Reflections on Splash: Celebrating water for Canada’s 150th on Earth Day, 2017

Body: 

I am standing on the site of Historic Fort Normandeau in Red Deer on a cold, almost snowy April day.

I am watching Stephanie Poor, a jingle dancer from the Saulteaux First Nations in Manitoba, perform a jingle dance in front of a crowd of about a hundred people. The beautiful Red Deer river is in the background, flowing fast and high under a grey sky.

A woman comes and stands next to me to watch the dance. She starts to describe the dance and its significance. The dance is a healing dance, a ritual. It is not a performance – it is more like a prayer, a dance to bring healing to the land, to the water, and to the people.

A dance to bring healing to the land, water and, people. Here in Red Deer. Suddenly, the day took on a whole new meaning for me.

I was at SPLASH, an event to celebrate Canada’s 150th through a water lens. Hosted on Earth Day –  April 22nd, 2017 – the event was led by the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance, the Waskasoo Environmental Educational Society, and the City of Red Deer alongside a range of partners. It was held at Historic Fort Normandeau –  a venue rich with the history of First Nations, Métis peoples, and European settlers.

SPLASH! was about bringing people from a range of backgrounds together around a shared love of water. The celebration highlighted our history, our natural areas, our people, our past, present, and future. The event focused on water, but was really about people. People who love the Red Deer River watershed, people that protect it, people that play in it, and people that work in it.

Stephanie Poor finished her dance and shared a few words about its healing powers and the culture of jingle dancing within some First Nations. And that’s when the event really came alive for me.

There were children and adults writing love letters to the river; expressing their love for all that the river and local waters bring to us. There were storytellers participating in a “living library”, sharing their personal water stories, with the smell of smores toasting over a campfire nearby. The City of Red Deer was out talking to people about subsidies for rain barrels, environmental reporting, and keeping drains clean. Alberta Environment and Parks was there talking about invasive species (zebra mussels! Prussian carp!), while the Nature Conservancy Canada shared information about land conservation. We had Lyle Keewatin-Richards sharing water stories in his heated tent (by far the warmest place on the field), Valhalla Pure Outfitters with canoes and kayaks, Ellis Bird Farm with their kids crafts and “beaver hats”, and Heather with ‘Ruby Tuesday Pet Designs’ selling bird feeders outside. We also had bubbles, lots of bubbles, floating across the landscape and further down the field.

Of course, no event is complete without delicious food, and we were thrilled to have Brian with NOVA Chemicals lead an army of volunteers who barbecued up a yummy free lunch for everyone. Danielle from Pursuit Adventures was also on hand to sell some hot chocolate for folks in need of some warmth. Inside the Interpretive Centre, participants warmed up while watching short digital videos from Cows and Fish or visiting the Red Deer Public Library’s kids corner.

All of these activities were a great way to spend Earth Day. But, listening to Stephanie, I also realized that this was just a small part of the story. The main characters of the story were the river, the birds, the fish, the land and the people. I feel that in our efforts to celebrate Canadas 150th, we were able to touch on something much bigger.

Thank-you to everyone who came out for Splash and made the day possible.

 

Jeff

 

This event was made possible with the generous support of the Community Fund for 150th, a collaboration between the Red Deer and District Community Foundation, the Government of Canada, and extraordinary leaders from coast to coast to coast.

It would not have been a success without the support of our original partners; Waskasoo Environmental Education Society and Parkland Regional Libraries, plus other key partners including The City of Red Deer, NOVA Chemicals, ATCO, 106.7 The Drive, Little Jons Toilets, Olymel, and all the media outlets that supported our efforts.

 

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