Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Songs, Dances and speeches of welcome herald the opening of 32nd First Nations Edlers Gathering

The Jim Ciccone Civic Centre will be their home for the three day celebration and on Monday it provided the setting for a spectacular opening to the 32nd Elders Gathering.

First Nations Elders have gathered in Prince Rupert this week to take part in the celebrations, Monday they listened carefully to speeches from First Nations leaders from the North coast as well as local politicians, who welcomed them to Tsimshian territory.

The Daily News provided some background on the opening ceremonies with a front page story in Tuesday's paper.

Representatives of the Tsimshian nation welcome visitors as historic event begins

By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Pages one and two

True to the theme of the 32nd Elders Gathering, the First Nations Elders from across British Columbia and beyond were all watching yesterday as everyone was officially welcomed to the event.

With the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre arena packed with honoured guests, local community leaders and residents, Sam Bryant and members of the Sm Haalyt Dance Group welcomed the crowd by performing several songs, including their 'eagle down dance.'

"With the spirit of the eagle now among you, you can know you'll be travelling safely through our Tsimshian territory while you're here," said Bryant.

Due to the size of the group, the dancers performed twice to make sure those Elders in the back of the arena were able to see and hear the welcoming songs.

Master of Ceremonies for this year's Gathering, Kaien Island First Nations Elders member Murray Smith, was handed a note just before the speakers were introduced, and sadly announced that Elders from the villages of Bella Coola and New Aiyansh had passed away.

A moment of silence was given to honour the lives of those two Elders, as well as the rest of the Elders who had passed away in all the communities being represented at the Gathering.

"Such is the way of our people. We honour death and celebrate life," said Smith. "So we pass our condolences on to those who have gone home, and we move forward together here this gathering."

The first local leader to address the Elders was Sm'ooygit Nees Nuugan Natt (Chief Lawrence Helin) of the Gitchiis Tribe, who took the stage along with several other Elders to express pleasure at the way the Gathering had come together, and to welcome all the guests who had travelled to be in Prince Rupert for several days.

Spokesperson for the Allied Tsimshian Tribes James Bryant also took the stage to welcome everyone on behalf of the nine Nations who have co-existed in this region for hundreds of years.
"First off, I'd like to acknowledge my uncle for letting us meet on his land. I've never seen so much grey hair in one place before," joked Chief Councilor of Lax Kw'alaams John Helin.

"I think that it's important to acknowledge our Elders, and their knowledge and experience. When you hear and see our drums beating and our songs being sung, it reminds us how long our ancestors have been on this land. It's important that we treat our Elders with respect and appreciate them while they're here."

Before Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond took the mic, Smith spoke glowingly to the crowd about Pond, as well as District of Port Edward Mayor Dave McDonald and North Coast MLA Gary Coons, all of whom he recognized as working diligently to improve and maintain good relationships between Aboriginal people in the region throughout their elected careers.

"We were ranked by Census Canada as the city with the highest First Nations population in Canada, and we're proud of that," said Pond. "As you wander our streets you'll get a sense of that, and the combination of Chinese, Sikh and many other cultural groups, and it works. It is so good to have you finally come and join us in Prince Rupert, and I understand that there are people here from as far as Alberta and Washington State. I encourage you all while you're here, in addition to having a good Gathering, spend a lot of money in Prince Rupert!"

Before lunch was served to the hundreds of Elders, the volunteers and organizing committee were given several rounds of applause for the hard work they've been doing since it was announced the 2008 Elders Gathering would be held in Prince Rupert, many months ago.

No comments: