Rambling Guide to Canada

In Canada, June 21st is National Aboriginal Day. It is a time to honor and celebrate the rich and diverse cultures of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, the Indigenous Peoples in Canada. I am most familiar with First Nations culture in British Columbia (BC) as I have been to several traditional powwows over the last 20 years. In BC, there are over 200 First Nations each with their traditions and language. Approximately 60% of the First Nations languages in Canada are spoken in the province.

In June 2015, I attended the 3-day Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. It was a weekend of unity and storytelling as First Nations and Métis peoples proudly shared their culture through dancing, drumming, singing, food and art.

The festival opened with a ‘welcoming of canoes’ ceremony that took place in the Victoria harbor. We were a mix of Aboriginal people, some in colorful regalia, and non-Aboriginal people that included local mayors, business leaders, and myself. We paddled in sync to the beat of the drum to ask Chief Ron Sam of Songhees Nation and Chief Andy Thomas of Esquimalt Nation to come ashore, a time-honored protocol. It was a historical and moving moment, as this had never been done before in Victoria.

George Taylor of Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation sang and drummed as he led a procession of 3 canoes across Victoria’s inner harbor.

 

Chief Ron Sam welcomed us ashore and stated the significance of the canoe ceremony when he said: 

“You know I think it’s important, the acknowledgment, when we’re all in a canoe, pulling in the same direction. You know, I think that’s what we want to achieve on a daily basis. It’s a great honor for me to see you all taking part.” 

I witnessed the great pride of the elders as they watched their children and grandchildren dance and drum, preserving their rich culture throughout the weekend.

Chief Ron Sam looks on as Gary Sam greets the canoes and then performed a paddle song to welcome us ashore.

Chief Ron Sam looks on as Gary Sam greets the canoes and then performed a paddle song to welcome us ashore.

 

 

Four-year-old Lason Taylor, a 3rd generation member of Le-La-La Dancers from the Kwakwaka'wakh First Nation performs as a young grizzly bear. Children learn their traditional songs, dances and stories and participate in ceremonies and festivals from a young age. The passing of stories from generation to generation is how their culture has survived.

Four-year-old Lason Taylor, a 3rd generation member of Le-La-La Dancers from the Kwakwaka’wakh First Nation performs as a young grizzly bear. Children learn their traditional songs, dances and stories and participate in ceremonies and festivals from a young age. The passing of stories from generation to generation is how their culture has survived.

 

Daniel Wells of Lil’wat First Nation performs a men’s traditional dance, mimicking the motions of a hunter and telling the story of the warrior through his dance. The eagle feather shields him from the sun.

Daniel Wells of Lil’wat First Nation performs a men’s traditional dance, mimicking the motions of a hunter and telling the story of the warrior through his dance. The eagle feather shields him from the sun.

Jenise Bob, a dancer and singer with Native Thunder Productions performs the graceful women’s traditional dance. She raises the eagle feather fan to an honor beat (loud beats during a song) to show respect and honor for the drum and traditionally, for the men as they went off to battle.

Jenise Bob, a dancer and singer with Native Thunder Productions performs the graceful women’s traditional dance. She raises the eagle feather fan to an honor beat (loud beats during a song) to show respect and honor for the drum and traditionally, for the men as they went off to battle.

 

Kelly Robinson of Nuu-chah-nulth and Nuxalk First Nations displays a raven mask that he created from yellow cedar. Kelly shared that his favorite animal to carve is the raven as it the light bringer, it brings light to the world. Kelly comes from a family of carvers as his uncles and grandfathers also work with this art. This mask is used for dances or ceremonies such as the potlatch.

Kelly Robinson of Nuu-chah-nulth and Nuxalk First Nations displays a raven mask that he created from yellow cedar. Kelly shared that his favorite animal to carve is the raven as it the light bringer, it bringslight to the world. Kelly comes from a family of carvers as his uncles and grandfathers also work with this art. This mask is used for dances or ceremonies such as the potlatch.

 

Amber Wells shares her story through a hoop dance. Amber’s father, Alex Wells is a 3-time world champion hoop dancer and has taught the basics of this dance to Amber, she has added elements.

Amber Wells shares her story through a hoop dance. Amber’s father, Alex Wells is a 3-time world champion hoop dancer and has taught the basics of this dance to Amber, she has added elements.

 

A woman celebrating her upcoming nuptials joins a member of the Tzinquaw Dancers group from the Cowichan First Nation during a friendship dance.

A woman celebrating her upcoming nuptials joins a member of the Tzinquaw Dancers group from the Cowichan First Nation during a friendship dance.

Although National Aboriginal Day is a wonderful time to learn about and celebrate Indigenous culture in Canada, it is not the only time to do so.

Aboriginal Tourism BC is a non-profit agency that works to support and promote a culturally rich Aboriginal tourism industry in British Columbia. Their website is a fantastic resource to find authentic Indigenous experiences and events throughout the year.

Aboriginal Canada is a good resource to find events and experiences in our 10 provinces and 3 territories –

Parts of this article originally appeared in two articles for Matador Network in partnership with Tourism Victoria and Aboriginal BC. Although my trip to Victoria was supported by Tourism Victoria, all opinions are my own.

By Andrea Rees | www.wanderingiphone.com
Twitter & Instagram: @wanderingiphone

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