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Larson Yellowbird Jr. from Samson Cree Nation will dance at the expo with his father, Larson Yellowbird Sr. (Serena Mah) Thousands of Indigenous people from across North America will come together Friday in Edmonton for the first-ever National Indigenous Cultural Expo.

Canada’s largest powwow, Mé​tis festival and Inuit showcase will fill the halls of the Edmonton Expo Centre Sept. 28-30.

It all came together in one year.

The effort to build the event began at last September’s National Gathering of Elders in Edmonton, which was attended by 5,000 First Nations, Inuit and Mé​tis elders from across the country. Thousands of elders come together in Edmonton for 1st national gathering

Expo co-ordinator Judy Kim-Meneen said the elders decided there and then that they needed "to do a grassroots effort on reconciliation."

And they didn’t want to wait until the following National Gathering of Elders in Manitoba in 2019.

"They wanted something done this year," Kim-Meneen said on CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active. "So, the cultural expo was born."

The event will kick off Friday afternoon when thousands of people from 650 First Nations take part in the Grand Entry.

Indigenous food, music and dancing will follow over the weekend.

Larson Yellowbird from Samson Cree Nation and his son Larson Yellowbird, Jr. will be participating in the men’s fancy dance.

"I want to highlight our style of dancing to all of the world. Being Canada’s largest — maybe the world’s largest — powwow, I thought it was an opportunity to express my style of dancing," said Yellowbird.

"I’m looking to see, from the First Nations side, all the best dancers to come out and bring their best style. For the Inuit and Mé​tis, I’m looking for them to share and showcase their style of dance as well."

There will be a fashion show by Indigenous designers, a jigging competition, and workshops on moccasin-making and beading. The Inuit showcase will include Arctic games. A trade show will feature more than 100 booths. A meaningful date

The expo dates were chosen to coincide with Orange Shirt Day, Sept. 30, which recognizes the harm done to residential school survivors.

"Residential schools literally stripped culture and language from a child," Kim-Meneen said. "So it’s really significant that we have this historic, massive cultural expo to really show it’s alive and well — it’s thriving. There’s so much vitality and diversity of Indigenous culture in North America."

The event is open to the public, and the organizers encourage everyone — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — to participate and learn from one another."It’s important for non-Indigenous people to come down because they [may never have] had this opportunity," said Yellowbird."It’s a perfect opportunity for people who don’t have the time to come out to powwows, which are usually hosted on First Nations reserves. This being in Edmonton, in their backyard, it’s an opportunity to come out and see this great style of dancing."Kim-Meneen also said the expo is a public event, open to everyone."There will be so much joy this weekend," she said. "Whoever you are, you will feel the beat in your heart."

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