Mi'kmaw culture on display for National Indigenous Peoples Day despite COVID-19
Treaty Education Nova Scotia launches virtual initiative to celebrate June 21
National Indigenous Peoples Day will look very different this year, but the beauty and resiliency of Mi'kmaw culture will still be on display in Nova Scotia, says Loni Vicaire.
While COVID-19 has cancelled the Mawita'jik Powwow in Dartmouth as well as many other gatherings, Vicaire is encouraging people to stay connected from afar by sharing videos and photos with the hashtag #treatyeducationNIPD.
Vicaire works with Treaty Education Nova Scotia and posted an invitation on Facebook this week asking people to take part in the virtual celebration.
She said drummers can share their favourite songs and dancers can showcase their regalia and explain the meaning behind the intricate designs.
"I'd like to see people showcasing Indigenous artwork or beadwork, you know, favourite poetry or your own poetry," she told CBC's Information Morning on Friday. "We've been here for thousands of years, and I think it's important to show that resiliency."
Vicaire lives in Halifax and is from Listuguj First Nation in Quebec. She usually travels home to be with friends and family on National Indigenous Peoples Day.
This year, she said she'll been staying connected through video conferencing calls.
While Nova Scotia lifted even more public health restrictions on Thursday, large gatherings are capped at 50 people and people must physically distance.
Trevor Sanipass, Information Morning's Mi'kmaw culture columnist, said an important part of National Indigenous Peoples Day is the sharing of stories.
One story his family tells is about wiklatmu'j, small Mi'kmaw rock spirits who live in mountains and hills.
"Some stories that I heard when I was growing up is that if you don't finish your chore, wiklatmu'j would come around and finish for you, but they wouldn't be happy and you don't really want these wiklatmu'j to be angry at you because they may play tricks on you," Sanipass said.
Hear Trevor Sanipass share a story about wiklatmu'j:
June 21 is also the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.
"There's lots of food, berries, the seeds that we planted are growing, so we celebrate life, really," Sanipass said.
This year, National Indigenous Peoples Day comes at a time when people around the world are standing up to systemic racism and police brutality.
Vicaire said she has hope that people are finally listening.
"The Indigenous community has known these things for so long and we've lived it and I think the general public, they're starting to see it," she said. "They're starting to hear it, and I think people are just starting to care."
With files from CBC's Information Morning