National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrated in Sioux Lookout
Tim Brody - Editor
“If any community should celebrate (National) Indigenous Peoples Day, that isn’t a First Nation, it’s certainly Sioux Lookout,” shared Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance on the morning of June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, before jointly raising a new flag of Obishikokaang (Lac Seul) First Nation at the Travel Information Centre with Lac Seul First Nation Chief Clifford Bull.
“As Sioux Lookout moves along the path of reconciliation, which is a long path, symbolic events like this are part of it, it’s an annual flag raising where we formally acknowledge that we’re on the Lac Seul First Nation territory and we lower the flag and raise it and keep it up all year as part of that acknowledgement,” Lawrance shared.
“I think on any given day half of the people who are living in our town or in our town are Indigenous people. It has become really the core of what we do as a service centre for the Indigenous people who live here, the First Nations to the north, whether it’s healthcare or education, business, social services, Indigenous government and agencies, that have set up here and mean so much to our municipality,” Lawrance said.
Chief Bull acknowledged the strong relationship between Lac Seul First Nation and the Municipality of Sioux Lookout and organizations within the town, stating he wants to see those good relationships continue.
Reflecting on National Indigenous Peoples Day, before he and Lawrance raised the new Obishikokaang First Nation flag he had brought with him, Bull shared, “A day of celebration, reflection, and thinking about our shared history and how far we’ve come together. And to reflect on the past and reflect on doing things better together. As we know, First Nations have gone through a lot of turmoil, and we’re still living through those with our missing and murdered women and young girls, with the incarceration rates of our First Nations peoples right across Canada, which is very high, our missing children that never went home from residential school, our children in care. We also think about the contributions that Indigenous people made, great contributions that made this country great.”
Bull went on to state, “Today we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day, we acknowledge and celebrate the history, the heritage, the resilience and diversity here in Canada including the Metis and Inuit. We also ask people to think about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, which has 94 recommendations, and how you can do your part to implement those recommendations so that we can work together, heal, and make Canada a better place for all Canadians.”
That afternoon, community members were invited to Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre for National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations, which included a BBQ, grand entry, drumming, dancing, and speeches by dignitaries.
SLMHC President and CEO Dean Osmond told those in attendance, “This year’s celebration is a joint venture between the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre and the Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre.”
Acknowledging the health centre sits upon the traditional lands of Obishikokaang First Nation, Osmond said, “I acknowledge their sacred lands, their home for centuries, I acknowledge their governance structures, language and culture that exists today. Land acknowledgement is an active thing. The Anishinaabe people and their ancestors have always acknowledged one another’s land and space, a sign of respect. We must continue to acknowledge all sacred land of all First Nations.:”
Kathy Loon, SLMHC Executive Lead for Indigenous Collaboration and Relations, shared, “The Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations at the SLMHC was a huge success. This is the first Indigenous Peoples Day celebration since the COVID-19 pandemic, and its success is credited to the many volunteers and staff from both Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre (NGFC) and SLMHC.” Loon said, “We estimate more than 1000 people showed up to celebrate with our Elders, patients, clients and staff members. It was great to see dancers and drummers from the community, and a special thank you goes out to the Asham Stompers who travelled from Manitoba to showcase the Metis culture. SLMHC and NGFC plan to continually expand on this event every year.”
Osmond added, “The National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration was a great success. I would like to thank Elder Ralph Johnson for his opening prayer, as well as Chief Clifford Bull and Mayor Doug Lawrance for their opening remarks. A huge thank you to all who participated and to the staff of both SLMHC and Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre for their volunteer efforts. We are thankful for the opportunity to once again celebrate with our community.”
The day was observed as a statutory holiday in Lac Seul First Nation.
In Sioux Lookout, local schools also celebrated National Indigenous People’s Day.
Emily Hamilton, Sacred Heart School Principal, shared, “On this day, Sacred Heart School staff and students honoured and learned more about Indigenous histories, languages, cultures, experiences and worldviews This year, Sacred Heart staff and students attended the community Powwow. Leading up to the day, our classrooms participated in stories, songs, and teachings. Our students deepened their understanding of Indigenous culture with our traditional knowledge keeper, Victor. We also had an incredible presentation ‘Your Voice is Power’, featuring Dakota Bear and other Indigenous Leaders. Sacred Heart School shared the storybook “Go Show The World” written by Wab Kinew on the main trail at Cedar Bay.”
Hamilton cited the following passage by Kinew, “Go Show the World” showcases a diverse group of Indigenous people in the US and Canada, both the more well known and the not- so-widely recognized. Individually, their stories, though briefly touched on, are inspiring; collectively, they empower the reader with this message: “We are people who matter, yes, it’s true; now let’s show the world what people who matter can do.”
Barbara Van Diest, Sioux Mountain Public School Principal, shared, “We celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day with games, art, sport and food! Jennifer Manitowabi from Connected North did some beautiful art with our students.”
Sioux North High School staff member Christine Suprovich shared, “To celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day at Sioux North High School, Ms. Palumbo’s and Mr. Coughlin’s food classes, in collaboration with Ms. Martin’s classes made and served baked bannock for the entire student body. Fried bannock was also brought in, served and enjoyed by many. Ribbon skirts were proudly worn by both staff and students, some of which were made this year at a Ribbon Skirt making session with The Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, sponsored by the RRNST at KPDSB.
“Desta Buswa and Elder Josephine Turtle from Keewaytinook Okimakanak Board of Education (KOBE) surprised us in the morning with cinnamon buns. Students and staff were encouraged to practice their Anishinaabemowin to receive one.
“In the afternoon, Ms. Martin’s Anishinaabemowin class braved the heat and attended the Pow Wow hosted at The Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre.
“Although the end of June is a busy time for culminating activities and wrap up, it is important to celebrate the history, rich culture, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people of Canada.”