The Bonnyville Friendship Centre held Aboriginal Day Celebrations at Little Leap park today.
The festivities included a free barbecue and traditional dancers as well as remarks from Mayor Gene Sobolewski to kick things off.
After Sobolewski, Rosa John with the Kehewin Native Dance Theatre addressed the crowd of students and other attendees. She commented on the significance of Aboriginal Day, then participated in the dance herself.
“National Aboriginal Day has only been going on for a few years,” she said, “Before that many native people were not respected in the way that they should be. A lot things have happened. A lot of land has been taken away. Many times the children were put into schools that were called ‘residential schools.’ For many, many years they suffered greatly at those schools. When they went to those schools, they were not allowed to speak the language. They were not allowed to sing the songs. They were not allowed to wear their traditional clothes. During that time it was very, very hard for native people. If they tried to do these things they would be punished very, very harshly.
“So today, we get to celebrate. Even though our people were put down so much, we are still here. We are still strong. We are here and able to sing for you, to dance for you, and to share our stories with you.”
National Aboriginal Day has been celebrated every June 21st since 1996. Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement pledging to rename it “Nationl Indigenous Peoples Day” for next year to line up with wording used in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.