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Many ways for Manitobans to honour resilience, culture during National Indigenous Peoples Day

As people come together to recognize National Indigenous Peoples Day on Friday, three community groups say the day is about celebrating the resilience of their people, culture and heritage. 

Wa-say Healing Centre executive director Wayne Mason Jr. said part of the reason why the organization is hosting a powwow at The Forks on Friday is to acknowledge the meaning of reconciliation, along with the lingering effects of the residential school system, which has been acknowledged by everyone from Canadian politicians to the Pope as a genocide.

“We do have a lot of survivors and their families that are still affected by the intergenerational trauma of residential schools,” Mason said. 

“It’s a big deal for a lot of our peoples, especially our young ones, and to recognize the elders for what they’ve gone through and to still be here strong.”

The celebratory activities will take place from noon until 9 p.m. near the Provencher Bridge for the third consecutive year, he said. 

There will be multiple performances from musicians and dancers, including the Spirit Sands Singers, a drum group named after the sandy region in Spruce Woods Provincial Park. 

People will also be able to participate in traditional ceremonial practices by offering medicine such as tobacco and smudging around a sacred fire near the tipis set up on the Parks Canada field. 

A woman dances in an outdoor powwow demonstration as people look on.
Powwow dancers celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day in Brandon on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, at the Riverbank Discovery Centre. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Mason said this day is a time to come together and make sure Indigenous families and survivors of residential schools, day schools and the Sixties Scoop feel heard, supported and celebrated for their resilience. 

Another group hosting events on National Indigenous People Day is Circles for Reconciliation, an organization located in Winnipeg’s North End. 

“It’s very important for Canada to know what happened with the Indigenous people … and that we need to start sharing that information and building a relationship with each other” said Grace Schedler, the group’s co-founder.

Schedler hopes that non-Indigenous people will befriend and learn from a First Nations, Métis or Inuit person during one of the events. 

She said Circles for Reconciliation will be hosting their second annual barbecue at Sergeant Tommy Prince Place from 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. It will include more than 25 artisans and vendors, performances from two Inuit throat singers and two sharing circles. 

Students from approximately six schools will participate in activities and help assemble a tipi, she said. 

Schedler, who grew up in God’s Lake Narrows, a remote community in northeastern Manitoba, said the day is about Indigenous people reclaiming who they are.

“I believe that if you know your language and your culture, things fall into place a lot easier,” she said. 

Schedler, who teaches speaking and writing in Cree, advocates for people, especially youth, to connect with their culture and learn the language in their community. 

“I really think that while I am still around, I am going to try and push that, you know, it’s important that you know your language because that’s your identity.”

Dancers dressed in traditional regalia enter a powwow.
Women’s Traditional Dancers enter a powwow at The Forks in Winnipeg during celebrations for National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, 2023. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

Will Goodon, minister of housing and property management for the Manitoba Métis Federation, said he’s seen the day’s celebrations evolve over the years where more Manitobans and Canadians come out to participate in activities and learn from each other. 

The MMF will be hosting events across the province in The Pas, Dauphin, Brandon and Selkirk, which is typically their biggest event that they’ve held annually for the last 17 years. 

Celebrations at Selkirk Park will include a pancake breakfast starting at 9 a.m., ceremonies, a barbecue, Red River Métis entertainment, MMF department and affiliate booths and a Red River Métis market. 

Goodon said he will be attending the event in Brandon at the Riverbank Discovery Centre. There will be a pipe ceremony at 10 a.m. followed by an opening ceremony at noon with performances and activities until 7 p.m. 

One of the activities Goodon is looking forward to the most is cooking bannock on a stick. 

“You got to watch the ones who know what they’re doing,” he said. 

“If you do it right and have patience, it is absolutely unbelievable.”

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