National Aboriginal Day has become the time of the year in many communities to share Native pride, culture and traditions with the rest of the world and this was carried out in style for the northern communities of Chibougamau and Val-d’Or but in very different ways.
Not wanting to compete with the Beauce Carnival that was in town June 21, the Chibougamau Eenou Friendship Centre actually held their festivities June 7. About 300 people attended the event under sunny warm skies on Gilman Beach by the centre.
According to Jo-Ann Toulouse, the centre’s executive director, the event had a mini-powwow vibe.
“We tried out a few new things and it worked out really well. The day started out like it always has, with a walking out ceremony. It was a little more structured this time around however; we had a lot of shows and demonstrations,” said Toulouse.
The event began with a walking-out ceremony for Reilly Shecapio Blacksmith as Waseskun Drums from Waswanipi played an honour song.
Throughout the day various musicians performed, including John Boudrias and his band, Glenn Polson, and John and Johnny Bosum.
Moving to this music was Gabriel Whiteduck. He had come with a group of dancers that included Paula Menarick, who put on dancing demonstrations while Whiteduck talked to people about the dances and their origins. There was also a traditional hoop dancer, Marie-Celine Einish.
“The site was very open so that we had the dancers in the middle and they would come and pull people out of the crowd to dance with them. This was a lot of fun, people were very willing and that always adds to the energy of the day,” said Toulouse.
“It was an all-out success in terms of the quality of the show and calibre of the artists performing. We had Florent Vollant and friends, incredible weather and over 2000 people came to celebrate!” exclaimed Edith Cloutier, the centre’s executive director.
Cloutier said there were as many Natives as non-Natives taking in the shows with a real harmony that could be felt between everyone on stage and at the show.
“Our objective with this is to celebrate our pride as First People but also to share the richness of our culture and our diversity of our people and our languages with everyone,” said Cloutier.
The day began with a traditional celebration that featured drumming and dancing and an opening prayer. They included the drumming group, the Screaming Eagles from Lac Simon, and three types of traditional dancers ¬– traditional dancing with Jerry Hunter, hoop dancing with Gilbert Niquwe and a fancy dancing demonstration by Akim Ratt.
“People were very impressed with the regalia but we did this not to make a show of it, when we dance we celebrate our pride and we shared this,” said Cloutier.
The second part to the event was a concert headlined by Florent Vollant that included many Native and non-Native performers. Biz from Loco Locas (hip hop) was part of line-up as was Bourbon Gauthier (country) and Innu performer Shauit (reggae).
“Having this kind of diversity and combining modern and traditional music, really broadened the opportunity for all sorts of people to come out. There were children and families, Elders, Natives, non-Natives and so it was a really interesting mix of people,” said Cloutier.
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