This year the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre (SJNFC) have extended their annual National Aboriginal Day event into a week-long celebration. The daily events will wrap up with a Northern Games Tournament followed by a Community Feast this Friday from 2:00pm-5:00pm at SJNFC.
SJNFC have had a consistently stellar turn out at past National Aboriginal Day events, about 200 people attended their celebration at Pippy Park last year.
However, they still heard from people who were disappointed they couldn’t attend because of other commitments. This year SJNFC is trying to accommodate as many people as possible by scheduling events throughout the week at different times of the day.
“It’s the first time that we’ve celebrated for a full week. It’s a great opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come together and celebrate our province’s unique culture and history,” Said Danielle Sullivan SJNFC’s Communications Officer.
Northern Games have been a popular part of lots of SJNFC’s past events and Friday’s tournament is sure to draw a crowd. Sullivan explained that Northern Games are often referred as Inuit Games and are traditionally played by Inuit in Labrador and across Canada. She went on to say the games are also popular with many Northern Innu people and are played throughout the North.
“When they were living their traditional lifestyle hunting, gathering, fishing, and trapping were everyday ways of survival. Indigenous people used the games as tests of strength, endurance, speed, and balance, as well as other physical skills that were essential for survival and being a good provider in the community,” Sullivan said. “…and of course they’re considered a fun competitive activity.”
Traditionally the games’ rules varied from region to region, today the games have more widely agreed upon general rules and are played at large, organized events like the Labrador Winter Games, Arctic Games, and North Coast Sports meets.
Friday’s tournament is open to youth (12-24) and will consist of ten games, including the owl hop, seal crawl, seal kick, leg wrestling, and a few other community favourites. The winner of each game will receive a small prize and the final winner will be presented with a grand prize. The afternoon will finish with a traditional feast.
“It’s pretty traditional for Indigenous communities to come together and feast in celebration or in closing of something. The point of the feast is really a coming together of the community to close down our National Aboriginal Day celebrations, “ Sullivan said. “Anyone is welcome and the event is free, I don’t know many people who don’t like a little free food.”
At the feast there will be a prayer to mark the end of the National Aboriginal Day events, followed by Inuit throat singing.
“We want everyone to know this is open to anyone in the public who is interested in coming, you don’t have to be indigenous to come down and celebrate with us,” Sullivan said.
“Our Indigenous communities are part of this province and we share that aspect of our provincial identity and history. So it’s a good opportunity to come down, bring the kids, and have a good time.”