Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) - BC

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) - BC

June 17, 2010 12:54 ET

CUPE BC Sponsors DTES Festival for National Aboriginal Day

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - June 17, 2010) - A four-day celebration of aboriginal culture and communities in the Downtown Eastside - culminating in National Aboriginal Day on June 21 - promises to be an empowering event for the Lower Mainland's First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples and an eye-opener for the non-native population, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The June 18-21 festival at Oppenheimer Park (440 Powell Street), partly sponsored by the B.C. division of CUPE, will be especially poignant for aboriginal people as it is being organized entirely from within the community.

"There's been a lot of interest," says CUPE 951 member Dale Whitford, co-organizer of the event and a member of CUPE BC's aboriginal working group. "For native people who will be there, it's important for us to know who we are and who we have been, and this event is a way to remind us of that."

The festival theme is "healing", which should have powerful symbolic resonance in the Downtown Eastside.

"A lot of what is seen in that neighbourhood is the social difficulties," says Whitford, "but this festival tells a far different story. It's a story that resonates far more for aboriginal people than what's shown in the media."

Each day of the festival will feature a sunrise ceremony led by an elder, in recognition that the event is being held on Musqueam territory. There will be children's activities, traditional storytelling, a pow wow, a neighbourhood smudge ceremony and a daily feast. The cultural program on June 21st will feature traditional and contemporary performances from various artists including M'Girl, Arlette Alcock, the Indian Time Drum Group, Harmony of Nations and the Hobbema School of Rock.

The final day of the festival will coincide with other National Aboriginal Day events held throughout the country.

"It's part of the wider recognition of the important place in the history of Canada that aboriginal people have had and continue to have," says Whitford.

Contact Information

  • CUPE 951
    Dale Whitford
    Janet Szliske