By Judy Bird

Indigenous inclusion in the Canadian Western Agribition (Agribition) in Regina has been a goal that Elmer Eashappie had since the late 1990s. This year marks five years since Indigenous-themed events have become part of Agribition. The Indigenous Agriculture Summit, an Indigenous-themed rodeo night, and an Indigenous pavilion are components that continue to grow each year.

The Indigenous Agriculture Summit provides an opportunity for people to share their experiences and endeavours for agriculture and economic development. Keynote speakers and presenters have been featured from across Turtle Island. This year, the summit takes place November 22 and 23 at the Ramada Hotel in Regina.

“It’s been growing every year. We’re finding that new people from First Nation communities and mainstream are participating. I believe they’re participating because there’s a big indigenous movement in particular with agriculture,” said Eashappie. He was instrumental in bringing the Indigenous Agriculture Summit to Agribition, and continues to advise in a volunteer role to avoid a conflict of interest with his current role with the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council.

“I always say that First Nations people have an abundance of land but are not utilizing it in an economic development way because of many reasons, and i think one of them may be they don’t fully understand the business side of creating opportunities of utilizing their agricultural lands.”

Statistic projections state that by 2045, half of the Saskatchewan population will be Aboriginal people. Eashappie sees this as a perfect opportunity to start building partnerships and including Indigenous people in agriculture.

“We are trying to grow into an international event, meaning we will invite other indigenous countries around the world, for example, New Zealand. New Zealand has its own indigenous agriculture sector in the government. Why don’t we have that here?” he said.

Other attractions at Agribition that have an Indigenous inclusion are the rodeo and an Indigenous Pavilion.

On Wednesday evening, November 23, the rodeo will be free and feature an Indigenous theme. “We are having a special performance called the Ancient Warrior Shield Dance. That’s going to open (the rodeo) up. I do believe they are going to be bringing in the Treaty 4 Flag. People are starting to recognize the treaty territory,” said Eashappie.

The Indigenous Pavilion will feature crafters from across the country, story telling, dance performances and a special interactive event of preparing a buffalo hide. People will be able to take part in that activity. “That’s going to be a project we start on Monday. At the end of the week, we are going to be making a drum (out of the hide),” said Eashappie. “Kids and parents can help with that.”

The Indigenous Pavilion is also a place for people to ask questions and learn about Indigenous culture in a respectful manner. “People need to understand that Indigenous inclusion is happening at AGribition. If you want to learn about Indigenous people across Canada and in specific Saskatchewan, this is the place to come,” Eashappie said.

The Canadian Western Agribition takes place at Evraz Place in Regina from November 21 – 26 inclusive.

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