Sep 26, 2022
Posted in: culture
National Indigenous Peoples Day occurs each year on June 21. It 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 day was first proclaimed in 1996 as National Aboriginal Day and was renamed in 2017. Indigenous peoples want to see the recognition and appreciation occur every day and to be formally celebrated each June 21st.
GDI hosted a celebration with our partners, Batoche National Historic Site and Friends of Batoche Historic Site Inc. There was so much to celebrate. Over 300 children were on site learning about the Métis. Other special moments included Donny Parenteau performing and being the MC, opening the formal program with a prayer from Elder Margaret Harrison followed by the Métis and National anthems sung by Angela Rancourt and her students. The Smoking Sage Drummers from One Arrow First Nation provided honour songs for the day. Elders Harriet and Edwin St. Pierre were special guests honouring veterans and the Michif language. Donny continued to entertain those on site and one segment included Kate Boyer sharing her jigging skills. A very special moment was the unveiling of a plaque of Gregory Scofield’s poem, The Sewing Circle, in Michif. It was translated by Elder Sophie McDougall who was present to unveil the plaque with Gregory. This plaque stands beside the French and English versions that put “poetry in place” through the Project Bookmark Canada program. The poem imagines the experiences and conversations that went on among the women of Batoche in 1885, all around the non-threatening sewing circle.
Visitors also had the opportunity to tour the site and to view the rug exhibition created in partnership by Gabriel Dumont Local 11, Friends of Batoche, and the Gabriel Dumont Institute. It features many of the rugs made by Elder Margaret Harrison and contemporary rugs made by others following workshops through which she imparted her rug hooking skills.
Further from the visitor center, students enjoyed the mini voyageur games and a taste of bannock and jam in addition to tours of the historic church, rectory, cemetery, and Caron Home; places of great importance in telling the story of the Métis.
National Indigenous Peoples Day is always one filled with reverence and with joy. We revere the strength and endurance of those became before us and we joyously celebrate the success of their struggles by the very fact that we are still here and thriving. Of course this was easy to acknowledge over a bowl of bison stew, accompanied by bannock and Saskatoon berry tarts, while listening to fiddle music with old friends and as we made new ones.
A personal highlight for me was to see the GDI summer students and other GDI staff come to Batoche to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day.