Organizations, agencies celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day differently this year
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Organizations and agencies in Sioux Lookout said they’ll be celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day and National Indigenous History Month differently this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, such as social distancing and gathering sizes.
The Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre (SLMHC) said they won’t be hosting their annual Anishinaabe Giizhigan Celebrations in honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day this year.
“Due to COVID-19, Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre will not be hosting our Anishinaabe Giizhigan Celebrations this year. However, we want to take the time to honour this day and hope that all of our patients, residents, families, staff and partners in health care take time to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 in your own unique way,” SLMHC shared in a statement on June 11.
“Here at Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre we are founded on Anishinaabe principles and values in everything we do. This is especially important for us to reflect on during National Indigenous History Month. MenoYaWin, in the Anishinaabe language means health, wellness, well-being. It refers to holistic healing and wellness, the whole self being in a state of complete wellness. At SLMHC, our care recognizes the relationship of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of the person. We embrace a holistic approach to healthcare, and know how important it is for patients and families to have the option of integrating traditional and modern healthcare every day here at SLMHC. We recognize and respect the cultural significance of the people whose healthcare is entrusted,” the statement continued.
Tikinagan Child and Family Services echoed a similar sentiment, stating they will also be celebrating both National Indigenous Peoples Day and Honouring Our Children Day differently this year. They said their prevention workers in First Nations communities are looking at hosting smaller-scale events to celebrate the occasions.
“Our communities will be celebrating Honouring Our Children Day and National Indigenous Peoples Day differently this year. As an agency, we celebrate Honouring Our Children Day on June 24, but each community works on, around, or after that date to celebrate in their own unique way. Our workers are still following the protocols outlined out by their communities and our agency in regards to social distancing and protecting others from potentially transmitted illnesses, so we’re working together to find a solution and ideas that can still allow us to celebrate children and their families. We will be taking the measures to make everyone feel safe, while still celebrating children. It will be a good time to help them get through this challenging time,” Tikinagan informed in a statement on June 10.
“For the most part, our prevention workers in our First Nation communities are looking at doing barbeques, smaller scale events than normal. In the past, we’ve tied the day in with Canada Day celebrations or fall feasts. We continue to celebrate this important day because it’s just one way to remind children of how important and special they are.
“This month, the organization celebrates its annual Honouring Our Children Day on June 24, which started in 2010 and is recognized throughout the summer by the agency and in each of the 30 First Nation communities. As well, the agency recognizes National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21), which provides all Canadians the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the unique culture, traditions, and history of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.
“While celebrations for both days will be different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic for Tikinagan’s 30 First Nations communities, families, and staff, the agency sees its work extending beyond one month or two days. Tikinagan’s mission is about honouring Indigenous history, traditions, and culture every day, 24-hours a day, while protecting children and supporting families,” the statement explained.
“Many of our values at Tikinagan are reinforced in Honouring Our Children and National Indigenous Peoples Day,” said Thelma Morris, Executive Director of Tikinagan.
“Our Elders share the history of our communities and the roots of our culture, providing us the wisdom, guidance, direction and encouragement. Also, language is the keystone to cultural identity and to the preservation of culture. We strive to communicate effectively using and promoting our First Nation languages, both verbally and in written materials, with the children, families and communities we serve,” Morris added.
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance shared the importance of celebrating National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day both in the community and across the country.
“The recognition and celebration of both National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day are important across Canada, and especially in Sioux Lookout. As the Hub of the North with a significant in town Indigenous population, clearly this matters to us. But Indigenous History Month and Indigenous Peoples Day must matter and be celebrated by all Canadians. This is a great time for non-Indigenous people to increase our awareness and knowledge of Indigenous History and the contributions made by Indigenous people in Canada,” Lawrance said.
Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs, issued the following statement on National Indigenous History Month on June 1:
“National Indigenous History Month provides an opportunity for all Ontarians to celebrate Indigenous heritage, diversity and culture while acknowledging and reflecting on the achievements of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.
This month is an ideal time to learn more about the rich history of the Indigenous peoples who shaped our province and our country. Acknowledging our shared history builds understanding and helps preserve Indigenous culture, traditions and languages.
Although we cannot gather in person this year to mark this important occasion, there are many opportunities to participate in virtual events taking place throughout the month and I encourage everyone to take part.”