The Stoney Nakoda Nation has a rich heritage of bringing people together to celebrate their important roles in the community.

It was no different on Apr. 19 when the Îyarhe Nakoda Youth held their 5th annual Round Dance to Honour Youth. Over hundred people from the community joined in the celebration, including several singers.

Outreach manager Gabriel Young explains the focus is to honour youth in a cultural way in partnership with Stoney Health Services, Stoney Education Authority, and Stoney Nakoda Child and Family Services.

"A lot of the work we do in partnership with them supports the youth through cultural teachings, life skills and healthy coping to build more capacity," explains Young. "This is our fifth annual and it to start off the new year with a ceremony to ensure the Creators is with us, with our families, with our elders, and with our youth moving forward and day by day."

It's traditionally held on the cusp of the round dance and pow wow season. Round dances are held in the winter, a time of year set aside for healing and remembrance in the community and to help strengthen social bonds.

A select number of Stoney Nakoda graduates spoke at the beginning of the evening to talk about the importance of education in lives and inspired others to follow their dreams.

"They're like youth ambassadors who are royalty, who represent education systems," explains Young. "The round dance gives them a chance to share some of their talents and to express themselves so that they can support youth."

Kassius YoungKassius Young was one of the graduates speaking at the beginning of the round dance.

Kassius Young, who recently graduated high school in Canmore, was among those speaking. His goal is to study welding at SAIT.

Kassius remembers attending the special round dance when he was younger.

"I found it inspirational when I was a youth, and now I'm the one like inspiring the youth. They're the future."

RiderDesi Rider emceed the evening.

Desi Rider returned to emceeing for the celebration after taking a break for several years.  

"They are the next generation of our leadership and, if they want, can give the younger ones someone to look up to."

The evening also included an honour ceremony, games and giveaways.