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Saskatoon Tribal Council invites everyone to free celebration

"The biggest thing that people can do is just introduce yourself and ask them how they are doing.” — Arcand

SASKATOON — Celebrating the cultures and traditions of Indigenous Peoples that were denied to those who attended residential schools is one way to help survivors heal from the trauma they experienced.

That is why Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand, in co-operation with Cameco Corp., is inviting everyone to attend a powwow and free concert in honour of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Friday, Sept. 30, at the SaskTel Centre.

Arcand said it will be a day of celebrating Indigenous culture, identity, language and music as a way to continue efforts of healing and reconciliation. The event is free admission that will also include performances from Canadian country singers George Canyon and Kyle McKearney.

Arcand said this year’s celebration would focus on the First Nations’ culture, identity and language that was taken away from them during the height of the residential school system. Indigenous children were prevented to speak and practice their culture in residential schools.

“Because that was taken away from our people. At the age of 51 years old, I never learned it and it was never taught to me. I can’t speak my language and I’m still trying to learn every day about our culture,” Arcand said.

“So, you can see how residential schools affected my family. Now, we go put that into our kids, the new generation and all future kids coming up because I think the census out there we’re up to 1.8 million First Nations people across this country. We’re the fastest growing demographic.”

He added what happened to the culture of First Nations people in the past is an unfortunate incident and it should not happen to any other culture. That is why, he said, everyone in the communities should work together to not let this happen again.

Arcand said with elders and other residential school survivors expected to attend the event, the STC will be having a Critical Incident Stress Management team to assist them with their mental health issues as well as encourage everyone to talk and give comfort to them.

“We hear a lot of them that they get a sense of gratitude when they are around things they get to see about their culture, language and identities. When they went to residential schools, they were punished for speaking their language or their hair was cut,” said Arcand.

“Those are things that impact any person on any given day. And now they get to see kids that have long hair that is respected and what that means to First Nations peoples. To get to hear their language spoken all the time and their identity being showcased in a [place] like SaskTel Centre that has a seating capacity of 15,000 people.”

He added that to see SaskTel Centre packed, which is their ultimate goal, would mean a lot to the elderly and other residential school survivors as learning and respecting First Nations culture and identity would be a good feeling as they would be in a safe environment.

“Do you remember the stories of our elderly people? The biggest thing they said in residential schools was they were never taught to love or that kind of stuff. The biggest thing that people can do is just introduce yourself and ask them how they are doing.”

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