Tuesday marked National Anishinaabe Day celebrations near Canal Drive beside the Parks Canada building.
Organized by Batchewana First Nation, the Indigenous community and non-Indigenous visitors enjoyed drumming, dancing, singing, food from Indigenous vendors and Indigenous arts and crafts.
“Today is culturally significant,” said Joel Syrette, a Batchewana First Nation band member, well known powwow emcee and Algoma District School Board Indigenous Education Lead.
“We’re heading into what we know as The Strawberry Moon and around this time of year, traditionally for Indigenous people all over North America, the work in preparation for the coming of winter would happen. As part of our summer activities, we would start to gather our plants, our food, plant our gardens and start harvesting and preparing for the coming season.”
“One of the things I heard our elders say is that today was always a celebration as the longest day of the year because tomorrow the work begins. That’s an old Ojibway quote, a philosophy. We were always traditionally early for that because we had to be,” Syrette said.
“Typically around this time of year it’s a celebration because we‘re giving thanks for everything we have in the natural world to sustain life.”
Indigenous communities across Canada celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day on Tuesday.
Families and friends started gathering at the site beside the Parks Canada building at 11 a.m., followed by a powwow beginning at 12 p.m.
A feast was scheduled for 3 p.m., the day to close off with fireworks in the evening.
Syrette said residential school experiences and the finding of graves of children at those old school sites “is always a sensitive issue. We don’t call them discoveries, we call them findings or uncoverings because our elders tell us they always knew that there were children there that didn’t come home…but the best way to acknowledge those children is to celebrate our cultural life ways because they were not able to.”
“Part of the reason why we sing, why we dance, why we have powwow celebrations is because we’re also dancing for those who couldn’t. It’s a way to dance for those generations who could not and also pass culture forward to those future generations that are still to come.”
“It’s awesome,” said Syrette of the opportunity to celebrate culture on the first day of summer.