Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Treaty Days all about friends and family

For the Lakeland Regional.

The Northlands Dene drummers heat their drums between songs. The practice has both a spiritual side - the fire connects them with nature and the creator, and practical side - the drums sound better when the skins are warm.
Eric Bowling
 A local nation commemorated a treaty signed with the crown that's almost as old as confederation itself.

Cold Lake First Nations (CLFN) celebrated its annual Treaty Days at English Bay on July 7 and 10.
The nation has been coming together at English Bay since 1975 to mark the signing of the treaty, which took place in 1867.

“Treaty Days is a celebration to keep peace and harmony with Canada, about the land, our rights and the fish and the animals,” said CLFN Coun. Kelsey Jacko. “It's about bringing unity to both my people and other people around, so we get along and share this Mother Earth in peace and unity.”

Throughout the activity-packed weekend, traditions and modern practices easily meshed together. The celebrations began with a pipe ceremony and a fire ceremony, a traditional feast, drum dance, and hand games – a classic game where a team of four hides an object in one of their hands, and the opposite team attempts to guess which player is holding the object and which hand the object is in. Canoe races, strongman competitions and hip-hop demonstrations, were just some of the many events held during the festival.

“It's about pulling the people together, going into friendly competitions and meals,” said CLFN community services director Doug Longmore. “It's about relatives from distant areas coming together after a long time, usually after a year or more.”

Longmore explained that Cold Lake First Nations is actually composed of four distinct aboriginal groups – Dene, Cree, Saulteaux and Sioux.

The weekend-long gathering commemorates the signing of Treaty 6, a binding contract between the Monarchy and several groups of aboriginal peoples in central Canada – though the finer details of the treaty continue to be up for debate.

One sticking point is a clause in the treaty that entitles every member of the nation to $5 a year – there was nothing in the treaty to adjust the money for inflation when it was signed 140 years ago.
Jacko said that he and many people in the nation would like to get away from that particular clause.

“I wish we could get along and work together on certain issues to resolve them,” noted Jacko. “We've come a long way, there's more to the issue than $5. I would like to see us get away from the Indian Act, to not have to rely on Canada and make it on our own.”

Politics aside, everyone on hand agreed that the main reason for treaty days was to get together with family.

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