Among the many festivities on Aboriginal Days in Ponoka last week was a special hoop dance by Dennis Arcand Jr. at St. Augustine Catholic School.Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Among the many festivities on Aboriginal Days in Ponoka last week was a special hoop dance by Dennis Arcand Jr. at St. Augustine Catholic School. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Aboriginal Day celebrated in Ponoka

There was much happening in Ponoka to celebrate Aboriginal Day

There was much happening in the Town of Ponoka on a festive Aboriginal Day last week.

Along with a mini pow wow in Centennial Park, which was open to the public and brought students from Ponoka Elementary School, there was hoop dancing at St. Augustine Catholic School. Both events had the intent to bring Indigenous cultures to the forefront.

The day gave students and residents exposure to another culture.

For the mini pow wow in Centennial Park, the event was organized by several groups including Ponoka Parent Link with help from Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) and the Ponoka Jubilee Library.

The park was full with attendees and participants highlighting special dances seen in the Cree culture along with two teepees that could be seen from quite a distance.

Along with community organizations was Leanne Louis, cultural advisor to WCPS, who was there to help bring it all together with much support from family and friends. She and Shelagh Hagemann, FNMI student success coordinator for WCPS, helped bring dancers, singers and speakers to the event.

Louis feels the First Nations community has much to offer other cultures.

“We’re strong and resilient and we have so much to offer Canada. I’ve always been an advocate for, I guess, promoting our Aboriginal culture.”

She enjoys being able to share that culture with children as education and young folks are an important part of what she does. “This (pow wow) is the first of many,” she added about the event.

Hagemann was pleased with how busy the day was. “It’s about moving forward and reconciliation and bringing together our children in our community to celebrate Aboriginal Days.”

Andrea Ramage, Ponoka Parent Link coordinator, said the goal with the mini pow wow was to bring a demonstration of music, drumming, dancing and singing to Ponoka. “To show how beautiful and attached to the earth the (First Nations) culture is.”

Putting together the mini pow wow happened in a relatively short amount of time thanks to strong relationships with the different community groups and First Nations representatives. Ramage says the goal is to create an event like this annually, which will bring further exposure to Cree and other First Nations cultures.

She added her thanks to the many folks who came together to host the event, including Roy Louis who emceed.

Among the different events of the day was a grand entry, which gave students a chance to take part in, plus men’s and ladies’ dancing demonstrations as well as hoop dancing.

Hoop dancing at St. Augustine

At the same time the mini pow wow was being held, a hoop dancer with international acclaim performed for St. Augustine students.

Dallas Arcand Jr. is a world renown hoop dancer who has been dancing since he was 12-years-old. His first ever performance was a dance in front of 50,000 people. He learned from his father Dallas Arcand Sr., who is also a world champion hoop dancer.

The 19-year-old enjoys being able to showcase First Nations dance. “I like being able to show that we are able to do great things in life.”

While there are social challenges for First Nations youths, his goal is to spread a positive message to Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people.

“The dance is actually a healing dance,” said Arcand.

The power of the hoop dance is that it brings healing to others and to himself, he added.

Aboriginal Day