July 20th, 2024

City holds inaugural ceremony to honour Indigenous Peoples Day

By BRENDAN MILLER on June 22, 2024.

Dancers perform during powwow in Kin Park on Friday afternoon as the city honoured National Indigenous Peoples Day with several events, including an inaugural ceremony at city hall.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER


Members of the Miywasin Friendship Centre shared knowledge on the significance of the Blackfoot smudge during an inaugural ceremony that took place at city hall as the country came together to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on Friday.

Indigenous artist and storyteller Brenda Mercer says it’s important to share knowledge on how to smudge during the ceremony that honoured the rich history, traditions and culture of Indigenous people at city hall, which stands on traditional Blackfoot land.

“It’s like going to church, because when we smudge and we have our medicine out, nobody talks. This is a time for us to reflect on good intentions and what we want to get out of this smudge.” explained Mercer. “Usually when people smudge it’s to create best intentions in us, it’s to help us be the best we can be.

“I think talking as we went through the smudge helped people because maybe they’ve never been exposed to smudge or the smudge process.”

During the sacred ceremony, sweetgrass, sage or cedar is burned to purify the body, mind, heart and spirit of all persons who entered the ceremonial area.

“This is about recognizing the resiliency of Indigenous people and for Medicine Hatters to recognize that we are on Indigenous land,” says Mercer.

During the ceremony Mercer presented Mayor Linnsie Clark with a handmade rawhide drum, a personal gift that shares knowledge of her ancestors.

“I think the drums are very, very personal.” she says. “I feel like it would be wonderful if I could give everybody in Medicine Hat a drum of their own because it comes with teachings, and teachings are just another way to pass on knowledge.”

Mercer told reporters she hopes to continue hosting Indigenous Peoples Day ceremonies at city hall in the future and hopes to include more Indigenous community members.

“I think that when we hold space for each other, we learn from each other,” says Mercer. “And I think this creates an opportunity to do that again. I really feel like reconciliation is one thing, but today was reconcili-action for people to come down here and be in this space, it was fantastic.”

Saturday the city is welcoming residents to enjoy local Indigenous vendors, join a drum circle and watch a ribbon skirt fashion show during a block party celebrating Indigeneity at Towne Square.The free event runs between noon and 4 p.m. and will include teachings from Charlie Fox about proper protocol when meeting an Elder, the significance of his headdress and the presentation of tobacco.

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