Indigenous Day at Carlton Comprehensive High School on Friday served as a way to empower youth and celebrate Indigenous culture.
The day gave students a chance to learn about everything from building tipis to Indigenous history.
Organizing committee member Bonnie Vandale said Carlton has a high Indigenous student population, which makes days like Friday vital.
“Cultural identity and pride in one's culture is crucial at any age but most importantly young adults and teens,” Vandale said in her speech.
“This year our focus is to empower youth in our school. Students were encouraged to participate and run workshops throughout the day, introduce our guest speakers, be the spokesperson for the Powwows and learn to follow proper protocol and work with Elders and help emcee the Grand Entry.”
Vandale thanked the numerous members of the organizing committee which has grown significantly over the years. She said it was an honour to host dignitaries, artists, and educators from so many different areas.
“We are hoping that our event will help to reunite, reconnect and celebrate people on Treaty 6 territory celebrating one's Indigenous cultures, “she said. “Teaching others to appreciate cultural diversity that we have in our city and in our school is a positive step towards unity and reconciliation.”
Speakers included Chief Ava Bear of Muskoday, Chief John Waditaka of Wahpeton, president of Metis Nation-Saskatchewan Glen McCallum, vice chair Darlene Rowden, director of education Robert Bratvold of the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division, Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne, PAPS chief Jon Bergen, Carlton vice principal Bruce Friesen and coordinators Bonnie Vandale and Peggy Boyer.
Emcee Aleha Hordel told a story to introduce each of the speakers and connected it to the rich Indigenous history of Prince Albert.
During his speech, Chief Waditaka explained some history of the Dakota people and Saskatchewan, including the capture of a fort near Minneapolis called Fort Snelling during the War of 1812.
“We captured that fort on behalf of Canada and we named in Fort McKay,” he said. “We held it for three months in honour of a fur trader that was here and that was our participation in saving Canada in 1812.”
Waditaka added that the relationship with the Crown is important to the Dakota people.
“That relationship not only means participation in Canada but also it means that this is our home,” he said. “This is our home we have always been here. Our historians, they traced the Treaty Medal and all of the names that held the medal all the way from Chief Flying Thunder.
“We are not refugees of the United States as we have heard over the years but we participated in saving Canada.” Waditaka also expressed his thoughts and prayers to all of the Chiefs of the James Smith band.
“Wahpeton was also impacted as many of their members were at our powwow and they couldn't leave they were on a lockdown,” he said. “We made them as comfortable as we could, given the circumstances, and our thoughts and prayers go out to every one of them.”
The Grand Entry included the chiefs, MN-S President Glen McCallum, elders, Prince Albert Police, Indigenous veteran Steven Ross and other dignitaries. The Eagle Staff carrier and various flag bearers for the Canadian, Union Jack, Prince Albert, Metis Flag and Saskatchewan flags were part of the procession.
Before the Grand Entry began there was a prayer by Elder Liz Settee.
During her speech, Vandale unveiled a bench in honour of the late Victor Thunderchild. Vandale said Thunderchild was an excellent role model for students, and deserved to be remembered for his role is beginning Carlton’s annual Indigenous Day.
The bench was created by Travis Clarkson who lived on the same street as Thunderchild.
“He wasn't the easiest student to deal with at that time, but as he walked by Vic's house every day Vic encouraged him to be a good person, so this is a true testament to the man that Vic truly was,” Vandale said. “Travis created this bench in honour of Vic. It is on display here and it will be moved to where our tipi will stand later in the day. The bench is a reminder to all of us what a great man Vic was and how he inspired us to be great people.”
Another new feature of Indigenous Day was Bannock on a Stick, which was inspired by a trip Vandale took to Metis Days in Saskatoon. The Bannock on a Stick was on the east side of the school.
Chad Basaraba, an academic advisor at Carlton, was one of the leads on the breakout session and explained why the Bannock on a Stick was important.
“Bannock on a stick is a traditional activity,” he said. “It teaches students patience. It's also a great activity just to get people involved learning their culture, learning other people's culture and getting people together.”
Those taking part wrapped the raw Bannock on sticks and then cooked it over open flames.
“We had our Land Based Learning class mix up all of the Bannock ingredients and put them into little bags for us and now they are all ready to go. They just need to roll it nice and thin and wrap it around the stick and then sit by the fire and roast it to perfection,” he said.
“It's exciting to have the opportunity to have these breakout sessions and explore Indigenous cultures,” he added.
Later in the day the bench was moved to the location on the west side of the school where the tipi set up demonstration was taking place.
Floyd Cook and Elder Hilliard Mirasty conducted a tipi demonstration on behalf of the Prince Albert Grand Council. As well, the Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers took the stage at lunch sponsored by MN-S. At the end of the day Vandale noted that the day was very busy and a huge success.
The Indigenous Day included powwow demonstrations, square dancing and fiddle performances, breakout sessions on many topics, a lunch and trade fair and concluded with an indoor concert by Constant Reminder.
Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald