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Wendy Rose: National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrated in St. John’s

In recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day on Thursday, the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre held celebrations to mark the event at the Techniplex sports complex in Pleasantville. Above (from left) Alaina Joe, Adriana Pack and Rebecca Sharp, perform a drum dance during the opening ceremonies.
In recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day on Thursday, the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre held celebrations to mark the event at the Techniplex sports complex in Pleasantville. Above (from left) Alaina Joe, Adriana Pack and Rebecca Sharp, perform a drum dance during the opening ceremonies. - Joe Gibbons

A flutter of colourful cultural activities, the Techniplex Centre by Quidi Vidi Lake hosted the St. John’s celebrations of National Indigenous Peoples Day, hosted by the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre.

Observed on Thursday, June 21, Canadians coast to coast commemorated Indigenous Peoples’ culture and heritage, as we work together towards reconciliation, recognizing and implementing indigenous rights, and just generally making Canada a better country for everyone within it.

St. John’s kicked off the nation’s celebrations, starting off early with a sunrise ceremony of singing and drumming in Bannerman Park.

Arriving at the Techniplex around 5 p.m., we walked into a gorgeous display of traditional dancing, as people dressed in full regalia danced around in a circle, their shawls of colourful satin fringes rippling with every wave of motion.

A particularly colourful emcee directed the group, amping up the energy of the crowd, which included local government delegates and Premier Dwight Ball.

Ball’s presence was noted by emcee Possasom Paul.

“Reconciliation starts now! Put your money where your mouth is,” he yelled into the microphone, urging Ball to join him and the dancers on the floor.

“It’s just left, left, right, right,” Paul said, showing Ball how to move his feet in time with the beat provided by the East Boyz drum circle.

In between the spectacular displays of cultural dancing, a series of games entertained the many young children in attendance.

A traditional Inuit game of hopping with one foot tucked into the back of the knee provided lots of laughs, the excitement growing as participants’ stamina began to wear off.

In between games, dances, and musical performances, attendees chowed down on polar bear tacos and moose-meat donairs, with homemade beaver tails.

Parents checked out booths by local vendors like A Sea Glass Siren, Breezy Beads, Juniper & Frost, St John’s Soap Works, Five Bros Cheese, and more, while the kids got their faces painted with dream catchers and animal faces at Pixy Mamam, before heading over to tipis filled with toys from the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre.

Personally, the highlight of the day was taking in the rhythmic singing of the East Boyz drumming circle, the Inuit throat singing from The Blake Sisters, a group participation performance by Strength of the Drum, and the day’s final performers, Eastern Owl, a five-piece all-woman, all-nation drum group.

The day’s festivities finished off with the crowd standing up for the Labrador National Anthem.

A wonderfully welcoming environment, it was amazing to see such a great turnout for National Indigenous Peoples Day here in St. John’s. The number of young children was especially inspiring, as events like this one help bring people together to experience a new or different culture, and to learn about traditions directly from the people who uphold them.

I watched a white four-year-old girl, a dreamcatcher painted on her face, running around and holding hands with an Indigenous friend, dressed head to toe in traditional regalia.
Their only care in the world — how much candy they had amassed from the candy toss. It was a beautiful sight.

Emcee Paul said it best: “It’s a beautiful day to be Indigenous here and it’s a beautiful day to be an ally.”

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