Published in the May 29 2010 issue of The Edmonton Sun. News
‘Reflection of Canada’
Canada’s top soldier, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk, praised aboriginal youth involved in the Canadian Forces at the closing ceremonies of Aboriginal Awareness Week at the Edmonton Garrison Friday.
The week included Hobbema Cadet Corps presentations, storytelling from Inuit elders and aboriginal dance performances.
“I’m just so proud of the Canadian Forces’ role in ensuring that we recognize the culture of our great land, that we represent Canadian society and we prepare Canada for the future, the future leaders that is our young aboriginal youth,” Natynczyk told a crowd of aboriginal youth, RCMP and soldiers.
“The Canadian Forces are a reflection of Canada, a reflection of Canadian society and culture, and that’s why we really embrace all this because we’re preparing the nation for the future and the future is right here.”
The closing ceremonies included a round dance by youth from Thundering Spirits Cultural Society, Ben Calf Robe School and the Rainbow Spirit Dance Troupe, who were dressed in brightly coloured traditional and jingle dresses.
A new aboriginal sweat lodge that was recently opened at the base was also celebrated Friday.
“Our hope is that this joint effort will inspire others to pursue similar projects on bases across Canada so that members … will have access to the spiritual benefits of the sweat lodge,” said RCMP Chief Supt. Fred Kamins.
The sweat lodge, made out of willow trees and draped with army tents, will be used for spiritual healing and prayer, as well as act as the site for future RCMP aboriginal perceptions training.
“We go on sweat for guidance; especially with our guys going out, it’s a good opportunity just to give them some peace of mind, spiritual enlightenment and then when they come back the sweat is good to help heal their spirit from the hurts of war,” said Cpl. Jocelyne Bauman.
After the closing ceremonies, Natynczyk told reporters of the progress that has been made in Canada’s military effort in Afghanistan.
“Today, the Americans outnumber us (in Kandahar) by about seven to one,” he said. “Things are changing, you can feel it when you’re there … what I see on the ground is something totally different than what was there last year, the year before or the year before that.
“We will all be out of Kandahar (and) end our military mission in 2011.”
Aboriginal Awareness Week is put on by the Canadian Forces Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group.
National Aboriginal Day is June 21.