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Chiefs join Santa Express spreading cheer in northern communities

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Instead of a sleigh pulled by reindeer, Santa made stops in northern communities this week using transportation like a custom helicopter. The fourth annual Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Santa Express travelled to 30 First Nations this week to deliver candies and toys.

Along for the ride was MKO Grand Chief David Harper, as well as Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, who was present for the first two days of the event.

Santa and his wife have appeared in about 18 communities so far, with the trip scheduled to end Thursday.

"Each time they were visiting, they were of course there to meet with the children," said Brennan Manoakeesick, MKO spokesman, who said the visits led to other conversations with people over issues like the Idle No More movement.

"It was a unique opportunity during the holiday season to have access to our national leader and see firsthand... the conditions in the communities, but also at the same time, to kind-of spread a message of hope that things are moving forward positively for our people."

He said the RCMP donated about 2,000 toys for the trip. The group will be travelling to communities by plane and by truck, and touched down in communities in Island Lake in custom helicopters.

About 14,000 to 15,000 kids will receive gifts during the four-day event, said Manoakeesick.

He said more than 100 volunteers wrapped up gifts and candies for the children at the Indian Metis Friendship Centre, and the Aboriginal Centre of Winnipeg. About $90,000 worth of donations and fundraising supported this year’s Santa Express, he said.

Gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

 

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