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First Nations put on a show

The Forks event celebrates culture

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WITH perfect weather and thousands expected to celebrate Aboriginal Day at The Forks, Marciel Bird got there early Saturday to find a shady spot and enjoy the changes she’s seen over the years.

"We come every year," said Bird, who’s been attending Aboriginal Day events for more than a decade with friends and relatives.

"We always come here as a family," she said, perched with kids and adults in folding chairs under some trees not far from the mainstage.

"It’s our celebration as aboriginal people."

Performances were planned throughout the day, with entertainers including the winners of the Canada’s Got Talent TV program, Sagkeeng’s Finest. They shared the stage with a larger group, Sagkeeng’s Dancers. Other entertainers included DJ Tik on the turntables, hoop dancer Joshua Hansen, powwow singer Nelson Thomas, Lorenzo and Fit First coach Kent Brown with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, which televised the day’s events.

On the festival site, tents offered everything from aboriginal crafts to diabetes information to auditions for the new TV series The North End.

"It will show the diversity," Erica Daniels, a volunteer at the Big Soul Productions booth, said of the show. They had 50 auditions lined up Saturday and were looking for all kinds of people, she said.

Toronto-based Big Soul is an aboriginalowned and -operated company whose last series was the Gemini-nominated Moccasin Flats, which ran for three years on the APTN and Showcase. The North End is being created for the APTN.

"The North End has a strong sense of community and diversity," said Daniels, a young aboriginal woman who has lived there.

For Aboriginal Day veteran Bird, people taking pride in who they are and where they come from is an important part of having a strong society.

"At one time, you didn’t want to say you were aboriginal," said the Ojibway woman, who grew up near Clear Lake. She moved to Winnipeg as an adult and has two grown children and grandchildren.

"We faced racism as aboriginal people," she said. "My dad always said, ‘You’re strong aboriginal women — be proud of your language and culture.’ " Bird said she and her sisters took that to heart. They practise their traditions and beliefs many non-aboriginal people are starting to embrace.

"Now everybody wants to be aboriginal," she said with a laugh. "It shows how the world has changed."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

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