By Stephanie Joe
Aboriginal Awareness Week Calgary hosted its annual Family Day Festival on June 23 to raise awareness and celebrate the cultural diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Though the weather was rainy, it didn’t dampen the spirits of those who attended.
Phil Fontaine, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was a featured speaker at the festival. He said that making June Indigenous History Month should be a national initiative.
“It’s like Black History Month and it offers not just our community, the Indigenous community, an opportunity to be front and centre in the story of Canada, but really to be the push behind ensuring that Canada becomes more aware, more sensitive and more supportive of the Indigenous community. That’s why this month is so very important.”
Fontaine said the day marked a special day within the community, because it offers the Indigenous community to reach out to the non-Indigenous community.
The day allows Indigenous people “to express to the community about what is important to us and there are many things of great importance: our languages, our cultures, our songs, our dances, our stories, our lands, our resources, and the environment,” he said. “We have an incredible opportunity to begin to express ourselves with greater confidence than we have in the past.”
Tim Fox, Indigenous Relations of the Calgary Foundation, said there’s a city in Alberta named after the Cree word Wetaskiwin, which means building upon good relations.
“I look at June as National History Month and June 21 as National [Indigenous] People’s Day—It’s more than just a celebration,” said Fox. “It’s about bringing our voice and our story and our heritage into the origin story of this country.”
Kathleen Ganley, representative for Premier Rachel Notley, said that one of the most important things that treaty people can do is to ensure that everyone is aware of the true Canadian history.
“I grew up here in Alberta and I went through the public school system in Alberta and I learned the history of Canada,” said Ganley, “but as I got older it turns out I didn’t really learn the history of Canada and I think that that is a critical thing that we can all work on together going forward.”
The day was filled with vendors, face painters, and live music entertainment.
The powwow was cancelled due to poor weather conditions.