K’amba Carnival at 30


Angele Cano/NNSL photo
Belinda Mandeville, left and Liz Pope are about to perform the traditional €œstick pull€ game as Alexa Tsetso counts down.

It could have easily been one of the busiest weekend’s this year in Hay River, and the same can be said for this year’s K’amba Carnival.

There was snow cross, a women’s hockey tournament, and carnival events taking place throughout the weekend, competing for spectators. This year, K’amba Carnival celebrated its 30th anniversary and brought in many participants and observers.

The traditional activities and competitions haven’t changed that much in three decades, said Chief Roy Fabian of K’atlodeeche First Nation.

What has changed, though, is the infrastructure.

When we first started out, all we had was a small community hall,” said Fabian. “It was just a little building. Then we used the gym once the school was built. Now we have the complex and that seems to be working pretty well.”

The event has grown and so has the number of participants and visitors, coming from all over the North and even the South.

One unexpected change was the location of the dogsled races. Organizers had to switch locations, said Fabian, partly due to the snow cross event and partly because of thin ice at the Old Town to Old Village ice crossing – a factor that took away the famed mass start of the races.

That was disappointing,” said Fabian. “The mass start is always so exciting, and I’m not sure which one the mushers prefer.”

Still, there were very many events that kept carnival-goers engaged, including hand games, traditional games, children’s events, and the adult and youth talent shows. Several entrants rose to belt out popular tunes, play instruments and even jig.

Traditional games and events like rabbit skinning have always been staples, said Fabian. Michaela Fraser, who now lives in Vancouver, thought the same after travelling back to the area to attend the carnival.

I always remember it being very traditional,” Fraser said.

With more than 40 volunteers this year, carnival chair Diane Tourangeau said events were well staffed throughout the weekend.

Tourangeau noted it was volunteers who started the event 30 years ago.

Without the volunteers, this wouldn’t happen,” she said. “I can remember starting with this carnival and the people who I started with. It was always a happy group effort.”

With another winter festival come and gone, Fabian said he hopes for 30 more years of K’amba Carnival.

It’s a nice break in the middle of winter,” said the chief. “It’s a chance to get out. The days are finally getting longer and warmer.”

— Angele Cano