Planning underway for National Indigenous Peoples Day

·4 min read

Community members have united to organize Brandon’s celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day in June, bringing together a cross-section of partners to promote cultures and traditions.

Celebrations are slated to take place across Brandon on June 21, with the majority of festivities occurring at the Brandon Riverbank Discovery Centre. Activities include singing, dancing, artisans, drumming, teachings and other initiatives to honour National Indigenous Peoples Day (NIPD).

It is exciting going into the 2022 celebrations, said Shannondoah Fleury, co-chair of the Brandon NIPD committee, because organizers know they will be able to host in-person festivities for the community for the first time since 2019.

"It’s almost like a kid at school, you’re excited to show your friends something. You want to show your community your culture," Fleury said.

The critical aspect of NIDP festivities is being able to show pride and celebrate Indigenous cultures and traditions, said Charlena Thies, Brandon NIDP committee co-chair. One of the key activities in June will be a traditional powwow.

The powwow will be different from past years, she said, as it will be an opportunity for people to dance and not just watch demonstrations. In previous years dancers would explain different dances and host a small round dance to wrap up the event.

"This year we’ll have the powwow and then the community can go and enjoy taking part in the powwow," Thies said.

The committee has brought together multiple community partners to make the event a success, including the Brandon Friendship Centre, Manitoba Métis Federation Southwest Region, Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council, Brandon Police Services, Assiniboine Community College, Brandon University, the Riverbank Discovery Centre, Brandon Big Brothers Big Sisters, the John Howard Society of Brandon and community members.

These groups came together because they see the importance of showcasing Indigenous artists, cultures, songs, dances and traditions, Fleury said.

"Everybody’s waiting to have that celebration just to see people and get out there and be a part of the community," Thies said.

Moving forward, fundraising will be critical in the coming months to help fund planned events.

A buds, suds and steak night is planned at Houstons for $30 a ticket on June 3. A silent auction will be taking place during the event. The committee is looking for donations and sponsors to support the upcoming fundraiser and NIPD in June.

Entertainment is top of mind for the event to ensure visitors have fun activities to participate in, said committee member Lacy Roulette, while highlighting local talent in the community.

"I feel like we have a lot of Indigenous talent that we want to highlight and give the opportunity to highlight — local and outside of Brandon."

It is exciting because the day can serve as a platform to promote and build the careers of entertainers in the community. Roulette cited Winnipeg-based country and folk singer-songwriter Don Amaro who performed at Brandon NIDP in the past and has seen his success grow in recent years.

"I hope they recognize the value in Indigenous knowledge and worldviews. I hope that they take into consideration the traditional aspects of things and how knowledge has been passed from generation to generation through dance, through song, through teachings," Roulette said.

"We’re slowly coming out of the pandemic. People are more comfortable gathering. It’s outside in the fresh air and there’s a lot of space for people to be around."

Valerie Sandy, John Howard Society Men’s Resource Centre program facilitator, said NIDP events planned by her organization will complement events taking place at the Riverbank Discovery Centre. The different organizations can work together to provide a full experience for the community and showcase pride in Indigenous cultures.

She hopes to see the community stand proud in June and make space to honour the important place Indigenous culture and traditions have in Brandon and Canada.

John Howard will host its second Smudging Our Streets event to honour the Summer Solstice, a community walk and feast for the community on NIPD. The special smudging ceremony offers a chance for spiritual cleansing.

The event serves as an opportunity to build bridges, Sandy said. Men’s resource centre members are always looking for ways to give back and be a part of the community with positive initiatives.

Participating in NIDP is a time to celebrate, take pride in and reclaim Indigenous cultures and traditions. It is also a chance for those who are non-Indigenous to engage to learn and understand the cultures better.

"Despite the things that we went through as Indigenous people, we are still here. We still sit here and talk about these things, we still smudge, we still dance, we still sing despite everything," Sandy said. "We can take that pride back into who we are, find our roots and stand proud."

Contact Fleury or Thies for more information on volunteering or sponsorship opportunities at bfc.cpnp@mymts.net or sfleury@southwestmmf.ca.

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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