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Oh Canada! The Aboriginal Way


Aboriginals found their own way to celebrate Canada Day on July 1, be they Philippine immigrants showcasing their indigenous heritage, Inuit in Nunavut and Nunavik partying, or First Nations veterans gearing up to celebrate the upcoming 200th anniversary of their peoples’ role in the War of 1812.

Nunavik and Nunavut celebrated the nation's 144th birthday with the Alianait arts festival, topped off by an evening concert featuring the Jerry Cans, Ellen Hamilton and Nuvu, and Beatrice Deer, the Nunatsiaq News reported. Towns celebrated with everything ranging from a pancake breakfast, to children’s activities to sports events and a barbeque, plus throat-singers and drum dancers.

In London, Ontario, First Nations veterans were a centerpiece of the festivities. George Henry, a member of the Chippewa of the Thames band council, told The London Free Press that First Nations’ tradition of military service predates the formation of Canada and that it was only natural for them to join in when the territory was threatened.

"When the wars came, we didn't have to be conscripted. We wanted to ensure we have peace," Henry told the newspaper, adding that three uncles of his fought in the Second World War and that one had died in it.

In Ottawa it was all about the royals, as William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, celebrated their first international trip as husband and wife by touring Canada. Aboriginals, who have their own special link with the Crown, will fete the newlyweds on July 5, when the two visit Yellowknife.

On Canada Day itself the Yukon was occupied with the 13th annual Race to the Midnight Sun, spectators gathering at the Midnight Dome—a ledge high above the Dawson City, overlooking the Yukon River valley—where people first gathered in 1899 to watch canoes arrive after their three-day, 460-mile journey down the river following traditional trade route from Whitehorse to Dawson City, according to the Toronto Star.

In Yellowknife, members of the Philippine Cultural Association showcased their own indigenous traditions to highlight the many faces of modern Canada, the Globe and Mail reported. Gloria Reyes and fellow Filipinos unveiled what the newspaper called “an ages-old Filipino indigenous cultural celebration, known as Ati-Atihan.”

Preparation involves hand-sewn costumes and artificial spears, the latter fashioned out of hot glue and broomsticks, the newspaper said. Other cultural performances included Dine drum dances.