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Aboriginal Day: A somewhat personal history

Celebrations were held throughout the city and on different days but it all came down to honouring Aboriginal peoples. 

Or as the young Grass Dancer Houston Kay, 17, said, "I dance to know that that my culture is still alive and we are growing. We are not gone. We are still here. I dance to feel good and to make my family proud to show that I am carrying on the culture to the next generation."

He was dancing at the Pow wow demonstration at the Forks on a sunny June 21. There were all kinds of dancers including men's traditional, women's traditional, jingle dress, grass dancers and a young hoop dancer.

The pow wow demonstration was put on by the Founding Nations of Manitoba. 

The Walking Wolf Singers were the drum group. Ray "Coco" Stevenson is a member and is known for also lending his prodigious pow wow singing skills to Eagle and Hawk, Indian City and has performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

I also had time to drop by the North Centennial Recreation and Leisure Facility that was hosting an Aboriginal Day Celebration.

More of a family focus with face painting, pony rides and teachings hosted in two teepees set up on the facility's grounds. 

This year will mark the 20th year personally that I've had a connection with Aboriginal Day.

In 1996, I worked in public relations and sat on a board organizing celebrations at the Forks with representatives from various agencies, organizations and corporations. 

The Manitoba Association of Native Languages (MANL) had been organizing events there for a few years but the pressures on a small organization became too much so they handed if off.

Back in those days, I believe MANL called it Aboriginal Family Day.

While I can't recall all the details, I remember it was a very rewarding time. CBC sat on the committee and helped to organize the concert that was held at the Forks pre Scotia Bank stage.

I had an opportunity to perform my original music on the main stage before broadcast after successfully auditioning. It was my very first time performing before literally thousands of people.

And 1996 was the year Governor General of Canada, Rom?o LeBlanche "" Proclamation Declaring June 21 of Each Year as National Aboriginal Day. Before that it was known as Aboriginal Solidarity Day.

Then as now, discussions continue if the day should become a national holiday.

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