Accompanied by pounding drums and piercing shouts, aboriginal dancers and elders celebrated the contributions aboriginals have made to the Canadian Forces with a powwow at a military base in Halifax Thursday.

“The significance of this powwow is to provide aboriginal awareness and learning to my comrades-in-arms,” said Chris Innes, petty officer second class. “It is a traditional gathering, but at the same time I think it’s good for people to get out and experience something about me and my lifestyle.”

After an opening prayer to the “Great Spirit” and a powerful version of O Canada sung in a combination of aboriginal languages, the Kitpu Youth Drum Group and Eastern Eagle Drum Group accompanied dancers through a Jingle Dress Dance, Hoop and Shawl Dance, Head Male Dance and Head Female Dance.


Innes, an Ojibwa, has served with the Canadian Forces for 23 years. His non-aboriginal comrades “know we’re a friendly-going people, big warriors,” Innes said with a laugh.

Innes works with the Navy outreach to share the range of career opportunities with people who may not have considered it before, including aboriginal youth.

“Serving in the Canadian Forces brings out the latent potential and leadership skills that all of us have within us,” added Rear Admiral Paul Maddison, noting that several dozen aboriginal students from Cape Breton were down for the powwow.

“What I’ve said to the First Nations leaders is that if their youth chose service in the Canadian Forces, when they hung up the uniforms and return to their communities, they would return better leaders with greater self-confidence and as shining examples for the generations coming behind them.”

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