The Forks changes for Canada Day events praised

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Steve Morris has watched The Forks’ Canada Day fireworks for as long as he can remember. He always looked forward to his July 1 tradition but isn’t upset it’s gone.

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Steve Morris has watched The Forks’ Canada Day fireworks for as long as he can remember. He always looked forward to his July 1 tradition but isn’t upset it’s gone.

The Forks announced the replacement of its traditional festivities Friday with a new event called “A New Day,” which will feature activities such as storytelling tents, powwow dances, drummers and sporting tournaments in collaboration with the Indigenous community.

“I think this is a great substitution because it’s important to understand that culture and history. In previous years we have learned the importance of educating ourselves and others,” Morris said. “There’s going to be a lot of people who are upset the regular celebration is gone, but this is the right way to go about it.”

Fireworks will not be part of A New Day events at The Forks on Canada Day. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Morris has Lakota heritage and will visit The Forks on July 1 to enjoy the new event.

“People could learn a lot about the culture if they come in with an open mind. Watching traditional dances and hearing the songs is an uplifting spiritual experience. The beat of the drum is the heartbeat of Mother Nature.”

Throughout the day, ceremonies will be led by Elders Wanbdi Wakita and Pahan Pte San Win and an oral history tour will be given by Elder Barb Nepinak.

Indigenous siblings Ryan and April Hodgins said they appreciate the efforts The Forks has made in reconciliation.

“I think this is a step in the right direction. The Forks is a place where a lot of people meet and it holds a history for the community. I think it will be an influential day and I’m looking forward to attending,” Ryan said. “Canada Day has gained a new meaning and more people will start to realize that if they come.”

April is hopeful that more days to educate the public on Indigenous history follow the July 1 event.

“I’m an Indigenous woman and I wasn’t taught most of my history growing up. We need to see changes in schools and teach the true history of First Nations people in Manitoba. This new event is a start and a good way to emphasize education over celebration.”

When Cam McNaughtan first heard the regular celebrations were cancelled, he was disappointed, but after hearing more about the reasoning, he understands the change.

“I’m always interested in learning and educating myself on things that I don’t know about. Canada Day was always a great place for the city to come together as one, but the Indigenous community is the foundation of Canada and it’s important to remember that.”

McNaughtan said he will miss watching the fireworks, but will still join the festivities.

The event will begin at 8 a.m. with a morning ceremony at the Oodena Celebration Circle.

bryce.hunt@freepress.mb.ca

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