ATC’s Inaugural Cultural Festival a Major Hit

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Over 5000 local residents took in Athabasca Tribal Council’s (ATC) inaugural Cultural Festival from September 19-21. Held at the Syne Point Park, the festival line-up featured local and guest Indigenous artists and performers, crafts, food, and Indigenous ways of life demonstrations like preparing meat, to name a few. The Jerry Cans, a high-energy, fast-rising group from the Arctic headlined the entertainment on Friday.

The ATC is made up of five local First Nations: Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Chipewyan Prairie First Nation, Fort McKay First Nation, Fort McMurray No. 468 First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation. The organization “serves First Nations by providing relevant and innovative programs and services that enrich the well-being, health and prosperity of its people.”

Guests were fascinated by a packed three days of entertainment, which saw over 20 workshops and seminars for artists and the public, 100+ local, national, and international Indigenous artists and performers, an exhibition gallery and gift shop featuring work by local and national artists, a round dance and tea dance with a community feast, artist demonstrations and cultural presentations.

ATC Chief Executive Officer, Karla Buffalo was delighted with the turnout. She shared the inspiration for the festival.

“Much of the inspiration for the festival came from the ATC chiefs. Over the last 10 years they’ve had regional gatherings in each of the local First Nations, and every two years they move to different locations. These gatherings have been a fabulous success, but were often attended by local community members only. So the idea was to bring all the communities together at the Snye – because many years ago this was a gathering place for our people.”

Another inspiration for the festival came from the well-known Whitehorse Adäka Cultural Festival. Buffalo attended it last year, and was impressed with what it did for the success of the community. The ATC Cultural Festival organizers worked with the Adäka Cultural Festival, and the result was a major hit.

“We’ve created a cultural connection with the ATC Cultural Festival. We wanted our multicultural community to learn about our people, and celebrate our region. And, the biggest thing is ensuring our children are learning from our Elders, and ensuring the revitalization and strength of our culture continues for many generations,” added Buffalo.


Kiran Malik-Khan is the Communications Manager for the Fort McMurray Public School District, and national award-winning communications professional. She is a freelance journalist, a communications professional, and a poet. She loves sharing stories about unique people, events, and organizations. Kiran is the co-founder and volunteer public relations director for NorthWord magazine, Fort McMurray's first and only literary magazine. She is also the President/Co-founder of World Hijab Day Fort McMurray. A proud Pakistani-Canadian who grew up in New Jersey, she is a fierce advocate of Fort McMurray, multiculturalism, women's rights, and equality for all. Got a story nobody is telling? Send her ideas: DM and follow on Twitter @KiranMK0822.