In Canada, June 21st is National Aboriginal Day. It is a time to honor and celebrate the rich and diverse cultures of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, the Indigenous Peoples in Canada. I am most familiar with First Nations culture in British Columbia (BC) as I have been to several traditional powwows over the last 20 years. In BC, there are over 200 First Nations each with their traditions and language. Approximately 60% of the First Nations languages in Canada are spoken in the province.
In June 2015, I attended the 3-day Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. It was a weekend of unity and storytelling as First Nations and Métis peoples proudly shared their culture through dancing, drumming, singing, food and art.
The festival opened with a ‘welcoming of canoes’ ceremony that took place in the Victoria harbor. We were a mix of Aboriginal people, some in colorful regalia, and non-Aboriginal people that included local mayors, business leaders, and myself. We paddled in sync to the beat of the drum to ask Chief Ron Sam of Songhees Nation and Chief Andy Thomas of Esquimalt Nation to come ashore, a time-honored protocol. It was a historical and moving moment, as this had never been done before in Victoria.
Chief Ron Sam welcomed us ashore and stated the significance of the canoe ceremony when he said:
“You know I think it’s important, the acknowledgment, when we’re all in a canoe, pulling in the same direction. You know, I think that’s what we want to achieve on a daily basis. It’s a great honor for me to see you all taking part.”
I witnessed the great pride of the elders as they watched their children and grandchildren dance and drum, preserving their rich culture throughout the weekend.
Although National Aboriginal Day is a wonderful time to learn about and celebrate Indigenous culture in Canada, it is not the only time to do so.
Aboriginal Tourism BC is a non-profit agency that works to support and promote a culturally rich Aboriginal tourism industry in British Columbia. Their website is a fantastic resource to find authentic Indigenous experiences and events throughout the year.
Aboriginal Canada is a good resource to find events and experiences in our 10 provinces and 3 territories –
By Andrea Rees | www.wanderingiphone.com
Twitter & Instagram: @wanderingiphone