Inspiring Students and Youth in Our Region with Indigenous Culture

The 2023 ATC Cultural Festival Draws More than 700 Students and Thousands of Indigenous and non-Indigenous People.

Recently, the Athabasca Tribal Council (ATC) hosted the 2023 ATC Cultural Festival presented by Centrefire on the banks of the Snye River, showcasing the Cree, Dene and Métis communities of the region.

The Festival included entertainment on the Mainstage presented by Imperial, including an inaugural fashion show, hoop dancing, Inuit throat singers, and Powwow dancing. Local Indigenous bands also took the stage with headliner C-WEED.

The Traditional Village presented by Fort McKay First Nation welcomed festival-goers where all Five First Nations donated traditional food, and skilled members butchered, prepared, preserved, and cooked samples for attendees to try.


The Gathering Tent was a great place for all attendees to sit and enjoy their traditional food samples and also the nightly Feasts while watching the entertainment on the mainstage.

The Gift Shop & Gallery presented by Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development and Tourism was a buzz of activity all weekend. With 63 local Indigenous artists and entrepreneurs having submitted their products for sale, festival-goers had a wide selection of authentic Indigenous pieces to purchase, with over 1,300 items sold in just 3 days.

One of the main attractions of the Festival was the workshop supported by Mikisew Cree First Nation. Indigenous artists shared and taught their traditional skills to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, keeping traditions alive and inspiring the next generation of Indigenous artists and entrepreneurs.

The beat of the drum could be heard throughout the Festival grounds on Saturday and Sunday as the Hand Games Tournament presented by Acden took place. There were 16 teams from all over the region participating for first, second, and third place with cash prizes for each! From Elders to youth the teams competed while a large crowd of spectators cheered them on.

The Youth Programming presented by CNRL created a great space to entertain and engage children, and teens in culture and activities. The Moose Hide Factory had set up a moose hide stretching and processing demonstration. Youth and all festival-goers were encouraged to participate in the process and learn more about the importance of the moose to the First Nations of the region. Traditional crafts and activities were also available for children along with balloons and face-painters. McMurray Métis had a canoe photo booth where you could get a family photo or try your hand at fishing in their pool. Willow Lake Métis had a wonderful display of furs and artifacts. They provided teachings of the region’s fur trading history that were engaging and interactive. There was something for young people of all ages to enjoy!

Over 700 students from both urban and rural areas of the region participated in the Education Program presented by Tuccaro on the first two days of the ATC Cultural Festival presented by Centrefire.

The immersive journey provided students with the unique opportunity to participate in things such as Métis jigging lessons, fish scale art, learning about traditional medicines, and language lessons.

“Every year, the Athabasca Tribal Council outdoes their planning from the previous year, and this year was no exception. Watching the students engage in Dene and Cree language learning activities was exciting. The students love demonstrating their new knowledge, soaking it up like sponges,” said Fort McMurray Public Schools Superintendent Annalee Nutter. “Many of them look forward to the engagement with Elders and Knowledge Keepers. Hearing their stories, laughing with them and being in a space where they can learn on the land is authentic and rewarding for our students. We appreciate being invited to attend this highly popular learning event each year.”

Elder stories also captivated the students, giving them unique insights into the region’s history and heritage.

The Festival’s young guests were able to watch and participate as trappers and hunters demonstrated how they cleaned and prepared meats, and tended to hides all while using traditional tools. As well, they learned the art of making traditional bannock.

Between the workshops, demonstrations and performances at the ATC Cultural Festival presented by Centrefire, Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo’s students and young people had an unforgettable opportunity to embark on a journey that connected them with the land and the environment in a profound way.

“Seeing the community gather to celebrate our Cree, Dene, and Métis cultures is what the Festival is all about. Healing comes in so many ways. Feeling the support from friends and allies who attended the Festival brings with it a strength that is felt by our members,” said Chief Allan Adam, President of the Athabasca Tribal Council and Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

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