It was a beautiful day at the Wıı̀lıı̀deh site on Sunday September 25 for Indigenous Culture Camp. Over 50 families tried out Dene and Inuit games, learned about and took part in feeding the fire, participated in a drum dance, and shared delicious food from many different cultures. A number of weeks ago, this event was just an idea that came up in a conversation I had with Stacey Drygeese Sundberg.
In discussions together, Stacey and I agreed that more opportunities for cross-cultural connections needed to be made within the community. We saw a need for a special emphasis on newcomer families and Indigenous families coming together to discover important commonalities and interests. This would also develop opportunities for connection and relationship building. We began working together to plan the Sǫǫ̀mba K'è Multicultural Festival, where she was the lead of Indigenous inclusion for the event. Around that time, the GNWT’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources Take a Family on the Land grant applications had come out. This sparked another discussion around how this funding could be used to bring people together from different backgrounds.
Stacey was keen to gather Elders and Knowledge Holders from across the NWT who could represent the diverse Indigenous cultures within the territory and share with people who perhaps hadn’t yet had the opportunity to make these connections and learnings. With her guidance and gusto, we were able to plan a day where this learning and sharing of cultures, beliefs, and worldviews could happen on the land together as a diverse community.
Recognizing that land and Indigenous cultures are inseparable, we organized the activities to take place at the Wıı̀lıı̀deh site along the Yellowknife River. We linked them directly to cultural learning with Elders and Knowledge Holders who shared some of their teachings, traditions, languages, and traditional arts and fine crafts. With the generous grant, we were able to take many families out on the land for the day, including many of the newcomer immigrant families we work with at NWTLC through the Intercultural Centre NWT.
Families learned about Inuit, Métis, Inuvialuit, Nehiyaw, Dene, and Gwich’in cultures. Families that arrived early in the day helped to set up camp, including learning how to set up a traditional wall tent and how to make bush coffee. Camp Helpers, Aaron and Darren, showed newcomers “how it’s done” by keeping the camp tidy and smooth-running throughout the day. There was always wood chopped, fire burning, and hot drinks and soup on the fire for folks to enjoy. We received positive feedback from both the Elders and Knowledge Holders and the community who came out for the event. “Let’s keep doing this – we need more of this!” was the feedback we heard again and again. The hope is that events like this one will build bridges across cultural differences of all kinds and give people a stronger connection, understanding, and appreciation of the land and all its gifts.
Mahsı̀ cho to Yellowknives Dene First Nation for the use of the Wıı̀lıı̀deh site; to Stacey Drygeese Sundberg for her vision, guidance, and hard work; to all of the volunteers who helped the day run smoothly; to the Elders, Knowledge Holders, and Inuit and Dene games Instructors; to the bush helpers, the food preparers, and Dash Event Designs and Rentals for their flexibility and support; to ENR On the Land Unit for the delivery and use of their wall tent; and to NWTLC and Intercultural Centre NWT Staff. In short, this event was made possible by many helping hands and hearts.
Quyanainni, Mársı, Kinanāskomitin, Hąį’, Quana, Qujannamiik, Máhsı, Mahsı̀ to everyone who came out to learn, share, laugh, and play in community!
For more photos, please visit our Facebook post of the event here: www.facebook.com/NWTLiteracyCouncil/photos/pcb.8157487980987746/8157435144326363/
- Stephanie van Pelt, Integration Advisor
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