By LeRae Haynes –
A truly diverse and captivating annual highlight will hit the streets of Williams Lake on Wednesday, June 21 when the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council’s National Aboriginal Day celebration takes place.
Embracing diversity and unity, the event includes an outstanding parade and a range of presentations, activities, and vendors in the park.
“Out-of-towners just love looking at the crafts and getting bannock—bannock is a huge draw,” said Bonnie Slack, operations co-ordinator at Northern Shuswap Tribal Council. “And the kids love the bouncy toy.”
She said they get so much positive feedback, adding it’s getting bigger every year. “This year will be the biggest celebration yet,” she explained. “In 2008, we had an open house here at the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council office, and in 2009 we started holding the event in Boitanio Park and have been there ever since. More First Nations join every year, bringing great input and talent.”
The traditional game Lahal is another huge draw. “It’s such an interesting concept, so quick and intricate,” she continued. “This year we’re also holding the second annual bannock competition, which was so successful last year.”
There will be a wide range of popular vendors with things like dried salmon and meats, jewellery, leather goods, face painting, and more. The Language Culture Society will have an exhibit, Dog Creek Elementary kids will be there with the Star Blankets they’ve made, and Denisiqi Services Society will have crafts and games.
“We’re so glad to have Edna Boston back as our MC,” she said, adding that wellness is this year’s theme for National Aboriginal Day.
One of the most powerful and positive things about this local celebration is nations coming together to share, and to become one, said Slack. “It’s about valuing our diversity and respecting each other’s culture and traditions.”
“It’s so good for the community as a whole to see them come together and celebrate.”
A real highlight for Slack is seeing the elders with the children and young people around—the elders with big smiles on their faces. “They’re being celebrated, and it’s so nice to see the young people waiting on them,” she said. “It’s a great atmosphere—come and celebrate.”
The National Aboriginal Day parade is a local highlight that gets better every year, attracting residents and visitors alike to take in the pageantry, pride, history, and culture.
The parade starts at 10:00 a.m. at the Elks Hall, moving up Oliver to Save On Foods and then to Boitanio Park. The celebration in the park goes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.