The beat of drums pulsed around the inner harbour. It was National Aboriginal Day, and nowhere was it celebrated with more fervour than in Victoria, BC. Under a brilliant blue sky, more than 30,000 people enjoyed a continuous pageant of stage shows featuring dance groups and performers from around Vancouver Island and the mainland acting out traditional stories involving real and mythical creatures depicted by raven, orca, bear, and thunderbird masks. {break} Many other aspects of Native culture were presented including Metis jigs, guitar picking, flute playing and hoop dances. The presentations were dramatic, vibrant, colourful, and full of deep symbolic meaning. They were also interlaced with humour. In one performance, two dancers wearing wooden bird masks sneezed and picked their large beaks, then pretended to throw the outcome on the audience. The name of the dance? The Sacred Snot Dance, of course. The plaza in front of the Royal British Columbia Museum was packed for three days, a sun-soaked, happy, throbbing place. It was a great festival and a great National Aboriginal Day.

Alex Wells, three-time world-champion hoop dancer from the Lil’wat Nation, with 20 hoops, even one in his mouth. (Photo: Hans Tammemagi)

Four-year-old Lason Taylor is already a working member of the Le-La-La Dancers. (Photo: Hans Tammemagi)

Daniel Wells of the Lil’wat Nation, a flute player. (Photo: Hans Tammemagi)

The fierce-looking Teddy Sampson of the Tzinquaw Dancers. (Photo: Hans Tammemagi)

George Taylor, Kwakwaka’wakw Nation and Festival emcee, drums in the procession with the Lieutenant Governor (not pictured). (Photo: Hans Tammemagi)

A Le-La-La Dancer performs with a magical transforming mask. (Photo: Hans Tammemagi)

Devon LaPine, aka Hollywood, of the Lekwungen Traditional Dancers, with the largest drum in the Festival. (Photo: Hans Tammemagi)