Social Impact Stories

Celebrating National Indigenous History Month at Ekati Diamond Mine

June was a time of learning, celebration, and reflection, as Burgundy proudly hosted a series of events to honor National Indigenous History Month, inviting everyone at Ekati to immerse themselves in the diverse, vibrant cultures, and traditions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

Burgundy recognizes the traditional land use of our Impact Benefit Agreement (IBA) partners: the Tłı̨chǫ, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, and Łutsel K’e Dene First Nation, North Slave Métis Alliance, and the Hamlet of Kugluktuk & Kitikmeot Inuit Association.

“The company’s commitment to value and respect the diversity and inclusion of all Indigenous peoples by incorporating traditional knowledge and Indigenous history awareness into everyday life at Ekati, has always been something I feel proud about”. Said Keith Sangris, Site Services Superintendent, who’s worked at the mine for 25 years. Throughout the month, a variety of traditional meals were served at Ekati and Misery camps, providing a taste of Indigenous cuisine and offering opportunities for cultural exchanges and appreciation. The culinary celebrations culminated on June 20th, as everyone celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day with a feast that included pan-fried pickerel, Three Sisters Stew, and elk pie, with every dish conveying a story of heritage and tradition.

Following dinner, open invitations were extended to anyone wishing to attend or participate in The Dene Hand Games. These traditional games have been played for generations, and provide a space for learning, engagement, and mutual respect among friends. Dene drummers, Wilfred Crapeau, Benjamin Hardisty, Sizeh Sangris, and Jonathon Lafferty, created powerful rhythms and brought Indigenous music to life for everyone attending as they led the games alongside other employees and site guests, who participated in and thoroughly enjoyed this immersive cultural experience.

Employees, guests and Dene drummers, participate in The Dene Hand Games held at Ekati in celebration of National Indigenous History Month.

Yellowknives Dene First Nations member Fraser Goulet, who works as a haul truck operator at Ekati, shared this explanation:

“The Hand Games have a rich history as a form of entertainment among friends and different groups. People would bet on items like bullets, furs, dogs, toboggans, or matches. Nowadays, the Hand Games are a cherished activity in the community at various events throughout Dene country. It is a friendly competition that boosts community pride. The games revolve around the simple idea of hiding and guessing which hand is holding an object, using hand signals and gestures to add to the challenge and fun.”

Additionally, activities throughout June have included showings of various Indigenous movies and beading workshops for beginners as well as those more experienced at the craft. Attendees tapped into their creativity, making earrings, necklaces, along with other adornments.

Rebecca Plotner, Community Relations Advisor with Burgundy, noted the importance of National Indigenous History Month as time “for us to recognize and celebrate the rich cultures and histories of our Indigenous partners. Through these events, we hope to continue to build an environment of understanding and appreciation, where everyone can come together to honor and learn from each other.”

For all at Ekati, beyond enjoying the events, National Indigenous History Month is a celebration of culture, history, and community. By participating, we deepen our collective understanding and our appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of Indigenous people. The month-long celebrations allow us to express the year-round respect for the contributions and traditions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

A variety of colourful traditional earrings handcrafted by Ekati employees during beading workshop classes.

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