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Metis dancers perform at National Aboriginal Day celebrations in downtown Yellowknife on Monday afternoon. The downtown event was sponsored by the North Slave Metis Alliance. ((CBC))

People in the Northwest Territories celebrated First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures on Monday as part of National Aboriginal Day, which is a statutory holiday in the territory.

Some of the largest events were held in Yellowknife, where people attended two separate gatherings this year: one being held downtown, and a more traditional Dene gathering at the Yellowknife River.

In recent years, Aboriginal Day celebrations were combined into one big central gathering, like last year's event at the Yellowknife arena's parking lot.

But organizers with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation said Aboriginal Day celebrations in the city have become too commercialized, so they held their own gathering by the river.

Bring back tradition

"Everybody's setting all these booths up for sale, to sell everything and anything," organizer Bobby Drygeese told CBC News.

"We are saying maybe we should just have our own [event], just to help bring back more of that tradition, more of the culture, into a lot of the celebrations."

The Yellowknives Dene First Nation's event included traditional hide-tanning, sewing and hand games.

The North Slave Métis Alliance sponsored the downtown Yellowknife event, which included a parade, fish fry and musical performances near city hall.

"The North Slave Métis Alliance sees this as a very important day and one that needs to be celebrated, so by default we had to fill a vacuum," alliance president Bill Enge said.

"We took the lead role in saying, 'We're going to have a celebration right here in Yellowknife for the 4,500 aboriginal people that reside in this community.'"

Festivities in Yukon

National Aboriginal Day is being observed elsewhere across Canada on Monday, including in Yukon, where festivities are underway in Dawson City and Whitehorse.

"This is a day to celebrate and share our art and our culture and celebrate aboriginal people from across Canada," said Katie Johnson, an organizer of the Whitehorse event at Shipyards Park.

"So basically we have an amazing lineup. We have a mix of contemporary and traditional performers, and a community drum circle … to get the community together."

Celebrations began early Monday in Carcross, where people took part in a sunrise ceremony that morning.