On Saturday, June 23 hundreds of people came together at the Forks in Winnipeg to celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day at APTN’s Indigenous Day Live festivities.
It featured live performances from local and international artists, comedians and visual artists along with local craft displays, informational booths, face painting, food, fireworks and even a powwow hosted by Manito Ahbee.
This event happens every year but changes and evolves each time it comes around. This year, Indigenous Day Live happened in three communities concurrently: Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg. Highlights of artists who performed here in Winnipeg included Walk Off The Earth featuring the Walking Wolf Singers, William Prince, comedians Sasha Mark and Elissa Blackwolf Kixen and the Norman Chief Memorial Dancers.
As someone whose family has been affected by Indian Residential Schools and child welfare, I feel events like these are so important. For those who weren’t raised in their home communities and those who haven’t had access to their cultural teachings or language, these events provide various entry points to cultural revitalization and community re-connection.
For those who were privileged enough to have been raised with their teachings, it’s a chance to share with children, youth, other Indigenous folks and, when appropriate, non-Indigenous people too. It also gives everyone an opportunity to publicly appreciate and learn about the elements of First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture that make each of them distinct.
Indigenous people can and should use this day to celebrate with one another. For non-Indigenous people, remember it originated as Aboriginal Solidarity Day in 1996 — that concept of solidarity is important. We can’t celebrate the very real successes and gifts present within First Nations, Métis and Inuit people without also acknowledging the very real and very urgent challenges we are also facing. The child welfare system, the justice system, homelessness, education and health all struggle to support Indigenous people. So along with the celebration we must also stand in solidarity with Indigenous people.
I look forward to a generation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids growing up with their various cultures and languages intact; sharing with one another. A future where systems take care of everyone and Indigenous people and families are stronger, healthier and happier.
This can happen if all of us take every opportunity to celebrate with and stand in solidarity with one another. Events like Indigenous Day Live give me hope that our communities will soon stand together every day.
Michael Redhead Champagne is a community organizer and public speaker from Shamattawa, Manitoba, born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End. He hosted the cultural day stage at Indigenous Day Live 2018 in Winnipeg and is active in various culture and language revitalization initiatives through Aboriginal Youth Opportunities.