June 21, 2014 7:42 pm

Saskatoon celebrates National Aboriginal Day

Watch the video above: National Aboriginal Day celebrated in Saskatoon

SASKATOON – The steady beat of drums echoed through Saturday’s downpour as dozens came out for a celebration of aboriginal culture in Saskatoon.

“This day is important,” explained Bill Mintram with the Saskatoon Indian Metis Friendship Centre.

“It gives an opportunity for the whole Saskatoon community to come out, bring the whole family, and celebrate National Aboriginal Day.”

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First Nation chiefs, veterans, and elders were honoured at the event in Friendship Park.

While there is much to celebrate this year, many First Nations leaders say there are also some big issues to tackle.

The Idle No More movement began several years ago in reaction to alleged legislative abuses of indigenous treaty rights by the federal government.

One of the biggest issues in the movement is protecting the environment.

“First Nations across Canada know that mother nature and our relationship with nature is very important to us,” explained Jack Saddleback, with the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union.

“It’s part of our culture. It’s part of our way of living – and we have to protect that,” said Saddleback.

This week, the Government of Canada approved the controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline, spurring uproar from many aboriginal communities.

“First Nations are usually on the front line regarding stopping these big projects,” said Shane Henry, a researcher and writer with the Saskatoon Tribal Council.

“It’s a little bit daunting that these people are putting essentially their lives on the line, and their careers and livelihoods at stake to fight something they know in their hearts is true.”

If it is ever built, the 1,200-kilometre pipeline will carry bitumen from the oilsands in Alberta to Kitimat, B.C.

“We only have one planet, and we have to keep fighting for that – not just for my children, but for my children’s children. We have to think about seven generations down the line,” said Saddleback.

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