With drums echoing through the fort, salmon baking over a fire, aboriginal artisans showcasing their skills and the unveiling of a travelling exhibit, Salmon People, Fort Langley National Historic Site will be holding one of the most memorable Aboriginal Day celebrations in its history on Saturday, June 23.
The Salmon People exhibition examines the fishing history of the Coast Salish people, explained fort spokesperson Nancy Hildebrand.
Long before canneries were established, they fished the banks of the Fraser River and Georgia Straits.
Through images, text, and artifacts, this new exhibit at the fort will uncover the significance of fish and fishing to Coast Salish culture, from past to present.
The Coast Salish fished for many different types of fish in addition to salmon: eulachon, sturgeon, herring, trout and cod, Hildebrand explained.
Visitors to the fort will be able to discover how these were used in trade and how they fit into the mythology of the people.
The exhibit will run through until December, but kicks off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honour of Aboriginal Day on Saturday, at 11 a.m. upstairs in the Big House.
Traditions and culture will also be brought alive within the fort walls with performances by Git Heyatsk Dancers, hourly between noon and 3 p.m.
Visitors can also hear storytelling and taste salmon prepared over the fire by members of the Kwantlen First Nation at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. And families can take part in the salmon run activity at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., as well as Stó:lo Strength Games at 1:30 p.m.
These events bring to life some of the activities of the aboriginal women and children who lived at Fort Langley during its operation as a Hudson’s Bay Company post between 1827 and 1886, Hildebrand said.
Regular admission fees apply ($7.80 for adults, $19.60 for families).
While the fort is holding off on its celebrations until Saturday, today is actually the nationally recognized Aboriginal Day.
National Aboriginal Day, proclaimed back in 1996, acknowledges the unique achievements of First Nations, Métis and Inuit in fields as diverse as agriculture, the environment, business, and the arts.
In cooperation with aboriginal organizations, the federal government chose June 21 for Aboriginal Day because it is also the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. And for generations, many aboriginal peoples have celebrated their culture and heritage on or near this day.
Therefore, celebrations at the historic fort are not the only ones being held in Langley this week to pay homage to the local First Nation people and culture.
The Lower Fraser Valley Aboriginal Society is hosting a community celebration this afternoon (Thursday, June 21) at Douglas Park’s Spirit Square.
Today’s celebration is a new event also being co-hosted with the City, Township, and CUPE.
It runs from 4 to 7 p.m., and will include aboriginal entertainment, craft vendors, seniors bingo, children’s crafts and games.
As well, there’s a current art exhibit at Langley Centennial Museum pays tribute to the local aboriginal peoples – specifically the Kwantlen First Nation.
The show features art by Kwantlen members Phyllis Atkins and Brandon Gabriel.
And while their exhibit, entitled Here and Now: Contemporary Kwantlen First Nations Arts is on display until Aug. 29, Gabriel will be on hand today for a private Aboriginal Day function with 40 kindergartners from Alex Hope Elementary.
Luc Dandurand, an aboriginal support worker, will bring the kids in to enjoy drumming.
Gabriel will talk about his art and the exhibit.
And Kwantlen elder Jossette Dandurand will offer a little First Nations storytelling.