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'Wonderful community': Manito Ahbee Festival wraps up its 19th year

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Around 15,000 people passed through Red River Exhibition Park this weekend to mark the 19th annual Manito Ahbee Festival celebrating Indigenous culture and heritage.

“It's always a good time for everybody to get together and we like to think that the powwow is the kickoff to powwow season,” said Katherine Strongwind, the festival’s marketing and communications director.

Through its events, Manito Ahbee highlights dancers and creators from various Indigenous backgrounds. Saturday’s festivities even featured Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew, the province’s first First Nations premier who hails from Onigaming First Nation in Ontario.

“I think it's a testament to Manitoba and the changing climate since (the NDP have) been elected,” Strongwind said. “I think that everybody’s proud of Wab, of Mr. Premier.

“It's really important for young people to see that, you know, you can be successful and still be traditional and still be a dancer and be part of this wonderful community.”

@amcchiefsmb Anishinaabe Premier of Manitoba Dancing at the 19th Annual Manito Ahbee Pow Wow! #EverDeadly #PremierKinew #WabKinew #nativetiktok #manitoahbee #treaty1 ♬ original sound - AMCMBCHIEFS

Festival organizers also invited 600 newcomers to Canada to participate in the celebrations.

“It's also really important for non-Indigenous people to come into a welcoming space,” Strongwind said. “And everybody's here for a good reason.”

Strongwind added that organizers are already planning for next year’s Manito Ahbee Festival, the event’s 20th anniversary.

“We hope to add some bigger and and more dynamic events for next year so we can't wait,” she said.

While the festivities at Red River Exhibition Park come to a close Sunday, community members will be gathering for one final celebration Monday afternoon – the start of horse racing season, featuring Indian Horse Relay-Elite Indian Relay Association, in partnership with Assiniboia Downs.

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