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Indigenous dancers bring joy and unity to Bonnyville celebrations

BONNYVILLE - Indigenous dancers performed at the C2 Centre on National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21, to celebrate their culture and encouraged both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come together. 

The dancers, singers and drummers were met by a boisterous crowd. 

Janet Gobert, chief executive director of the Bonnyville Friendship Centre, spoke of the positive energy and excitement during the event.  

“The dancers in traditional regalia were a vibrant display of our rich culture and enjoyed by all who attended.” 

Building Bridges 

Gobert spoke about the Friendship Centre's initiative to foster community between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. “It is crucial to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people through programming because it fosters understanding, respect, and unity within the community.” 

Jackson Rolling Thunder Tahuka, Indigenous liaison and emcee for the evening, said, “I'm here to build bridges between our communities that are Indigenous and non-Indigenous.” 

Tahuka expressed the positive message these types of events have on youth.  

“You know, these events are great for our children to bridge gaps - to build those bridges that we don't have. There's a lot of knowledge from our Indigenous people, and we need to be reminded that we are the Earth keepers, and we’re here, and we're here to live as one, as one big community with love and good energy.”  

Joey Chief, singer and drummer, says, “It's important to involve everybody, to show this aspect of our culture. That's what it’s all about. We'd like to share our culture... That’s the beautiful thing about it. Seeing all the colours and all the beauty and the beautiful ladies and the beautiful children and the beautiful men - just all of them together brings that warm feeling that you're looking for when you're going to these kinds of things.” 

Gobert added, “This bridge-building effort not only enriches the lives of individuals but also strengthens community bonds, ensuring a more harmonious and inclusive future for all residents of Bonnyville.”  

She explained there is a misconception that the Friendship Centre only serves Indigenous people. 

“This is false. Our programming is open to all community members.” 

A Celebration of Culture  

Amidst the crowd's joyous cheers and anticipation of the performance, Tahuka said, “I feel this event is going absolutely wonderful. You can hear the beautiful energy that these kids are feeling right now. To see our kids know that they have a future, an opportunity, a self-balance and love for themselves, respect for themselves. How can we get better than this?” 

The Indigenous voices and drums reverberated through the arena – the spirited dancers synchronized to the pounding beat. 

“I’m more than happy to come perform for everybody and it's always good to sing, you know, especially for the young ones out there, to show a little bit of our culture,” said Chief. “I hope all the kids enjoyed all the different styles of dancing. Women's jingle, women's fancy, women's traditional, men's chicken... all from traditional backgrounds.” 

Chief explained the relationship between the singers, drummers, and dancers.  

“As singers, that's our job to sing those songs for them. Without the drum you wouldn't have a heartbeat... and without the heartbeat there would be no life... and without the dancers either there would be no dance for the songs... everything works as one.” 

For Chief, music is a family legacy. “I've been doing this since I was five years old. So, my dad taught me - my dad is now passed on since last year and I'm just now carrying on the legacy he's left.... I'm the oldest one, so I have to carry that on.” 

A Community effort  

Gobert expressed her deep gratitude for all involved in putting on the event, including staff from the Friendship Centre, but also many other people. 

“We featured a free barbecue with volunteers from ATCO, Telus and Notre Dame High School, local fire department and The Hive all helping cook and serving, which was of immense help and truly appreciated. The artisan market was also well received and hopefully we can expand on that component next year.” 

Dancers came from Kehewin Cree Nation, Bonnyville, Cold Lake First Nations, Saskatchewan and the United States. Dancers were not only Cree but Dene, Anishinaabe and Nakota. 

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