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Indigenous Experience brings fresh programming to K-Days, aims to expand

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There’s a new Indigenous experience at K-Days this year, and it’s aiming to build momentum.

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It’s drawn tens of thousands of K-Days visitors each day with its live stage of music and dancing, along with Indigenous food, craft and clothing trade vendors and Indigenous fashion shows.

Lyle Donald, president of the Indigenous Edmonton Entertainment Group Association, chatting Saturday over crispy sugared bannock cinnasticks from vendor Teepee Treats, said he expects between 500,000 to 700,000 people will have wandered through the massive hall at the Expo Center over the course of K-Days , and he hopes the event will expose Indigenous culture to visitors in a way other events don’t.

“What we want to do with this is to bring the pride up in our community,” he said, adding that many visitors are non-Indigenous.

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“We’ve been doing pretty good,” said Donald, who pointed to noted performers Susan Aglukark and hip-hop artist Joey Stylez, who have come to the Indigenous Experience stage in Edmonton.

While there have been Indigenous events at K-days before, there hasn’t been a full 10 days of Indigenous programming for at least seven years.

At the Indigenous Experience, elder Howard Mustus and his family offered their knowledge to anyone who poked their heads into one of the three giant teepees near one entrance of the hall. They welcomed visitors, and offered a traditional smudging with the burning of sweetgrass. As people came through, Mustus noted that people are starved for more information about the history of Indigenous people in Canada.

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“The more people that we can reach through a display of this nature, hopefully we can build the interest of those people,” he said, noting that many coming to visit were teachers, health-care workers, and people who work in the justice system.

“There’s a lot of unfinished business,” he said.

Nilou Agharazi (right) learns how to smudge from Howard Mustus Jr. at the Indigenous Experience at K-days on Saturday, July 30, 2022 in Edmonton.  Greg Southam - Postmedia
Nilou Agharazi (right) learns how to smudge from Howard Mustus Jr. at the Indigenous Experience at K-days on Saturday, July 30, 2022 in Edmonton. Greg Southam – Postmedia Photo by Greg Southam-Postmedia

Phyllis Mustus said the teepee saw many newcomers to Canada who were curious and wanted to learn more after Pope Francis’ visit to the Edmonton area this week earned headlines around the world.

“What did the Pope apologize for?” she said some had asked when they visited.

The Pope apologized for the abuse perpetrated by members of the Catholic Church through residential schools, and on Saturday, he acknowledged that what took place was a genocide.

K Days runs until July 31, but Donald said the aim is to make the Indigenous Experience “bigger and better” next year.

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