Even after the 220 fillets of fish, 120 hamburgers and 100 hotdogs were all gone, activities were going strong at the Aboriginal Day festivities hosted by the Hay River Metis Council (HRMC) on June 21.
“We’ve got a bigger turnout than the last few years,” HRMC president Wally Schumann told The Hub. “It’s a good mix of everyone. There are even lots of tourists who came by.”
In addition to the massive amount of food served, especially expertly-cooked whitefish from Great Slave Lake, several activities for children were incorporated into the event for the first time this year, including face-painting, drumming and puppet shows. Tents were set up to house the activities and, while the latter were designed for kids, it didn’t prevent parents from crowding into the shade to participate, as well.
“The drum is heartbeat of Mother Earth,” Janine Hoff told a group of children and adults in one tent. “Every culture in the world has drums and that’s what connects us.”
Hoff and Jacquie Carriere led several drumming circles that day, encouraging the kids to not only learn to make music, but also to recognize the spiritual aspect of the practice by pausing to give thanks for that with which they are blessed.
Carriere and Hoff are part of Granddaughters of the Drum, a group that seeks to promote both the musical and prayerful sides of traditional drumming. Carriere hopes to go into the schools to do more of it starting in the fall.
“This was our first time sharing drum teachings in the children’s tent,” she said. “I think it went really well and I would like to do more of it.”
Carriere was also involved in the puppet shows put on at regular intervals throughout the afternoon. She explained the shows incorporated the Cree and Chipewyan languages, and told stories of how the bear lost his long tail and how the beaver’s tail became flat.
“We teach Slavey in the schools here, but it’s good to have Cree and Chipewyan, too,” she said. “That’s what a lot of the Metis in the area speak and we wanted to see it represented here today.”
Emerson and Madison Beck – faces painted as an eagle and bear, respectively – helped lead the drumming, both having some experience from previous instruction at school. The two girls agreed this year’s celebrations were better than last.
“Last year, it was in a parking lot,” said Madison. “This year, there are tents and more activities and stuff.”
Schumann credits the success of the event to all the volunteers and the HRMC board, whom he said worked tirelessly to get everything prepared in time, especially the food.
“It’s like any meal,” he said. “It takes two minutes to eat and hours to prepare. Imagine here we’ve fed hundreds of people. That’s a lot of preparation.”
While pleased with how this year’s festivities turned out, Schumann said he looks forward to trying to partner with the newly reopened Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre to have an even bigger and better event next year.
“Metis, status, non-status, treaty, white,” he said. “On this day, we’re all aboriginal.”