Barkerville hosts inaugural Aboriginal Celebration

This past Saturday, July 12th, nearly 700 visitors to Barkerville Historic Town were treated to the traditional sights and sounds of British Columbia’s Central Interior First Nations communities during the National Historic Site’s first ever Aboriginal Celebration.

The event, which was a collaboration between the Barkerville Heritage Trust and both the Xatśūll and the Lhtako Dene First Nations (on whose shared traditional territory Barkerville rests) drew a healthy number of first-time and repeat visitors to Barkerville, including representatives from aboriginal communities as far away as Lillooet and Prince George.

Saturday’s festivities kicked off first thing in the morning with an all-day presentation of Barkerville photographer C.D. Hoy’s collection of First Nations portraits from the turn of the 20th-century, and screenings of Wilds to Riches: a Cariboo Gold Rush Documentary, and Canyon War: The Untold Story.

At 11:45 am a gathering of Barkerville’s costumed historical interpreters and members of several BC First Nations communities paraded up the main street of town before settling in at the Kerr’s Phoenix Brewery stage for an official welcome. The opening ceremony began with a traditional blessing from Williams Lake resident Richard Duncan, as well as remarks from Barkerville Heritage Trust Chair John Massier and Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association director and New Pathways to Gold Society First Nations co-Chair Cheryl Chapman (whose grandfather was an early aboriginal teamster driving stage coach from Soda Creek to Barkerville in the late-19th century).

Mr. Duncan then led the gathered crowd in a rousing and uplifting series of song and drumming demonstrations before turning the stage over to the Lhtako Dene Hoop Dancers from Quesnel. Despite recorded temperatures of nearly 35 degrees Celsius, the performers delivered outstanding dance, drum, and song presentations throughout the afternoon and the day rounded itself off nicely with traditional games for kids and Hoop Dance lessons for everyone.

“Although our intent was to start small and later build upon the successes we were sure to have this season, our event organizers were particularly pleased by the number of guests who came out to celebrate with us in our inaugural year,” said James Douglas, Barkerville’s Manager of Visitor Experiences. “It is our sincere hope that with the continued partnership and support of our local and regional First Nations communities, Barkerville’s Aboriginal Celebration will become the highlight of our summer season for many years to come.”

For more information about Barkerville’s Aboriginal Celebration, or any of the historic town’s seasonal special events, please phone 1-888-994-3332, or visit www.barkerville.ca/events.htm.

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