Celebrations were in full swing during National Aboriginal Day on June 21. It all started at 5 a.m. with a sunrise ceremony, and then in the afternoon after a community barbecue, the opening ceremonies happened at McLean Park.
Steve Ashton, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and Thompson MLA, spoke about the need for this day. “I acknowledge the thousands of years of aboriginal history here in Northern Manitoba and Canada. I acknowledge the degree to which we’re still dealing with some of the colonialism, some of the oppression facing the aboriginal people.” Ashton continued on by speaking about the official apology from the Manitoba Legislature about the “60s Scoop.” “It’s something that should never have happened, and it’s something that will never happen again.”
Ashton finished off by speaking about Elijah Harper, who 25 years ago spoke to the Manitoba Legislature and said no to constitutional proposals. “I think we should rededicated ourselves to the vision we saw 25 years ago, the vision we saw this week from the apology for the 60s Scoop, because so long as we see poverty, so long as we see racism, so long as we see oppression, we must fight for social and economic justice, for all aboriginal people, in the memory of Elijah Harper, in the memory of the thousands of victims of the 60s Scoop, the thousands of victims of the residential schools. I say here today we celebrate National Aboriginal Day one day of the year, but I look forward to the day when in reality every day of the year is aboriginal day in Canada, that day will come.”
Niki Ashton, Churchill MP, also spoke during the opening ceremonies. “Today we also recognize we admit to a better future going forward, and I was honoured over the last couple of weeks to be part of the national events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where we heard directly from Justice [Murray] Sinclair, survivors of residential schools, that we must work together to build a better day.”
Ashton said to build a better day, a better future, residents must work together, and continue to celebrate the aboriginal culture and traditions, as well as teach them and the different languages in schools. “Today we recognize in order to move forward there needs to be national leadership, there needs to be federal leadership, in terms of eradicating poverty that exists in too many First Nations, and too many northern communities.”
Following the opening speeches an honour song for missing and murdered women was performed, as well as an honour song for children who attended residential schools. There was a tribute to Elijah Harper, who said no to the Meech Lake Accord 25 years ago, because of the lack of consultation, and the disrespect of the treaties and indigenous rights.
A powwow, live music, a jigging demonstration, and a square dancing demonstration also took place.
This is the 16th year National Aboriginal Day has been celebration in the city of Thompson.