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CAMH’s National Aboriginal Day Celebration brings together “All My Relations”

In her jingle dress, little dZwin Linklater Fernandez danced with other children and adults as her parents and infant sibling looked on. The family was in the Sandi and Jim Treliving Gymnasium for CAMH’s National Aboriginal Day Celebration, including a Pow Wow, held in anticipation of National Aboriginal Day, on June 21.

This year’s theme at CAMH was “All My Relations,” making the intergenerational presence of dZwin’s family and so many others particularly significant.

dZwin Linklater Fernandez dancing at CAMH’s National Aboriginal Day Celebration

People of all ages came together to hear performances by Métis fiddler Alicia Blore, who helped open the festivities. Jamie Maracle of the Turtle Clan, Mohawk of Tyendinaga, shared his knowledge on the Two Row Wampum Belt as an historical artifact that documents the relationship between the federal government and the Haudensaunee Confederacy.

Steven Koptie, Program Consultant with CAMH Aboriginal Engagement and Outreach in Thunder Bay joined the celebrations and shared what “All My Relations” meant to him.

“When I think of all my relations I think of the people and the youth and the women and the men and the elders in our northern areas that don’t have the same access to people like yourselves, and we all bear witness to those that need the skills, that need the knowledge, that need the wisdom,” said Koptie.

“But we also need to honour and respect that we have our own ways and I think that’s why these kinds of gatherings are so important - so when I think of all my relations, that’s what this is, these are all my relations.”

The celebration also included the presentation of the Chapin A’sin Elder Vern Harper Award for Excellence in the Provision of Culturally-Based Practice. This year’s winner was Elize Hartley, Elder-in-Residence with McMaster University in Hamilton.

Elize Hartley, winner of the 2014 Vern Harper Award

“Our youth need identification. I found that when I went into the high schools and presented the aboriginal ways and ceremonies and talked about ceremonies, talked about tradition, talked about nation, those people, those young people got an identity,” said Hartley.

“When we started a few years ago talking and bringing the cultures they said, ‘I don’t know who I am’. And I said, ‘we’ll find out’, so we did. They just seemed to bloom.”

Dancers perform at CAMH’s National Aboriginal Day Celebration

Everyone came together for the Pow Wow, featuring a number of dancers in traditional regalia. They were led by the All Nations Singers who drummed and sang as the dancers and several generations of families from the audience danced along, including dZwin Linklater Fernandez in her jingle dress, her father not far behind.

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