Across Canada, citizens honoured National Indigenous People’s Day by celebrating the contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.
“We want to share what we know and learned over the years, including our history,” Saskatchewan Lt.-Gov. Russ Mirasty, who is a member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, said Tuesday.
Mirasty helped unveil a monument dedicated to residential schools, a direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission , which recommends installing a publicly accessible, highly visible residential school memorial in each capital city.
“We need a lasting place where people can come remember, reflect, pray and think about what residential schools did to our country and specifically Indigenous peoples,” he said.
The memorial draws from natural elements native to Saskatchewan. A rock in the middle of the circular garden features a map of the province detailing where every former residential school was. Below it is a smaller rock for smudging, and benches nearby for people to reflect or pray.
Meanwhile, Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, grand chief of Kahnawake, a Mohawk territory near Montreal, said the discoveries across the country are a chance to show “our strength and our courage in the face of so much adversity and (to demonstrate) that our languages and our culture are still there.”
“Make Indigenous languages the first language you teach your children, not French or English,” Sky-Deer said at a celebration in Montreal’s Old Port. “Be proud of who you are.”
In Winnipeg, communities spent the day coming together with feasts, dancing and ceremonies --after having been forced to spend the last two years apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our Creator has given us our language, our pipes, our teachings, our ceremonies. And they have given us our languages,” one residential school survivor said. “It’s a spiritual gift. It wasn’t given to us by man.”