Sidney welcomes many nations on National Aboriginal Day

A full day of ceremony and culture in Sidney's Beacon Park on National Aboriginal Day.

Hoop dancer Alex Wells from the Lilwat Nation performs during National Aboriginal Day Friday in Sidney's Beacon Park.

Hoop dancer Alex Wells from the Lilwat Nation performs during National Aboriginal Day Friday in Sidney's Beacon Park.

“Bringing nations together is so important, to share culture among all walks of life.”

The words of George Taylor, organizer of National Aboriginal Day events in Sidney on Friday, June 21, were echoed in the dances and music at the pavilion on Beacon Park. First Nations from Esquimalt, Saanich, Cowichan and the mainland were all represented in a colourful celebration on the Saanich Peninsula.

Taylor, a director with Aboriginal Tourism B.C. and leader of the Le-La-La Dancers out of Saanich, played emcee to the event and said it was a showcase of talent and culture from the larger First Nations family.

“I happened to (be in Sidney recently) and saw a beautiful place,” he said. “I decided to hold National Aboriginal Day here.”

He credits the Town of Sidney for offering its immediate support and for the first time holding such an event in Beacon Park, Taylor said it was excellent.

A highlight of the performances was Alex Wells, a three-time champion hoop dancer. Wells and his daughters, Amber and Char, are from Mount Currie in the Lilwat Nation on the mainland and gave a colourful, energetic performance. Wells said he has been dancing for 24 years and it has given him many opportunities, not only to perform, but to travel the world and share aboriginal culture with many people.

“It has given me so many opportunities in life,” Wells said, noting he has performed at the Olympics, Calgary Stampede and overseas in places such as Taiwan and more.

Wells said hoop dancing, like many aboriginal dances, tells a story and reflects the culture of his community. He said it’s a form of storytelling all its own — and it keeps him in shape.

The Beacon Park performances were one of many National Aboriginal Day events on the Saanich Peninsula. The Heliset Hale Marathon came to an end on the Tsartlip First Nation in Central Saanich. Runners Kelly Paul, Bernice Smith and John Sampson ended their 500-plus kilometer marathon, helping raise awareness about suicide in First Nations communities from Port Hardy to the Saanich Peninsula.

Refurbished aboriginal murals in Sidney were unveiled after weeks of restoration by the original artist, Ice Bear. And the Mary Winspear Centre revealed its latest addition — a six-foot sculpture by Island artist Michel Beauvais.