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The first Aboriginal Initiatives Gala was held at the University of Toronto on June 25. CUPE members Melanie Poulin from the National Aboriginal Council and Angela Connors from the CUPE Ontario Aboriginal Council were there for the occasion.

The evening began with prayers in the Severn-Ojibwe dialect from elder Alex McKay of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Innuniwug First Nation, followed by a traditional feast with bannock, wild rice, sweet potatoes, venison and salmon.

Following the meal, elders and Aboriginal writers spoke about the importance of preserving Indigenous languages. There was poetry and storytelling from First Nation scholars from across Turtle Island.

A fundraiser at the event raised over 9,000 dollars in support of preserving Indigenous languages.

The event also featured a five-minute dating game in the Severn Ojibwe dialect.

We learned the alphabet and were given five minutes to practice popular social phrases with other attendees,” said Aboriginal council member Melanie Poulin. “This inspired me to learn my mother’s language, as this is the Indigenous dialect she grew up with and still communicates with my Nokum (grandmother) and Noomshoom (grandfather).

The evening closed with youth drummers and prayers from the elder thanking our ancestors for bringing participants at the event together.