After a rainy Monday, National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 saw sunshine return to Thompson and hundreds of residents attend the city’s first in-person festivities to celebrate the day since 2019.
Dignitaries who addressed the crowd following the grand entry made note of how many spectators were there.
“We’re going to have fun, you’re going to have fun, because you’re celebrating us, the Indigenous people and what a great day to do it,” said Julyda Lagimodiere of the Manitoba Metis Federation.
For Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook, just being able to have such a big crowd of people in one place was a welcome change from the previous two years.
“It’s been so long since we’ve been able to gather here,” she said “It’s definitely a pleasure.”
A day that began with a sunrise ceremony and featured musicians and dancers and a meal of bannock and stew was also a time for contemplation, said Gary Annett, head of Vale Manitoba Operations.
“I started this morning for myself, as I reflect on today, at the sunrise ceremony, and I’d like to thank elder Jack Robinson for putting that on today and having us,” he said. “We had colleagues there today, sharing stories and reflection and it’s very important for all of us to continue that, for the understanding and to share the stories and to educate ourselves on everything that was going on in the past and … where we want to go in the future.”
Garrison Settee, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents 26 Northern Manitoba First Nations gave a fiery speech emphasizing that Indigenous people should be proud of their heritage.
“500 years ago, there was nobody that told us our languages were wrong,” he told an appreciative crowd. “500 years ago, nobody told us to be ashamed of who we are. You don’t have to be ashamed of who you are. You don’t have to be ashamed of your culture anymore. You don’t have to be ashamed of your identity. Today, I stand strong. I stand proud to celebrate our people today because this is our day. This is our moment. No one will take away our culture. No one will take away our identity. Nobody will take anything from us anymore. Because we stood the test of time. People remained strong, and we will always remain strong, forever and forever.”