Communities across Sask. celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day

·4 min read
Regina's City Square Plaza was full of dancers and music for National Indigenous Peoples Day. (CBC - image credit)
Regina's City Square Plaza was full of dancers and music for National Indigenous Peoples Day. (CBC - image credit)

Across Saskatchewan, National Indigenous Peoples Day was celebrated in many ways Tuesday, but the day was also one of remembering past injustices.

A new memorial was unveiled on the grounds of Government House in Regina recognizing a dark part of Saskatchewan's history.

The Saskatchewan Residential School Memorial is dedicated to residential school survivors and those children who did not survive.

Elder Ted Quewezance, a former chief of Keeseekoose First Nation and a residential school survivor, said half of the people in his community are still on a journey of healing.

But healing from these past wrongs is a lifetime journey for everyone in Saskatchewan, he said.

Alexander Quon/CBC
Alexander Quon/CBC

"It's a journey of each and every one of you sitting here who are non-Indian," Quewezance said.

"Imagine a policeman coming to your doorstep and asking for a child, with the Indian Affairs — a car to take us away from our communities. I never met my mom. I never knew my mom till I was 10 years old.

"That's the painful thing about it. The sorrow that we all went through."

The monument's centrepiece is a rock from the north side of the Qu'Apelle Valley that features a map of Saskatchewan, showing where 20 former residential schools were located.

Alexander Quon/CBC
Alexander Quon/CBC

"We do have to remember," Lt.-Gov. Russ Mirasty said at the dedication.

"And we need a lasting place where people can come to remember, to reflect, to pray and to think about what residential schools did to our country, but specifically to Indigenous people. And those impacts continue."

The province said the memorial helps fulfil the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action 82, which calls for a residential school memorial to be installed in each capital city to honour survivors and the children who died.

CBC / Radio-Canada
CBC / Radio-Canada

Over their more than 100-year history, it's estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their communities and forced to attend residential schools.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation examining residential schools has identified the names of, or information about, more than 4,100 children who died while attending these schools, most due to malnourishment or disease.

Wanuskewin celebration

At Wanuskewin Heritage Park near Saskatoon, dancing, drumming and educational activities celebrated the continuation of Indigenous culture.

Travis Reddaway/CBC
Travis Reddaway/CBC

"So many times as a young person, I think hiding your identity was a big part of survival in Saskatchewan," said Candace Wasacase, who lives in Saskatoon and is a member of Kahkewistahaw First Nation.

"And this morning, I was able to actually work with a whole group of farmers, and we were talking about bison, and they were listening to Indigenous storytelling from our elders, and they've embraced this.

"And I no longer felt I had to hide my identity. I don't think I've ever felt that before."

Wasacase said coming to events like that gives her hope future generations.

Travis Reddaway/CBC
Travis Reddaway/CBC

"When I see you here at Wanuskewin, all these young people running around pride-filled, Indigenous and non-[Indigenous] children walking together, we're going to have a better future."

Wanuskewin CEO Darlene Brander said the celebration was a chance to "learn about our culture, to learn about traditions, to learn about why we do things as Indigenous people, and to have fun and participate in dances and to learn how to dance."

Travis Reddaway/CBC
Travis Reddaway/CBC

Regina, Saskatoon celebrations

Events and performances at City Square Plaza marked the return of in-person celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day in Regina.

"This is much more about highlighting the joy of the culture, the food, the dance, to acknowledge the grief and harms," said Regina Mayor Sandra Masters.

"But it's also then to think about how you go forward year-round to engage and to learn about these very things."

Travis Reddaway/CBC
Travis Reddaway/CBC

In Saskatoon, Métis Nation-Saskatchewan held a free barbecue, complete with fiddle music.

"Today is all about showing our Métis pride," said Kathie Pruden Nansel, a regional director with Métis Nation-Saskatchewan.

"For the Métis, a lot of our relations are First Nations.… We're all connected and the community of Saskatoon is all connected as well," Pruden Nansel said.

Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation also held a powwow on Tuesday to celebrate the day.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting