversary service at the Memorial Square.
Cadets along with representatives from the Prince Albert Indian and Metis Friendship Centre marched to the square before conducting a parade to celebrate the anniversary.
Rose Mineau is the Prince Albert branch of the Navy League and the 75th Anniversary co-chair for the Saskatchewan Division of the Navy League. She said Saskatchewan was the only province to celebrate, so they wanted to make it as big as possible.
“Even the bigger cities (like) Halifax (and) Vancouver, all those places have Navy League, but we were the only one across the country that hosted a celebration,” Mineau said.
“We arranged this ceremony because Prince Albert was the first Navy League corps in the province to be established. We’re the fifth in Canada, we’re celebrating 75 years of Cadets, and … we thought we’d incorporate reconciliation because this is our community. This is our people, this is our culture, this is us.”
Cadets took part in a parade starting from the Court of King’s Bench. Many people in Orange Shirts joined the parade, marching behind the cadets. Executive Director Janet Carriere of the Friendship Centre said they took part because it is part of work on Truth and Reconciliation.
“As indigenous agencies, we can gather together all the time, but we already know the truth,” she said. “I believe that this is an amazing partnership for truth and reconciliation because we have a historically non-Indigenous group that reached out to us.”
With the anniversary celebration falling on Sept. 30, the two organizations decided this was a great event to work together on.
“They wanted to add a little bit of Indigenous content to what they were doing because it is their anniversary, but it’s also today,” Carrier said.
Carrier and Mineau both said that the partnership grew out of the two organizations having food booths next to each other at the Prince Albert Exhibition.
“They asked if there was any way that we could incorporate a little bit of Indigenous content so that’s what we’re doing here,” Carrier said. “We’re going to have our Eagles staff lead the walk…. It’s a very important sacred object for us and having it lead the way, it means a lot to us. I think will help to educate the Navy League as well.”
Mineau and the organizing committee have been planning the weekend for over a year. Cadets from all six Navy League Corps in Saskatchewan were in attendance. Along with Prince Albert, there are corps in Moose Jaw, Regina, Saskatoon, Yorkton and Swift Current.
They began the day with a Nautical Olympics in Kinsmen Park and after lunch prepared for the parade. The event incorporated most of the regular aspects of a Navy League Parade. The cadets were then inspected by Assistant Fire Chief Alex Paul of the Prince Albert Fire Department.
Mineau said the event is the start of efforts to incorporate more community partnerships and bringing the community together.
“We’ve been talking about community and partnerships for a long time, and this is the way you do that,” she said. “This is where you bring your community together and you showcase what the kids are learning.
The timing of the anniversary meant that the cadets had to move up their training and the cadets were prepared. The parade included nearly 100 cadets, 30 staff and 18 dignitaries who were part of the planning.
During the parade, Elder Clayton Waditaka spoke about the symbolism of Orange Shirt Day. During the Mess Dinner, the cadets were drummed in and Billy Waditaka explained the significance of the act of drumming before supper.
At the Mess Dinner, there were speeches by the head table including Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne, Navy League Saskatchewan Division President Terry Dabski, and Greg Amy, who gave a history of the Navy League.
After the Mess Dinner, cadets changed into Orange Shirts for the dance.
“We wanted to encompass this along with what we were doing. We’re all the community,” Mineau said.
In the morning the cadets were broken into eight divisions which were a mixture of cadets from the different corps and competed in four nautical-themed challenges at the Nautical Olympics. At the Mess Dinner, they were awarded medals. The first-place team was Crusader, the second-place team was Chaleur, who also earned Top Boat and the third-place team was Thunder.
“All the other cadets and officers that were here will have a medal to show that they were here,” Mineau said. “It’s awesome. It’s exciting.”
Carrier said that working with the Navy League has been an inspiration.
“It got me thinking about moving forward year after year,” she said. “I would like every year to reach out to another non-Indigenous organization to just incorporate a little bit of Indigenous content to what they’re doing.
“I just think that this is such a great partnership. I love it and this is how we are going to get to reconciliation through these types of events,” she added.
Carrier said the concept was perfect because one does not know what other events could end up occurring on Sept. 30 in the future so it was an opportunity to partner with those organizations.
The anniversary concluded with a Pancake Breakfast on Sunday morning.
“I just want to say that we were so honoured to be able to do this and showcase our programs and our support to the community,” Mineau said.