What does National Indigenous Peoples Day mean to you?
People from across Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation weigh in on the significance of June 21
Richard Bannon: 'I just love being native. I love it.'
What does National Indigenous Peoples Day mean to Richard Bannon?
"Just being proud to be native, helping my community," he said as he worked on building garden boxes on Fort William First Nation, "getting along with people and getting out of all the bad stuff about the racism and stuff like that. I just wanted to try and give respect to everybody, and that's part of our culture, you know? ... Respecting one another as people."
Bannon and his colleagues are building a total of 40 large garden boxes, 21 of which they've already made, and filling them with vegetable plants, he said. The First Nation's Ontario Works office will deliver the portable gardens to select people's homes as part of a social inclusion project that will also provide guidance on tending to the plants.
"This is the first time I ever built this," he said. "I just looked at these ones over here then I just ... did it the way it looked over there."
It feels good to feel like you've accomplished something while helping your community, Bannon added.
"I just love being native. I love it."
Kimberly John: 'a time for me to reflect on my culture'
National Indigenous People's Day is a time for Kimberly John to reflect on her culture and her family history, she said.
"I think about my grandmother teaching me to speak native language when I was little," said John, whose mother is from the Pays Plat area and whose grandfather is from Red Rock. "Unfortunately then she passed on, so we learned to count to number five together, so that was really important ... I was probably maybe five or six, and I still remember it."
John also reflects on her family's decision to leave the reserve and move to Toronto, where she was born, she added.
"It's a big change for my family, and we've kind of become colonized, and yet we still have a piece of our identity," she said.
John is taking a day off work for National Indigenous Peoples Day, she added, and is thinking of bringing her son to the powwow.
David Fish and Ismel Gonzalez: 'Every day should be National Indigenous Day'
For Ismel Gonzalez, National Indigenous Peoples Day is about recognizing that Indigenous people are the country's first people and that non-Indigenous people are settlers on the land.
"I think that every day should be National Indigenous Day," said Gonzalez, who is the associate director of the English Language Centre at Lakehead University. "I think that we need to acknowledge that every single day and really have that in our minds."
Gonzalez's colleague, English Language Centre academic coordinator David Fish, said the day, for him, is about being aware of the customs and culture of Indigenous peoples and understanding their history and struggles.
It's also about recognizing that Lakehead is situated on the traditional territories of the First Nations.
Asked how he lives that understanding day to day, Fish said, "to be aware and to try to become knowledgeable as much as possible."
Asked the same question, Ismel pointed to land acknowledgements at public gatherings that he's a part of and said that, privately, he tries to educate his family about Indigenous issues.
He also pointed to initiatives at the university aimed at educating students about Indigenous issues, notably, a program at the English Language Centre that allows people to learn about Indigenous topics while improving their English.
The program has been offered for about a year and a half, Fish said, and so far, the biggest uptake has been from Indigenous Mexican students seeking to learn more about the situation for Canada's First Peoples.
"They often times can compare it to their own experience and see similarities and differences," he said.