The Ceremonial Room of the Museum of Northern BC was packed on the afternoon of August 25 as the Salmonberry Trading Company hosted a celebration of First Nations art and culture at the first ever Salmonberry Celebration.
“What we try to do as an organization is to educate cruise ship passengers and the public about First Nations groups here in the northwest and identify for them the things that make us unique,” said emcee Donna McNeil-Clark of the Salmonberry Trading Company.
“This celebration is about the success of Aboriginal people in the region who work hard to educate the youth and share our culture with them and others.”
One of the focusses of the celebration was art, with students from the Frieda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art had a grand entrance and speakers included school coordinator Stan Bevan, instructor Ken McNeil and renowned artist Dempsey Bob, who was given an honourary doctorate from the University of Athabasca earlier this year.
“We had a dream that one day Prince Rupert would be known around the globe for having the best Aboriginal artists in the world,” explained McNeil-Clark.
“First Nations art has a much deeper meaning than just looking at a nice design. It’s about respect. That art is our culture and out laws and our way of life…It connects us to our land, to our people, and it records our history. Our art keeps us alive.”
The important work done by the Salmonberry Trading Company to help improve the experience for cruise passengers was also recognized by Cruise Ship Advisory Task Force chair Andrew Hamilton.
“Salmonberry stepped up and showed leadership…The weekly Salmonberry Market, the interpretive centre in Atlin Terminal and other Aboriginal artists have added a lot to the visitor experience,” he said.
“For cruise visitors, this Aboriginal experience has become part of the story of Prince Rupert.”
As well as art, the North Coast Ceremonial Dancers performed and the Sugyigyet dancers of Metlakatla made their debut dance at the event.