Aboriginal Day on the West Shore has morphed into a landmark event for West Shore residents and neighbouring communities.
The first festival drew in about 100 participants, last year there were 600 and this year, the third annual festival, drew in crows of more than 1,000 people at the new location, West Shore Parks and Recreation.
“We’ve been a part of this festival since its humble beginnings. Year after year, the event is evolving and its growth stems from the community’s interest,” said Kevin Albers, M’akola Housing Society CEO. “We are proud members of the West Shore and are thrilled to bring this event to the community each year.”
The festival was open to everyone and offered free food, entertainment and activities for the entire community.
“We want people to come and celebrate, our goal is to set the stage for a meaningful day of coming together,” said Kendra Gage, Executive Director of Hulitan Family and Community Services Society. “We want to remove barriers by offering free food and entertainment and being on public transit routes.”
A packed entertainment lineup for the main stage included Lekwungen Traditional Dancers, Tzinquaw Dancers, Joseph’s Singers and Dancers, Indian Bay Singers, and Esquimalt Singers and Dancers. Also on the agenda was an interactive traditional Bone Game demonstration and a Button Blanket Ceremony.
The button blankets were made through Indigenous Perspectives Society (IPS). “The blankets need to be cleansed and danced before they can be used, we are excited to have the ceremony at Aboriginal Day,” said Laurie McDonald of IPS.
The West Shore Aboriginal Day Festival was hosted by eight Aboriginal-serving organizations: Hulitan Family and Community Services Society, M’akola Housing Society, Sooke Family Resources Society, Island Metis Community Services, Indigenous Perspectives Society, Nil Tu,O Child and Family Services, Surrounded By Cedar Child and Family Services and SD62 Aboriginal Education.
“By bringing your children to this festival and by coming yourself, you are showing that things can be better. Celebrating our differences brings communities together. When our children grow up being proud of who they are they are, it makes all the difference,” said Chief Russ Chipps, Beecher Bay First Nation.
Sponsors for the festival included FortisBC, West Shore Parks and Recreation, Canadian Heritage, First Nations Health Authority, CRD First Nations Relations, Aboriginal Neighbours, Anglican Diocese of BC, Vancity and RBC.