THUNDER BAY -- Elizabeth Bannon wants to immerse her son in her culture and traditions as soon as possible.
Along with her mother, Bannon is determined to make Aboriginal ways an integral part of three-year-old Dylan’s life when he gets older.
“It’s important to get him involved in all of our culture so he’ll be more comfortable showing it to everybody (when he gets older),” Bannon said.
“It’s good having my son here watching me dance and hopefully he’ll choose to get into dancing and drumming when he’s older.”
Bannon and Dylan were one of more than 100 people participating in National Aboriginal Day celebrations at Fort William Historical Park on Saturday.
James Wilkinson, chair of the organizing committee, said the concept of National Aboriginal Day is extremely meaningful to him on a personal level.
Festivities kicked off at 5:30 a.m. and continued through a wet morning before a reprieve from showers shortly before noon.
That allowed organizers to hold their grand entry and begin the powwow. There was traditional food, such as bannock, sold throughout the day along with crafts and other items.
Since the day was officially declared in 1996, it has become easier to openly hold ceremonies and celebrations.
“This day is close to my heart. It’s something I’ve always participated in and it’s wonderful to see all the communities and cultures come together,” Wilkinson said.
“It’s really heartening with the history and some of the difficulties that have occurred for Aboriginal people in the past. It’s time for them to come out and freely be able to express culture and traditions.”
Even though the day celebrates Aboriginal customs and traditions, it was not just First Nations people marking the occasion with there being a significant number of non-Aboriginal people participating.
That cooperation and sharing of the day is a critical theme.
“It’s important for the education of people who don’t know about the Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal people because they are a large population in Canada. It’s also a good time for both cultures to come and understand that when we have celebrations it is open to everybody,” Wilkinson said
Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy echoed those sentiments.
Especially now, as communities deal with lingering racism, it’s vital to create links between cultures where everybody has a chance to learn and participate.
“I think this is an excellent opportunity to create an awareness that as First Nations people we want to focus on the positive aspects of relationships,” Beardy said.
“There will always be people out there who will be critical of whatever is being done but we have to be able to move beyond that and a peaceful coexistence.”
Closing ceremonies are scheduled to take place Saturday evening.
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