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A dancer competes at the National Indigenous Cultural Expo in Edmonton. Thousands of people came to the city for the first-ever expo event. (Kyle Muzyka/CBC) Darrell Brertton’s been a fancy dancer his whole life.

Brertton, from Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, competed in the traditional dance category at the National Indigenous Cultural Expo Friday at the Edmonton Expo Centre.

The 21-year-old is one of 2,500 expected performers at the powwow. Brertton said it’s one of the biggest powwows he’s ever seen in Canada. Darrell Brertton says the powwow is one of the biggest he’s seen in Canada. (Kyle Muzyka/CBC) "It’s a pretty spectacular event because there’s so many tribes that we haven’t seen before," Brertton said.

"It’s amazing. It’s good energy."

Around 10,000 people were expected for the event Friday. Festivities for First Nations, Métis and Inuit were scheduled, including dances, workshops and hand games.

Some dancers came from the United States, Brertton said, including some who may have been exposed to Inuit and Métis cultures for the first time.

"There’s a lot of people here who travelled far and wide [to get here]," he said. "I bet you there is a lot of States dancers that haven’t heard of Inuit dancers." More connected

For Elijah Halfe, the spotlight of fancy dancing doesn’t scare him like it used to.

The 14-year-old has been dancing for a decade — and it hasn’t always been easy for him. "When I was younger, I was really shy," Halfe said. but now I can walk out there and dance." Elijah Halfe, 14, has fancy danced for a decade. (Kyle Muzyka/CBC) Halfe dances with many of his friends, some of whom he dances against in the same category.

He doesn’t let it affect their friendship, though.

"It doesn’t really change our friendship or anything. It just makes us more close in the end," Halfe said.

Both Halfe and Brertton said the powwows make them feel connected — to themselves, their loved ones and their culture.

"It provides a lot of opportunity to make a lot of memories," Brertton said.

"It kind of makes you feel closer with yourself and everyone else," Halfe said. "You don’t feel lonely. Everyone’s around you. You feel welcomed."

The National Indigenous Cultural Expo continues through the weekend. The powwow continues through the weekend. (Kyle Muzyka/CBC) Kyle Muzyka is a Cree-Métis journalist and utility man for CBC Edmonton.

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