National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrated in Sioux Lookout
Tim Brody - Editor
Hundreds of community members, visitors to Sioux Lookout, and students gathered at the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre (SLMHC) main entrance on June 21 to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Organized by SLMHC and the Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, the Anishinaabe Giizhigan celebrations included a BBQ lunch, a powwow, speeches from dignitaries, as well as a performance by the Asham Stompers.
Staff from Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre told stories to children in Ojibway and Oji-Cree during the celebration.
Kathy Loon, SLMHC traditional program manager, was one of the key organizers of the event. She stated, “This is a beautiful event. It’s getting bigger and bigger… This is, I believe, the fourth year we’ve done this and it’s gotten this big already. This is great.”
“On behalf of all of us, it’s a great day to celebrate together and appreciate each other. Please have a wonderful day,” SLMHC President/CEO Heather Lee said to those gathered.
Jim Robinson, NGFC board member, commented, “I want to thank the schools for coming out, the high school (Sioux North High School), Sacred Heart (School) and Sioux Mountain (Public School) and the elders group that came out and made this a success.” He too said he hoped everyone had a good time.
MC Chris Southwind echoed that statement, sharing, “I really appreciate you people coming here to this celebration, this gathering.”
Students from Savant Lake also attended the celebration.
Joan Winter, chairperson of the elders council which advises the health centre’s board of directors, provided an opening prayer. A grand entry followed.
Traditional teacher Ralph Johnson (PaShawOneeBinace) led the drum group at the celebration.
He told those gathered, “There are many things in our culture that were supressed for years and today we see humanity growing to accept some of the things that we have brought forward. I thank each and every one of you. There have been great steps taken in the way we’ve come together here, from the vision of four fasters that fasted to ensure health care is improved for Anishnabe people in this part of the world. I’m filled with joy that we see many of our sacred items as part of this institution here. We have our sacred eagle staff (which represents all the communities serviced by SLMHC). We have our drum, Pooni Ahki Pinese Kwe. We have a sweat lodge. We have that healing room. Among our people these things are valued and are a big part of our healing and wellness. I’m glad to see these as part of this institution.
Your effort in coming together here to learn more about our way of life on Aboriginal Day is a powerful gesture that we’re ready to move and take on the challenges to ensure that all people benefit from the sacred gifts that are also held by our sacred law keepers and sacred teachers.”
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance commented of the day, “On National Indigenous Peoples Day I was able to attend three events. The first was the celebration of the grand opening of the Lac Seul First Nation Fire and Emergency Response group and the donation of a fire engine from the City of St. Catharines. As well as myself and Sioux Lookout Fire Chief Robbie Favot, both the Mayor and Fire Chief from St. Catharines attended this special event - congratulations to Lac Seul First Nation, Fire Chief David Gordon, and all firemen and responders.
“Following that I was able to attend the Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations in the front grounds of Meno Ya Win Health Centre. I think there were about 400 people there and all were enjoying the festivities. On Friday evening I attended the screening of the film, The Grizzlies, put on by Equay Wuk and The Municipal Truth and Reconciliation Committee. This was a remarkable film about youth and community coming together set in an Indigenous community in Canada's Far North. Darlene Angeconeb was the key figure who brought this event to our community, thank you Darlene. All of these positive events and others that took place in and around Sioux Lookout on Friday speak to the important role played by Indigenous People in making Sioux Lookout the wonderful community that we are.”
June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada.
Sol Mamakwa recognized National Indigenous History Month in a video he released on June 19 on his Facebook page, Sol Mamakwa MPP for Kiiwetinoong.
Mamakwa is the MPP for the Kiiwetinoong Riding as well as the Official Opposition NDP critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
“In these roles, I hear from our communities, from Indigenous peoples in Kiiwetinoong and across Ontario. What I hear is that our communities continue to live with the effects of colonialism and systemic racism. We know this. And though we have to fight every day to make our communities better, we remain strong. We know that governments come and go. Policies and programs come and go. Some will be better for our communities, some will be worse. But in our communities every day, Indigenous people will continue to do the work that needs to be done to make our homes and families healthy and strong for the next generations. The government can choose to make that work more difficult or it can step up and work with our communities. Either way, we will continue to be here as we always have. This month, and all months I recognize the strength, resilience and hope of all Indigenous people in Ontario.”