It may have not been the size of event they originally planned for June, but the Indigenous Day at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park proved popular for almost 300 people, Aug. 23.
Held on the Yodel Loop, just below the visitor’s centre, the day was an opportunity for people to connect and learn about the rich Indigenous history in the park, located just east of Cochrane. The Stoney Nakoda people offered many performances on the main stage and hands-on fun learning activities and displays were available to enjoy the grounds.
Sarah Parker, executive director of the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation, says something special was witnessed that day.
“I thought the day was wonderful. I thought the performances were so great. I loved how intimate the event was in terms of the closeness of the crowd to the dancers. I thought that Gloria Snow did a wonderful job of explaining the traditions and the culture and the meaning behind the dances and also her words on reconciliation and the struggle that Indigenous people have gone through throughout Canada’s history were really important.”
One of the defining moments of the afternoon saw many people join together for a giant round dance
“The friendship circle dance was just awesome,” says Parker. “It was super fun and it was great to see everybody having a good time, not just the dancers but everyone else, too.”
Popular, too, were the interpretative signs dotted along the park pathways. Each featured artwork by Glenbow Elementary School school students with a description and the name in Stoney.
“We got incredible feedback about those and people wanted to have them up all the time.”
Mark Poucette performed the buckskin dance and has done so at many other celebrations across Alberta and British Columbia in the past. He enjoyed performing at the celebration. There were several other dancers performed a cross-section of traditional dances.
Audrey Stevens gave the opening prayer in the Stoney language and is also a member of the Bow Valley Drum Group that performed. Stevens says the group was formed by his dad in the late 60s, early 70s and its makeup is multigenerational and largely formed by the Stevens family. They perform regularly at cultural events and powwows.
The booths of acclaimed First Nation artist Kalum Teke Dan and jewelry designer Sade Makerra Auger were well attended.
Blackfoot artist Kalum Teke Dan is featured in the current edition of Reader’s Digest Canada and is ranked number five on the list of top Indigenous artists in Canada. He’s been painting for 25 years and his 2006 collection showcased at the 2006 Calgary Stampede sparked the popularity of his imagery.
“I try to focus on spirituality, using modern symbols. Most of my work focuses on emotion, so it doesn’t matter if a guy has his back turned in the image, you’re still going to feel a bit of emotion in the body language and the spirituality.”
Sade Makerra Auger is working on her 10th-anniversary collection of First Nations jewelry with support from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and is excited to soon be launching a new website. Hers is a family of healers and shaman from the Mikisew Cree First Nation in Treaty 8 territory.
Auger’s jewelry designs are inspired by her grandmother, a healer, accomplished jewelry designer and world traveller.
“I use to watch her making jewelry when I was growing up and it was something I always talked to her about. I started making it three years after she died. She has a lot of influence on my design work. I feel connected to her when I make it. I feel like she’s with me and helping me.”
For Mark Olson, a longtime member of the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation who was recently appointed to the chair, it was important to hold a separate Indigenous celebration.
“We have great relationships with our friends and neighbours that we’ve built up over the years. We use to do it with Parks Day but we just felt it was more meaningful to put the whole focus on Indigenous Day. It’s all part of the education program for the visitors to the park to get back to the roots of the land and experience what it was like many years ago.”
Rocky View County councillor Kim McKylor is a regular user of the park and was thrilled to be representing the county at the celebration.
“It really is a jewel in the county. I think this type of exposure will continue to make this park a more valuable asset to the area and the City of Calgary and the region.”
Article and picture courtesy of Cochrane Now