People gathered to celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day at events across the Lakeland last Tuesday.

Activities in St. Paul began with a pipe ceremony at Mannawanis Native Friendship Centre at 1:00. Later in the afternoon, a “Walk for Friendship” made its way from the UFO Landing Pad to Lions Park downtown, where everyone was welcome to enjoy a barbecue along with drumming and dancing performances.

“Country Storm” featuring Nathan Steinhauer performed in the evening.

In Bonnyville, people filled the R.J. Lalonde arena for an afternoon celebration that included a Grand Entry and cultural performances. 

And in Cold Lake, Primco Dene Group of Companies hosted a barbecue with everyone welcome. More than 1,000 people attended.

Primco’s president James Blackman said the celebrations were welcome and important.

“It’s about Indigenous people around Canada and bringing awareness to the culture, and trying to get people together in a wholesome place where people are feeling good about themselves—trying to have good times and good laughs, just like traditionally how everybody would treat each other,” he said.

There were representatives from Cold Lake city council and M.D. of Bonnyville council on hand, as well as people from all over the region. In addition to the free barbecue, approximately 1,200 Every Child Matters T-shirts were given away. Blackman said gatherings like this are an important way to deal with ongoing issues.

“There’s no other way,” he said. “You’re bringing awareness to the issues, but primarily you’re bringing people together.

“Reconciliation is getting closer and closer to completion. It’s never going to be perfect, but it’s definitely moving forward. And days like this are days where we can bring that together,” he said. 

Dancers participate in the Grand Entry at R.J. Lalonde Arena in Bonnyville (above); burgers were sizzling on the grill at the Cold Lake First Nations/Primco Dene barbecue. JEFF GAYE
It was a day of ceremony and a day of celebration as local Indigenous and non-Indigenous people joined in the festivities together. Photos by JEFF GAYE