With the usual large gatherings being put on hold this year due to the current pandemic, there will be such a void left in celebrating Indigenous People’s Day in Canada and celebrations in Indigenous communities in general for the time being. Gatherings of family, friends, and loved ones are a central part of Indigenous culture, and these times where my family gathered are some of my best childhood memories.
Having been raised on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Southeast Montana, growing up we celebrated “Native American Heritage Day” during the fall in school. Usually there would be presentations, dancing, and storytelling from speakers and from your fellow classmates, which I thought was amazing, and brought many children together. Elders and community members from my reservation would come to school and give a huge presentation about Cheyenne culture, then seek you out after the presentation to really make you feel appreciated and that your culture was something to be proud of. Having attended school off of my reservation and it usually taking about an hour (usually longer) to get to school via two different buses everyday, this was always my favourite time of year as it felt like a piece of home was brought to you during your day.
Fast forward to the present day with me now residing in Winnipeg, I absolutely look forward to Indigenous People’s Day every year. It is a true blessing to get the chance to attend a Pow Wow, craft show, or any event that promotes Indigenous culture as each tribe, band, and community has such a beautiful and one-of-a-kind way of life. It is amazing to see the different ways people interact with different portions of the Earth and use the gifts that the land provides in different ways. If you have never attended a Pow Wow or craft show it is something that everyone should experience as the work that goes into someone’s regalia, beadwork, carvings, dance, or painting is something that always leaves me in awe.
So what happens this year without these gatherings? Of course with the current pandemic and social distancing guidelines the gatherings that we are used to won’t be occurring, so I have taken this chance to take time on June 21st to make sure that I set aside time to dive into my culture and appreciate where I come from and where I am today. There are also many great books to take advantage of to learn more about Indigenous cultures and some of my favourites are Indigenous Healing by Rupert Ross, Our Story by Thomas King, and Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
Aside from reading, if you are looking to see dancing take place, listen to storytelling, singing, or view beadwork and art from Indigenous artists I actually follow the Facebook group “Social Distance PowWow” and found it to be such a welcoming group with about two-hundred thousand participants. Folks from across the world show their talents and are having a Summer Solstice celebration this weekend and ending on Indigenous People’s Day. There are digital dances taking place this weekend and as I was writing this post I was watching the hoop dancing taking place and the dancers put on an amazing show. Though this doesn’t replace the in person experience, but I am very excited to see the different styles of dance and regalia from all over the world being showcased.
I hope those reading this blog are doing well during these stressful times and staying safe.
Néá’eše (Thank You),
Kendell Joiner- Service to Members Chair