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    The Aboriginal Achievement Award was given to Grade 12 High School Student Katie Barr, by Anishaanabe Cultural Centre Coordinator Angela Duchene. She received a $500 post-secondary bursary, and her name will be inscribed upon this drum. (Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

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    Before the dancing and drumming, Kaylee Brooks braids Victoria Bergeron's hair. (Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

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    Wearing her full regalia and fancy shawl, Blaze Commanda begins to dance. (Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

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    Cali Duchene, 11, and Nigik Sibi pose in front of some of the dresses displayed at the National Aboriginal Day celebrations. (Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

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    An Aboriginal celebration would not be complete without a drum circle. (Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

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    As well as the information booths, vendors, the food, and the dancing and drumming, there were activities for children such as crafting and bouncy castles. Noah Hein, 8, Cohen Storie, 12, Kadance Moore, 10 and Sage Commanda 4, try to blow up some long balloons. (Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

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    Ryan Gutzman learns about medicine bags from Sparrow Wolf. (Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

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    Alastar Baird shows off some of the items the old fur traders would have used, including the large voyageur canoes. (Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)



Pembroke hosts National Aboriginal Day celebrations

Community News

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday, July 14, 2016

June 21 marked National Aboriginal Day, and once again celebrations were held at the Pembroke Waterfront Marina.

“It is a really good way to reconnect to your community,” said Anishaanabe Cultural Circle Coordinator Angela Duchene. “Some people who didn’t even know it was their family are able to connect and know that there is family here.”

She herself was unaware of her roots until she was in her 30s, and admits that she would have loved the opportunity to have that sense of belonging as a child. “To be able to grow up in the culture and have all these aunties and grandmothers supporting you is just amazing,” Duchene said. “And that’s the way it used to be.”

National Aboriginal Day is also a really good time for the general public to learn about the culture and traditional teachings. It highlights the fact that there is a rich heritage, and thriving First Nations community in the area, with the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation in Golden Lake.

A sunrise ceremony greeted the day at 5 a.m., lighting the sacred fire for the 4th annual gathering. As the rest of the world began to awaken, opening prayers, rites and smudging opened the event in a traditional manner. Song, dance and drumming soon followed. Activities were for the general public and had something to interest every age with information booths, vendors, crafts, traditional teachings, aboriginal games, drumming, dancing, singing, and more.

Held on a Tuesday, the event attracted school children as well as members of the public. The turnout was even bigger than the proceeding years with about 500 people attending. “It just shows how much our community comes out to support,” said Duchene. “... Every year, it grows.”

Grade 12 Student Katie Barr recently discovered her First Nations background, after her mother, who was adopted, decided to make the journey to reconnect with her family. Since then, they’ve been discovering their culture. “I’m very happy that my mom found her lineage and where we come from,” said Barr.

At the celebrations, she was also awarded the Bonnechere Algonquin Achievement Award, a $500 post-secondary bursary donated by Dr Aaron Simon, and given to those involved in the community who receive good grades. She was one of many who came out to celebrate their heritage.

Kaylee Brooks loves to bring her children to these types of events. Together, decked in traditional, colourful regalia, they participated in all aspects of the day. As the drums pounded, she danced surrounded by her loved ones, the music bringing about a flood of emotion. “This is us, this is what we love, this is what we enjoy,” said Brooks. “... Hearing the drum is like hearing your heart beat outside of your body.”

She admitted she enjoys nothing more than picking a stranger out of the crowd and bringing them into the fold, allowing them to feel the magic she experiences. “Most people will do it and once they get out there, they don’t want to stop,” said Brooks. “It’s more than our culture. Being native is not your blood, not your skin, not your family, it is your heart. And to introduce people to their hearts, to my heart is pure love.”

The event was hosted by the Metis Nation of Ontario, the Family and Children’s Services of Renfrew County and the Anishaanabe Cultural Circle, supported by the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation.
National Aboriginal Day was made official on June 13, 1996 by former Governor General Roméo LeBlanc. It is now part of the Celebrate Canada! celebrations, which also include Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, Canadian Multiculturalism Day and Canada Day.