Despite rainy weather in Smithers, National Indigenous People’s Day June 21 saw a joyous and large crowd turn out to enjoy entertainment and food and visit a wide variety of vendor and information booths.
The Witset Drummers and Muheim Elementary School Choir were among the entertainment highlights and a barbecue for the community kept people fed throughout the day.
All of the activities were held at the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Hall.
“Six hundred and twenty-eight people attended the celebrations in Smithers, and another 580 people attended similar celebrations in Houston,” said Annette Morgan, executive director of the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre.
“We were very pleased with the turn-out and thankful to all the volunteers.”
“Over the years the celebration has grown into an interactive fun-filled day that helps build generational and cultural bridges by inviting people of all ages, and from different cultural backgrounds, to come together to share knowledge and stories and celebrate the unique heritage and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis people,” Morgan said.
Mel Bazil, alcohol and drug facilitator at the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre, who also acted as master of ceremonies during the day, said the annual celebration is respite from more serious matters.
“Throughout the rest of the year [the Friendship Centre deals] with a lot of intense issues, so this is a great way to step away from that and put our best foot forward and celebrate what is good about our nations.”
National Indigenous Peoples Day, according to the Government of Canada’s website, is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The Canadian Constitution recognizes these three groups as Aboriginal peoples, now more commonly called Indigenous peoples.
Although these groups share many similarities, they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.
In cooperation with Indigenous organizations, the Government of Canada chose June 21, the summer solstice, for National Aboriginal Day. Since 2017, it has been known as National Indigenous Peoples Day.