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Collective celebration and pride on Indigenous Peoples Day

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Scattered thunderstorms couldn’t dampen the spirits of people and organizers who celebrated the 26th annual National Indigenous Peoples Day.

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Scattered thunderstorms couldn’t dampen the spirits of people and organizers who celebrated the 26th annual National Indigenous Peoples Day.

People shared stories, music, food and culture in the spirit of recognition and reconciliation in events across the city Tuesday.

It was a day of unity, said Louise McKay, an elder-in-residence with the Women’s Health Clinic and the Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Zeann Manernaluk performing Inuit throat singing at HSC for Indigenous Peoples Day. Indigenous Peoples Day, originally called National Aboriginal Day, is a time for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the heritage, diverse cultures and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

“This is not about colour. This is not about whether you’re Indigenous or non-Indigenous. This is about celebrating indigeneity… What is culture if you can’t share it?” McKay said. “By us coming together… we can reach more people. We can do more things.”

Indigenous Peoples Day, originally called National Aboriginal Day, is a time for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the heritage, diverse cultures and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

McKay said there has been a positive shift in Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people and she believes celebrations like Indigenous Peoples Day contribute.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A short downpour did not stop the festivities only slowed it down for a few minutes. People shared stories, music, food and culture in the spirit of recognition and reconciliation in events across the city Tuesday.

She pointed to the public sympathy following the discovery of potential unmarked graces at former residential schools across Canada.

“We haven’t come as far as we would like to, but we sure came a long way,” she said. “I think there’s more non-Indigenous folks today who are wanting to do more… If Kamloops happened (in 1996) instead of now, you would wish it would’ve had the same impact, but the impact today is, there’s more people being moved by something like that.”

In May 2021, potential unmarked graves were found at the site of the former Kamloops residential school. The discovery sparked investigations into sites across the country. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated the total number of potential graves to be around 3,200.

Since then, the federal government has promised to spend more than $320 million to advance reconciliation, Pope Francis has issued a public apology to acknowledge the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system, and Sept. 30 became the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.

With McKay’s help, the clinic and institute partnered with Neecheewam and Blue Thunderbird Family Care to host, “Hey Cuzzin’”, an Indigenous Peoples Day celebration they say will become a yearly event in Jacob Penner Park, located at 794 Victor St. The event included a pipe ceremony, prayers, a fiddle performance and free food.

Another crowd gathered blocks away at the University of Manitoba’s Brodie Centre at the Health Sciences Centre. It was standing-room only as elder Margaret Lavallee delivered a teaching about the significance of spirit names in Indigenous culture.

Before the pandemic, U of M hosted an annual celebration for the national day of recognition. Tuesday marked its much-needed return, said Melanie MacKinnon, head of the Ongomiizwin-Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing.

“I want it to be about celebrating one another, about individual and collective pride of who we are as a people and our culture, language, and achievements,” MacKinnon said.

Other events included a full day of live music at Old Market Square featuring performances from 20 Indigenous musicians.

Parks Canada hosted an event with Wa-Say Healing Centre at The Forks.

Portage, Selkirk, Dauphin, Flin Flon and Swan River hosted celebrations as well.

tyler.searle@winnipegfreepress.com

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