National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrated from coast to coast to coast

People gathered in parks, community centres and public squares across the country for National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Date coinciding with the summer solstice celebrates First Nations, Inuit and Métis

A group of people pose for a selfie with hip-hop artist JB The First Lady at a National Indigenous Peoples Day event at Trout Lake in East Vancouver. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

People gathered in parks, community centres and public squares across the country on Thursday for National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The gatherings ranged in size, from a small community barbecue in Iqaluit, to a mini-powwow that drew about 1,000 people in the Millbrook First Nation, outside Halifax.

In B.C. alone there were more than 100 events on Thursday.

And in several places, such as Prince George, B.C., and Ottawa, the celebrations will continue for days.

Indigenous Day celebrations looked different depending on where they were held. They were diverse, just like Indigenous Peoples.

Some larger, urban events such as the one in Trout Lake in Vancouver were organized to celebrate and honour all Indigenous Peoples — First Nations, Inuit and Métis. The annual East Vancouver event had a mixture of musical performances, children's activities and a large vendors area where the lineup at the bannock trucks did not deter people from waiting for their frybread. 

Other events, such as a gathering held in Abegweit First Nation, were more specific to an individual community. On Thursday, the Mi'kmaq community in Prince Edward Island invited youth from three schools to take part in a first-of-its-kind gathering organized by the nation's chief, Brian Francis, and singer-songwriter Tara MacLean.

"The importance I think for me is in the true spirit of reconciliation, to have youth, school children from outside our community come into our proud, vibrant community, on this National Indigenous Peoples Day, to experience first-hand our culture, and all that we have to offer," said Francis.

Chief Brian Francis, Tara MacLean and P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan gather at Abegweit First Nation. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Reconciliation was also top of mind at an event in Kitchener, Ont.,. where youth came together to craft paper hearts with messages of hope and drawings and "planted" them in the front yard of their school to honour those affected by the residential school system.

A day of building relationships and connection

National Indigenous Peoples Day is recognized by the federal government as part of its Celebrate Canada program. According to Ottawa, 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."

For years people have been advocating for it to become a statutory holiday like Saint-Jean Baptiste Day or Canada Day.

Saskatchewan MP Georgina Jolibois is trying to make that a reality. Her private member's bill has gone through two readings in the House of Commons.

The day is already a statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories and Yukon.

"This day is a celebration," Tealey Normandin said at a summer solstice ceremony in Montreal.

Normandin is an outreach worker at the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal and a Sixties Scoop survivor.

Tealey Normandin was adopted at the age of three by a single mother from Lasalle, Que. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

"It is coming together with community, seeing my friends. For me as an adoptee, it acknowledges who I am and a key part of a community."

For people such as Don Barnaby, a Mi'kmaq northern traditional dancer from Listuguj, Que., National Indigenous Peoples Day and the Montreal summer solstice ceremony are opportunities to build bridges with non-Indigenous people.

"To share our culture and let people know that being Indigenous … we're not just the original people of the land, this is something that people get to live every single day," he said.