Ponoka’s National Indigenous Peoples Day brought hundreds of people to Centennial Park for a celebration of culture.
Hosted by the Ponoka Parent Link Centre (PLC) and the Ponoka Jubilee Library (PJL) — with financial support from the Canadian Heritage Fund and Parkland Regional Library — the June 21 event was a showcase of the Cree culture.
Along with families, students from Ponoka Elementary School and Ponoka Secondary Campus took part in the event, bringing a large crowd to enjoy a mini pow wow in front of two teepees.
Elder Donald – Muddy Bull – Johnson was pleased to see such a large turnout.
“It makes me proud to see all these people come and witness…what we do as First Nations,” said Muddy Bull.
He hopes to see more events such as this. The interest is there; Muddy Bull was surrounded by a group of Mecca Glen students after the mini pow wow. He was recently at the school telling the story of First Nations in Canada.
It’s a step towards understanding and learning that is relatively new to Canada.
“To me, when I see kids like that take an interest, I go all out and share my knowledge wherever they need it,” said Muddy Bull, adding he felt honoured to set up the teepees.
Helping organize the event was PLC program coordinator, Andrea Ramage; Shelagh Hagemann, First Nations, Metis and Inuit success coordinator for Wolf Creek Public Schools, and Leanne Louis, Wisdom Guidance Committee.
For Hagemann, the large turnout of people is something she was pleased to see. “From the community and especially our schools in Wolf Creek.”
For Louis, being able to share the First Nations culture to those who don’t know much about it is a positive feeling. She added gratitude to the dancers, some of whom are students in the school division.
Louis went to school in Ponoka and in those earlier days there was no mention of First Nations culture, history or discussions around residential schools.
“You didn’t read anything about it. There was nothing,” she said of the showcasing dancing.
For Ramage, being able to organize this event a second time around and see more attendance, was exciting. “I’m really pleased that we were able to talk a little bit about reconciliation.”
During the event was dancing, drumming, prayers and general celebration of spirituality in the Cree culture. Ramage feels seeing such strong support shows that non-indigenous people are ready to learn from the past but move forward.
The event was also organized with support from PJL library manager Dan Galway.
Ponoka News editor Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye is the board chairperson for the PJL.