New Day Gamble Pays Off
Organizers of the Multicultural Day held at Totem Hall on Saturday were banking on the new date in February reaching out to more young people and families. They were not disappointed. The event, a collaboration between Squamish Valley Elders and Squamish Multifaith Association attracted 250 plus with many new faces and participants sharing their cultural and spiritual practices through, song, dance and story.
The celebration was opened by Sisolia (Donna Billy) and members of the Harry family, with cultural teacher Tsawaysia (Alice Guss) leading the attendees in an honor dance to the animal kingdom. Emphasising the importance of our shared humanity and the need to overcome divisions, participants were encouraged to make new friends during the afternoon. February 01 marked the first day of United Nations World Interfaith Harmony week. This harmony was well demonstrated at the community feast where attendees were treated to a diverse menu prepared by Squamish Nation, Sikh Community, Baha’i Community and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
Previously held in conjunction with Canada Day, the event was moved to the first week in February to avoid competition with downtown events and to encourage more youth participation. Organizers admitted to being worried about turnout due to new date but prepared enough food to feed 300 and ramped up their promotion for the event. They credited social media, articles in The Chief and Squamish Reporter as well as help from Mountain FM in getting the word out.
Quest University students made a great contribution this year with a number of the students helping with the setup and cooking as well as children’s activities. They also contributed to the cultural performances with two dances from India and a mandolin performance.
Other performances included a traditional dance from the Philippines, a Tai Chi demonstration, hymn jam performed by members of St. John’s Anglican Church, a singing medley performed by Hotspot ESL group and the crowd pleasing performance of a song for peace sung by St. Joseph’s children’s choir. Squamish International Dance Group, lead by Judith Vetch and Patrick Mac Namara, enticed audience participation in dances from New Zealand, Bolivia and South Africa.
A poor sound system that had bedevilled the event in previous years was greatly improved this year through the efforts of Quest student Carl Natiuk and Rev. Cameron Gutjahr. Carl brought his experience to trouble shoot the existing system and Cameron added additional pieces of equipment to allow for a fuller sound and use of digital background music.
The afternoon was brought to a close with the story of the Walking Stick (that held a position of prominence on the stage) told by cultural educator Michael Fraser. Symbolizing peace and dignity, the walking stick journeys between communities bourn by runners and spends time in each community honouring the traditions of the ancestors and dedicated towards building unity and a better tomorrow.
It was a fitting closure for an event that strives to bring diverse people together through shared learning and celebration.