Monday marks National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada. In the NWT, it’s a time to celebrate and honour the Dene, Inuvialuit, and Métis communities who are some of the original caretakers and stewards of the land.
This year’s National Indigenous Peoples Day comes weeks after the unmarked mass grave of 215 children was found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School site in BC and, for many communities, the horrific discovery makes Monday especially poignant.
The North Slave Métis Alliance cancelled its annual fish fry in Yellowknife’s Somba K’e Park. Organizers were concerned about Covid-19 safety as the event typically draws thousands of people.
Elsewhere in the NWT, communities are planning a range of celebrations.
In Inuvik, the Nihtat Gwich’in Council, Gwich’in Tribal Council, Inuvialuit Community Corporation, and Inuvik Native Band are joining the town and Parks Canada to host a community feast.
Menu items include fried fish and potatoes, hotdogs and hamburgers, smoked tea, juice, and water. Food will start being served at the entrance of the Midnight Sun Complex at noon.
Aklavik will hold a feast on Monday at 2pm at the Sittichinli Complex. Residents are invited to come out for hamburgers, hotdogs, pork chops, macaroni, and potato salad.
Fort Providence and the Deh Gáh Got’ı̨ę First Nation have teamed up to organize festivities including a fishing derby, canoe races, live music, and a community feast. A full schedule of events has been shared on Facebook.
The Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation in Fort Simpson has a similarly full day, starting with a fire-feeding ceremony at 10am and followed by children’s games like tug of war, three-legged races, and balloon fights on the high school field.
The Fort Simpson Drummers will host drum dances at the high school later in the evening.
The Acho Dene Koe First Nation in Fort Liard is set to have children’s games, food, and drum dancing in the evening.
In a statement shared on Facebook, the First Nation reminded community members that the day is an opportunity to call for more action on reconciliation from those in power.
“For too long, there has been a blind eye to the structural injustices and violence faced by Indigenous peoples,” that statement read. “Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s oft-repeated claim that ‘no relationship is more people to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous peoples,’ his government has failed to prioritize progress on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, released in December 2015.
“More than five years later, only 12 calls have been completed, and 20 have seen no progress at all. Acho Dene Koe First Nation, and the Dene people, once again calls on all levels of government to urgently fulfill its commitments to Indigenous peoples and implement all recommendations of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
At the Fred Henne Territorial Park in Yellowknife, celebrations take place a day early, on Sunday. A number of activities in the day use area start at 1pm, such as voyageur canoe rides, bannock making, and storytelling with Inuk Elder Bernie Bernhardt.
Yellowknifers interested in participating can sign up at the park gatehouse or by calling (867) 920-2472.
In the Tłı̨chǫ region, the community government of Whatì will be hosting a barbecue and other activities starting at 1pm.
The West Point First Nation near Hay River is holding an outdoor event from 12pm to 3pm at the First Nation’s office on the Mackenzie Highway. Attendees will be treated to a barbecue, door prizes, games, and cake.
The K’atl’odeeche First Nation is putting on a variety of events and ceremonies at the local arbour, starting at 11am. There will be food, prizes, games, live music, and demonstrations with Elders among other activities.
The First Nation is calling on participants to wear orange on Monday to honour the children lost to the residential school system.
Farther south in Fort Smith, the Fort Smith Métis Council, Salt River First Nation, and Smith’s Landing First Nation are hosting a barbecue from 12pm to 4pm beside the arena in MacPherson Park.
Kids will receive raffle tickets for a bike. Those who can’t physically distance are encouraged to wear masks.
It’s an extra special upcoming week for the Sahtu. The region is preparing to celebrate not only National Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, but Sahtu Day – commemorating the signing of the Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement in 1990 – on Wednesday.
The Norman Wells Land Corporation is hosting a pancake breakfast, canoe races, and a barbecue for Father’s Day on Sunday at various locations.
At 1pm on Monday, there will be a “grab-and-go” luncheon at the corporation office. Wednesday is being marked with another barbecue, set to start at noon.