On Friday, September 26, 2014 seniors from several locations in Edmonton were boarded onto a bus courtesy of the Canadian Multicultural Education Foundation (CMEF), and brought to the Edmonton Aboriginal Senior Centre (EASC) located at 10107 134 avenue to celebrate Seniors Aboriginal Multiculturalism Day.
On Friday, September 26, 2014 seniors from several locations in Edmonton were boarded onto a bus courtesy of the Canadian Multicultural Education Foundation (CMEF), and brought to the Edmonton Aboriginal Senior Centre (EASC) located at 10107 134 avenue to celebrate Seniors Aboriginal Multiculturalism Day. This event, sponsored by the CMEF, and co-hosted by EASC, included aboriginal cultural activities such as music, dance, story telling/history, and beadwork demonstrations, as well as a homemade lunch of soup and bannock. Attendees consisted of members of EASC, the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE), the Southwest Edmonton Seniors Association (SWESA), the Jamaican Association of Northern Alberta (JANA) and Seniors Outreach Centre (SON).
With the help of funding from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, CMEF is attempting to strengthen the multicultural fabric of Canada through a variety programs. According to CMEF President Earl Choldin, the goal of a program entitled "Seniors on the Move" is "to assist seniors in building their understanding of each other while staying active and engaged in the community". In this way the lives of various ethnic groups of seniors would be enriched by being connected to each other through participation in multicultural events and cross cultural field trips.
The recent trip to the aboriginal centre was an example of such an event. Some 50 attendees arrived mid morning, chilled by the cool rainy day, to be warmly greeted by EASC staff with cups of hot tea or coffee. The program began promptly at 11 am with introductory remarks by Choldin, who welcomed attendees and introduced EASC staff members Jori Hunter, recently appointed Executive Director, and Amanda L'Hirdondelle, Resource Coordinator who acted as master of ceremonies for the event.
At 11:30, guests were treated to half an hour of entertainment by young musicians from the Prince Charles School Guitar and Fiddle class in Edmonton. This group of grade 5 and 6 aboriginal students was taught to play by ear by dedicated musicians Judy Gatto and Gary Lee who have worked together for 11 years at the school. The group has repeatedly been invited to perform at several functions in Edmonton such as the Edmonton Symphony orchestra concerts, Oil King games, and the Winspear Center events. Their enthusiasm and love of music shone clearly through their playing which soon had everyone toe tapping and or hand clapping to tunes such as Painted Black, I Walk the Line, Scottish and Irish ballads, and the Lone Ranger Theme.
For lunch everyone enjoyed a hearty beef vegetable soup and followed by a mid afternoon treat of chocolate covered muffins. After lunch attendees were split up into 2 groups: story telling (history) led by Russel Auger and crafting (beadwork) taught by Doreen Wabasca. As examples of beadwork, several pairs of moccasins were on display that had been done by previous students. Wabasca said the class is held every Monday morning at the center from 9 to 2 and anyone is welcome. She also mentioned "there is no charge, but the first set of moccasins are to be donated for sale with proceeds to the center while the second pair you can keep".
At 2 pm, Gina Donald, instructor with the Metis Cultural Dancers of Edmonton, arrived to demonstrate several types of dances commonly enjoyed at aboriginal gatherings. Accompanied by instructor Lee on the fiddle and with some willing seniors and music students, she demonstrated dances such as the Seven-step dance, the Red River jig, Waltz Quadrille, and the heel-toe polka. As with the fiddle tunes played earlier, many of these dances have roots in Irish, Scottish and French cultures.
In closing Choldin stated "One of the greatest challenges we face in Canada today is the lack of understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. With minimal advertising we had more participants in this program than we could accommodate. The level of response is indicative of the strong interest Edmontonians have in understanding Aboriginal culture." He then expressed his gratitude to the EASC staff, for the outstanding program they presented.
The EASC is unique in that it is the only Aboriginal Seniors Centre in Canada that is self-governed by a Board of Directors elected annually. It is also the City of Edmonton's major resource for aboriginal seniors. The Centre puts out a monthly newsletter called "Moccasin Telegraph" containing the calendar of events for that month. Activities include beading and craft, social and art, field trips, weekly soup and bannock, lunch and Cree language, bingo and crib/board games. Every first Friday of the month there is a mass delivered in Cree followed by a potluck feast. For information call 780-476-6595 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, CMEF is in the process of planning future activities for seniors including visits to a Mosque, a Sikh Gurudwara, and a Buddhist Temple. Information will soon be posted at www.cmef.ca. In addition, a seniors' multicultural arts festival, "Tocho Morocho", is scheduled for Saturday, November 22, at 1 pm at SAGE. This free event will showcase the talents of Edmonton seniors. For information contact Jim Gurnett at 780-218-6989.