MOBERLY LAKE, B.C. – Saulteau First Nations’ first Pemmican Days in three years shattered its attendance record, according to community leaders.
An exact tally on how many guests Pemmican Days saw is not yet available, but Elder Buddy Napolean, who co-created the first Pemmican Days, says he was overwhelmed at the turnout this past weekend.
“When we first started Pemmican Days, only a few families came out, and it was a one-day event. It makes me so happy to see all the families here as well as all our sisters and brothers from other nations,” said Napolean.
“I was worried for a while that this wouldn’t happen anymore. We had to shut it down for three years because of Covid. But, here we are, bigger and better than ever.”
Saulteau councillor Rudy Paquette echoed Napolean’s sentiments.
“This was by far the best turnout for Pemmican Days, and next year is going to be even bigger.”
The celebration started on Thursday with a round dance for the community and a performance by 2022 Juno award winner Fawn Wood, whose breakout song, “Remember Me,” has taken Indigenous country music by storm.
Later on, a feast took place to bring the community together to mourn and celebrate the life of Saulteau Elder, Virginia Lalonde.
A parade led the way to Pemmican Grounds to officially kick off the annual event on Friday. It was followed by a grand entry featuring the Saulteau pow wow dancers and a welcoming address by Chief Justin Napolean and council.
The sound of drums and steely horseshoe ringers was heard throughout the first nation as pugeesee (handgames), and horseshoe tournaments commenced.
The evening concluded with a welcome dinner in the band hall, where people enjoyed such traditional foods as moose stew, bannock and elk ribs.
Saturday was a blur of activity, visiting and competition.
One highlight for the kids was the 10th Annual Leanne Howes Memorial Bike Giveaway. A whopping 59 bikes were won by some very happy youngsters who grinned ear from ear.
A jigging contest and Saulteaus Got Talent took over Saturday evening.
Rick Ghostkeeper took first place in the Adult category with a haunting rendition of Harley Davis’ “Grampa Take Your Drum Down.”
The weather continued to hold for Sunday as Creator blessed the event with another beautiful day in Saulteau First Nations for the exhilarating endurance race, which ends in a horse race to the finish line.
Other crowd favourite events like the leg wrestling competition and the tug of war contest enthralled spectators young and old.
The dry meat rack was busy throughout the weekend, as was Pauline Heiberts’ famous Bannock Shack. Several vendors set up shop at the event, including the Indigenous crafters and the Kids Free Play Zone, with their bouncy castles and carnival rides.
There were many visitors from near and far, including Fort St. John’s own Mayor Lori Ackerman, who enjoyed watching the tea boiling competition and the handgames.
The weekend ended with the hilarious moose and cow calls, a 50/50 draw for $1000, and door prize draws.
Everyone left tired, full, happy, and already talking about meeting up again, next year.