June 21stis known as National Indigenous People’s Day in Canada. It’s a time for the indigenous people to acknowledge the many achievements, share knowledge of the language, culture and traditions, and to celebrate our resilience.
National Indigenous Day is widely celebrated across the Northwest Territories; it’s an opportunity for the communities to come together, showcase our unique culture and partake in traditional events throughout the day.
I grew up spending most of my Indigenous People’s Day (or known as Aboriginal Day back then) in Fort Providence running wild around the arbor as the adults prepared themselves to compete in traditional events. It was a fun filled day, usually filled with sunshine, smiles and many bugs. Everyone was (and still is) welcome to attend the events and they usually consisted of a fire feeding ceremony, drum dances, fish derby, fiddling, jigging, tea boiling contest, and the list goes on.
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t excited for June 21stto come around, even as a kid, I knew it was a special day for everyone in my community to gather and celebrate our resilience.
Last year was probably the first time I spent National Indigenous People’s day in Yellowknife, where I now reside. There was a huge celebration planned for the Canada 150 campaign, and I wasn’t going to miss it. There was a massive stage set up in the middle of Yellowknife’s City Hall and hundreds of people come together to drum, dance, laugh, eat, sing and jig. Many dressed in their traditional garments, granny hankies, Dickson Designs headbands, and beaded jewelry and Reclaim your Power apparel. It was exciting to see and filled my heart with joy to witness all First Nations, Metis and Inuit people coming out to showcase their culture, traditions and pride.
This year my family gathered in that same spot, in Yellowknife’s City Hall lawn to celebrate with our friends and family. We listened to all of the speeches, sat in amazement watching the fiddlers and jiggers showcasing their fancy skills, listening carefully to the throat singers and watched excitedly to the Yellowknife’s Dene Drummers as they rounded up many people in a drum dance. The Metis Alliance cooked up hundreds of white fish free for everyone attending, it was so good the wait line wrapped around the block.
It is community gatherings like this that I hope to instill in my children’s memories. I want them to remember that June 21st(and every day) is a time to be proud of who you are, to remember where you come from and to pass on those teachings to their own.
Mahsi Cho to all of the volunteers over the years, I’ve only have good memories of my Indigenous People’s Day, and it’s all thanks to those who step up to volunteer their time to make it great!
– shawna mcleod