Treaty 1 Territory and the Homeland of the Red River Métis (Winnipeg, MB) – The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) is honoured to have Spirit Horse Drum Group and Manito Ahbee Festival at the official Grand Entry for the International Indigenous Tourism Conference (IITC) hosted in Treaty 1 and Dakota Territory and the Homeland of the Red River Métis in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Thursday, March 9, 2023.

Opening Ceremony Highlights:

8:00 am: Welcoming & Land Acknowledgement –  2023 IITC emcee Jessica Dumas.

8:05 am: Grand Entry – Spirit Horse Drum Group and lead by arena director Matt Mousseau; veteran Del Assiniboine will carry in the Manito Ahbee Festival Eagle Staff; Anishinaabe Elder Colin Mousseau; Métis Elder David Dandeneau; Dene Elder Victor Tssessaze – accompanied by Riverbend’s Hoop Troupe Dancers; and lighting of the Qulliq by Inuk Elder Annie Bowkett. 

“In the spirit of this year’s conference and its theme Adventure to Understanding and when it comes to reconciliation, there is no road map to how we get there,” says Keith Henry, President and CEO of ITAC. “But through this respectful partnership to share Indigenous protocols, this is an excellent opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to honour Indigenous cultures and see how they are interwoven with the tourism industry.” 

“We are thrilled to support this exciting international conference by showcasing Manitoba’s rich cultural heritage,” said Manito Ahbee Festival Executive Director Lisa Meeches.  “As the city with the largest population of Indigenous Peoples, we are blessed to be home to Anishinaabe, Dakota, Dene, Nehiyaw (Cree), Métis, and Inuit traditions, and I can think of no better place to highlight the beauty of our culture than at the IITC.  We look forward to welcoming everyone and sharing our powerful ceremonies at this important and ground-breaking gathering.”

What is a Grand Entry? 

The Grand Entry has always been part of pow wow protocol. During the Grand Entry, everyone is asked to stand as the Eagle Staffs are brought into the arena and danced in by a veteran and each staff represents a nation, organization, or family. Dignitaries follow the eagle staffs, dancers, chiefs, dignitaries, sponsors and committee. 

What is an Eagle Staff? 

An eagle staff is a unique, sacred symbol that represents traditional Indigenous culture and clans. It is used at ceremonies and celebratory functions, much like a nation’s flag would be and is a symbol of the nation’s identity and principles.  In Indigenous cultures, the eagle staff represents various meanings, spiritual entities, nations, clans, languages, medicines and healing and it is believed eagles communicate directly with the Creator.

They are an honoured and sacred symbol and as such, respectfully cared for, adhering to teachings provided by our Elders and Knowledge Keepers and veterans are chosen to carry the eagle staff for their truthfulness, honesty, bravery, humility, wisdom, integrity and respect for our traditions.

What is a Qulliq? 

The Qulliq is an Inuit lamp that provides light and warmth to the Earth and is made out of soapstone and is shaped like a half-moon with a vessel to hold oil for burning. Once lit, the wick slowly burns and is tended with a hook-shaped tool, the taqquti. The Qulliq is traditionally used by women, recognized as sacred life carriers, to take care of their families and is a symbolic expression that demonstrates the strengths of Inuit women, as well as their tender love and care. 

The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada,Spirit Horse Drum Group and Manito Ahbee Festival hope to see you for #2023IITC in Winnipeg!