By KELLEN TANIGUCHI on June 22, 2021.
The beating of a drum echoed out of Riverside Veterans’ Memorial Park on Monday as people gathered as early as 9 a.m. for traditional dancing, prayers and more on National Indigenous Peoples Day.
“It represents our people, represents also the people that have gone to the Spirit World and also to put awareness out there for the missing Indigenous women, children and men,” said Dakota Brant, Mohawk from Six Nations reserve in Brantford, Ont.
The day began with an opening ceremony capped off by a minute of silence to honour the 215 children found buried at the residential school in Kamloops.
Dancing took place throughout the morning, with a barbecue lunch offered at noon followed by a round dance at 1 p.m.
“Usually, it’s a dance honouring women or someone who passed away in a family,” he said. “All the people come together, and each person has a spirit. So, the more spirits in that circle, the stronger that circle becomes and our prayers, our voices, our thoughts get out there to the Spirit World and come back in a good positive way.”
Niomi St. Paul, from Winnipeg, was dancing in the park Monday. She has been dancing for 10 years and she says it’s important to her and her favourite thing to do.
“My people is very important to me and especially for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women because I do have a cousin that’s still missing,” said St. Paul. “It’s very important to me because we still can’t find her and it’s kind of emotional. This is my favourite thing to do, I just love dancing just to represent my people.”
It was the second year Brant and St. Paul have organized the event and Brant says it’s an honour people in the community come to support it.
When Brant was banging the drum early in the morning, two eagles flew over the park and Brant says eagles fly over at every powwow he’s been in the past 56 years.
“When they hear the heartbeat of Mother Earth, that’s that drum, they seem to follow,” he said. “It’s just a natural thing, they love to hear the heartbeat of that drum.”
Brad Potha also had a table set up in the park with apparel and masks for sale from his new downtown shop, Evil Threats Apparel. He says it’s important for him to take part in events like this one.
“It’s important to me because it’s part of my culture,” he said. “I grew up in Kamloops, not far from the school where they found all the children. So, being out and about in stuff like this, it does mean a lot to me,” he said.