Celebrating National Aboriginal Day

This year’s National Aboriginal Day celebrations, which run from June 8-30 depending on the venue, include a teaching lodge and sacred fire on Thunder Bay’s waterfront.

volunteers - Rick Garrick - National Aboriginal Day
The volunteers who helped build the Rites of Passage teaching lodge on June 19 at Thunder Bay’s waterfront for National Aboriginal Day and Canada Day take a break after putting up the 13 main arcs that will hold up the tarp covers – Photo by Rick Garrick

“The teaching lodge is about socializing together, getting to know each other, getting to understand each other’s culture and sharing some teachings,” says Cindy Crowe, a Red Rock Indian Band citizen and lodge keeper of the Blue Sky Community Healing Centre in Thunder Bay. “So we’re inviting people of all cultures to come and share — what do they practice when people go through their different stages of life. What do they do when a woman is pregnant. What do they do when a child starts to walk. What do they do when a child hits puberty.”

A group of about 20 youth, Elders and community members set up the teaching lodge on June 19 near the Spirit Gardens on Thunder Bay’s waterfront. The 50-foot long, 18-foot wide structure was built with birch and poplar poles and will be covered with canvas tarps.

“It’s a ceremony, like our smudging ceremony or our pipe ceremonies or our sweat lodge ceremony,” says Crowe, who learned how to build the teaching lodge in 2007 from the late Elder Albert Mandamin. “It’s a ceremony about coming together and sharing together. We will have a sacred fire in the lodge, that will be burning when we are here.”

A group of volunteers work on the bracing to reinforce the 13 main arcs on the Rites of Passage teaching lodge that was set up on June 19 at the Thunder Bay waterfront for National Aboriginal Day and Canada Day - Rick Garrick - National Aboriginal Day
A group of volunteers work on the bracing to reinforce the 13 main arcs on the Rites of Passage teaching lodge that was set up on June 19 at the Thunder Bay waterfront for National Aboriginal Day and Canada Day – Photo by Rick Garrick

The teaching lodge is led by the Rites of Passage multi-cultural and multi-generational project, which received funding from the Ontario 150 Partnership Program and support from PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise, Blue Sky Community Healing Centre and other collaborating partners.

“(National Aboriginal Day) is important because a lot of people don’t know enough about Indigenous cultures,” says Hafsa Siddiqi, community chair of the Rites of Passage project. “National Aboriginal Day is an opportunity for people to come out and learn more, and I think that is very important in our country to do that.”

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day encourages people from all cultures to celebrate National Aboriginal Day. A list of National Aboriginal Day events is posted here.

“It is important that we acknowledge this as a way to create more awareness across the country that this land is based on treaties and it is based on original relationships and a covenant based on the Peace and Friendship Treaties,” Day says. “We take this opportunity annually to ensure that (Canadians) are well aware of not just historical issues, but current issues and realities facing First Nations people across the country.”

A group of volunteers work on the bracing to reinforce the 13 main arcs on the Rites of Passage teaching lodge that was set up on June 19 at the Thunder Bay waterfront for National Aboriginal Day and Canada Day – Photo by Rick Garrick

Day says there is still a lot of unfinished business as far as formal treaty arrangements, sharing of resources and sharing of decisions on what happens in the country.

“It is an important time, and it is one that continues to get better as a result of our people having a much greater say in what happens in Canadian society,” Day says.

The Toronto area is the host of three separate National Aboriginal Day events on June 21: Toronto’s Canada 150 Celebrations at Fort York National Historic Site; National Indigenous Day in the City of Brampton at Garden Square; and Canada 150-2017 at the SVBF Community Center at 80-84 Brydon Drive.

The National Aboriginal Day Celebration at Yonge and Dundas Square is scheduled for June 22 and the Traditional Outdoor Pow Wow Celebrating National Aboriginal Day at Fort York Historic Site is scheduled for June 24

 

 

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About Rick Garrick 2 Articles
Rick Garrick is an award-winning Indigenous freelance journalist and Lac Seul First Nation band member who lives in Thunder Bay with his partner and son. He has been writing stories and shooting photographs for Wawatay News, Anishinabek News and the Great Lakes Pow Wow Guide since the early 2000s after graduating from Print Journalism at Cambrian College in 2002. He mainly covers stories about Indigenous people from northern Ontario communities, but has also covered stories from Toronto and other southern Ontario communities.