100s gather to learn, eat and dance at Yellowknife multicultural festival

Somba K’e park in Yellowknife was filled with booths showcasing cultures from across the world on Sunday.

It was part of the Sǫǫ̀mba K’è Multicultural Festival, where hundreds gathered to learn, eat, dance and sing.

Among the booth hosts included the Philippine Cultural Association of Yellowknife, an organization that has been in the city since 1987.

“A lot of it is really the information about how do we say this in our language, what is the Philippines about and the different islands we have,” said Lea Barbosa-Leclerc, president of the organization.

One part of Filipino culture Barbosa-Leclerc wanted to share was mano po, a hand gesture of respect that is typically reserved for elders.

“We basically grab somebody’s hand and put them on our forehead … and we basically say please bless me,” Barbosa-Leclerc said.

“So to us it’s a very important gesture of respect.”

Carol Norwegian was at the Gwich’in booth. Her organization de ella represents all Gwich’in in Yellowknife. (Luke Carroll/CBC)

Along with other countries, there were several booths that showcased the Indigenous cultures that have been a part of the NWT for centuries.

Carol Norwegian was at the Gwich’in booth, which had drawings, bead work, donuts, bannock and paintings.

“We’re very caring, open-hearted people. One of the things is that when we have our home open, which is our tent, we always offer food,” she said.

“We like to share our talents that we bring to our culture.”

Hundreds gathered at Somba K’e civic plaza for the multicultural festival. The event included information booths, food and presentations. (Luke Carroll/CBC)

There were also presentations at the festival, which opened with the Wiilideh Drummers, followed by Tanya Snow, an Inuk throat singer who lives in Yellowknife.

Of the hundreds in attendance, Raj Pandya and Kinjal Photavala said they had attended previous years and couldn’t miss the opportunity to come again.

“It was so good and informative that we need to know about all the other countries,” Photavala said.

Kinjal Photavala, left, and Raj Pandya said they enjoyed last year’s event so much, they came back again in 2022. The pair said they are considering setting up a booth on India next year. (Luke Carroll/CBC)

The pair, originally from India, said the event has them now considering setting up their own booth next year.

Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty was also at the festival.

“There’s so many different cultures from around the world here in Yellowknife, so to be able to showcase and learn from our friends and neighbors — great experience,” she said.

Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty was among those in attendance for the Sǫǫ̀mba K’è Multicultural Festival. She said it’s a great way to showcase the various cultures that make up Yellowknife. (Luke Carroll/CBC)

RCMP members also came. Roger Mario, president of the Multicultural Community of Yellowknife and organizer of the event, said invites were given to the RCMP as an opportunity to mend the relationship between police and ethnic communities.

“Because we know there is some sort of bad image of the RCMP right now, but if they can participate in an event like this, like ‘hey show our community that you are not just here to enforce the law,'” he said.

Cpl. Matt Halstead with the NWT RCMP said in an email the “event was a great opportunity for the RCMP to engage with the community and build upon relationships with those we serve.”

“The RCMP recognizes the importance of strong engagement with the many diverse peoples who call the Northwest Territories their home,” he added.

Mario said he was happy with the turnout for this years’ Sǫǫ̀mba K’è Multicultural Festival.

“It is bigger than last year,” he said, crediting that to the partnerships which include the NWT Literacy council, BACupNorth, an Indigenous inclusion committee, Music NWT, CDÉTNO and Diversity NWT and Nunavut.

Although he was pleased with the event this year, he said there are bigger plans going forward.

“In the long term we’re going to try to have more of an event where different organizations doing one event together instead of doing separate things here and there,” Mario said. “Hopefully having like what they have down South, like a big multicultural center.”

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