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Community healing with soaring spirits

It has been a long year-and-a-half for many Hay River residents that hasn’t always been easy after the COVID-19 pandemic and recent revelations about unmarked graves in Canada’s former residential schools.
Abbey Crook, director with the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre and Metis Bev Lambert greet guests to the event on July 24. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

It has been a long year-and-a-half for many Hay River residents that hasn’t always been easy after the COVID-19 pandemic and recent revelations about unmarked graves in Canada’s former residential schools.

The Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre hosted a weekend of outdoor entertainment called the Community Wellness event to try to lift spirits and help residents look ahead.

“It’s purpose was to a promote positive healthy environment for people to come out and laugh and learn about each other and other cultures,” said Joanna McKay. “We wanted to show a really good time after being in lockdown with the pandemic and express Indigenous culture after the impact of residential schools.

“Over the pandemic we did received a lot of feedback from youth and elders that they had trouble with laughing or smiling to get through day to day activities. That was the same when it came to getting through impacts of residential schools.”

McKay said that part of the weekend gave recognition to the 20th Kole Crook Memorial, two decades after the death of the famous Northern fiddler.

The weekend included consultation and greetings from Bev Lambert who held a three day workshop for adults, youth and small children.

Fort Smith-based North Country Rock band was a main staple throughout the weekend.

McKay said although she was a big concerned with the opening Friday where it was rainy, as the sun brightened and warmer weather took hold, bigger crowds appeared receptive of the sleight of activities.

“By Saturday morning there were three to four times more people than originally showed up and many people got to enjoy the event,” she said.

Whether such an event will be held in the future is up in the air but holding positive events that contribute to community and that showcase multicultural dimensions in Hay River is important, she said.

Conner Ahenakew and Hunter Groenewegen get ready to show off their dancing talents. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Adele Russell concentrates as she plays the fiddle. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
From left, Lyra Pope, Tanaili Cadieux, Corrine Smith, Junior Sayine, Krista Pope, Inaaya Sulemana, Dyna Earle, Claudia Fabian, Adele Russell, Conner Ahenakew, Rochelle Smith, and Linda Duford perform together. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Junior Sayine is all smiles as he takes the lead during a shared instrumental performance. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Conner Ahenakew gleefully owned the tambourine during the afternoon. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Cameron Fabian, Conner Ahenakew, Junior Sayine, and Hunter Groenewegen show their broom dance skills. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Alex McKay, Lyra Beck, and Raye McKay show their dancing talents with the Metis Sash Dance. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Krista Pope, Lyra Pope, and Conner Ahenakew dance together. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Bev Lambert gives Conner Ahenakew some reassurance during his dance performance. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Leandre Beaulieu of Fort Resolution tunes his guitar on stage. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Drummers from the Hay River Reserve opened the weekend’s festiviites with a drumming. photo courtesy of Joanna McKay
The North Country Rock Band from Fort Smith was a main staple during the weekend festivities. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo