By Eraina Hooyer
The Lion’s Centennial Park was alive with music, dancing and vibrant colours on June 20. Many people gathered at the park for National Aboriginal Day to celebrate the rich and valuable culture of Aboriginal people.
The official day was June 21 but Ponoka celebrated earlier.
The celebration had participants from all four Hobbema bands and offered many dances, some which were open to the public to join.
Sweet grass was lit to bless Mother Earth before the Grand Entry began and kicked off the afternoon of dances.
The community gathered to watch the colourful costumes and footwork of the dancers while learning about the culture and traditions.
The Muskwa Ridge and Kisaputihow drum groups led the dancers with their drum beats and singing.
Local dignitaries attended the celebration and Mary Moonias, the one who accepted the recent official apology from the government in Ottawa, also graced the event.
Daphne Podmoroff and Dawn Mueller were two of the many people who took their kids to the park to engage in the event and both enjoyed the experience.
“It’s great for the kids to have an opportunity to learn about the different culture,” said Podmoroff.
Mueller was impressed with the event and the way that the dancers invited the community to join with them in the celebration.
“It’s awesome,” said Mueller. “I love the spirit of all the dancers and how they involve the community. They have uplifting music, great drums and beautiful regalia, it’s all really amazing.”
The event also featured a popular hoop dance done by Jerry Saddleback. The dance is a dance for healing and the hoops represent the circle of life and the different stages. Saddleback began with one hoop and expertly added more and more.
Saddleback was pleased to have been a part of the event and believes that it is important to have this national day.
“It’s a reminder for the First Nations people to have pride,” said Saddleback. “Aboriginal Day unifies us across the country with other cultures. The dance is representing of all cultures, we’re all one.”
Leanne Louis organized the event and thinks that it is important to keep the traditions and culture of First Nations ongoing.
“Wit this tradition there’s a purpose and meaning to everything,” said Louis. “We’re keeping it alive for the young kids, to make them aware of their culture, traditions and teaching.”
Louis was pleased with the results of the day and was glad to see the many people that came out to the event.
“It’s awesome, there’s always a good turnout and everyone has fun,” she said. “It’s enjoyable and that’s what it is all about.”
Bert Bull, Louis Bull Councilor was also encouraged by the crowd and was thankful for the unity that the event brought to Ponoka.
“It’s very good it’s a celebration of light and our Creator and it’s a chance for different cultures to come together,” said Bull.
Jerry Roasting, one of the lead singers of Muskwa Ridge enjoyed being a part of the celebration and hopes that the traditions and culture of First Nations will continue to be celebrated for years to come.
“It’s important to teach our children where they come from and what their identity is,” said Roasting. “Culture is the most important thing in a person’s life. As time goes on and years go by and I am able to see my grandchildren doing what I am doing now, I’ll be very happy.”