Hundreds gather for National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations in Whitehorse
Dakhká Khwáan dancer says June 21 is about 'celebrating our culture'
Hundreds of people gathered at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in downtown Whitehorse to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on Tuesday. The day — which falls on the summer solstice — is meant to recognize and honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures.
Jessie Dawson, councillor with the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, spoke at the opening ceremony for the day's events. She said the holiday "is a day we can feel pride and say 'this is who I am, this is where we are, and this is where I come from.'"
There were many activities throughout the day, including musical performances by Indigenous artists, a crafts market and the carving of a dugout canoe. Indigenous hip-hop band Snotty Nose Rez Kids were scheduled to perform at 9 p.m.
For Ron Rousseau, a Dakhká Khwáan dancer, June 21 is "not about truth and reconciliation." Rather, it's about "celebrating our culture, about sharing our dance and our song that was taken away for so many years."
Telecommunications company Northwestel provided free bannock and stew to those attending the events.
Several public figures took part in a salmon bake off, including Minister of Economic Development Ranj Pillai, Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations Peter Johnston, Yukon NDP leader Kate White, Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations Kluane Adamek and Commissioner of Yukon Angélique Bernard.
Pillai won first place for his salmon made using sea salt his mother collected from the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Nova Scotia.