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National Aboriginal Day celebrated from coast to coast
First posted: Saturday, June 21, 2014 07:22 PM EDT | Updated: Saturday, June 21, 2014 07:39 PM EDT
National Aboriginal Day was commemorated with concerts and cultural events and across the country on Saturday.
“National Aboriginal Day is an ideal opportunity to celebrate the cultures and traditions of Indigenous peoples in this country, learn more about their contributions, their rights and responsibilities and our shared history as a country,” Ghislain Picard, spokesman for the Assembly of First Nations, in a statement released Friday.
The AFN encouraged all Canadians and First Nations people to get involved in the day’s myriad of events.
“It is time for First Nations and all Canadians to commit to a new understanding and a new relationship grounded in our history and focused on the future. From this, we can work together to build a strong foundation to achieve positive change for all of us.”
First celebrated in 1996, National Aboriginal Day recognizes the cultures and contributions of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Metis — together referred to Aboriginal Peoples.
It came after years of lobbying by the AFN, which had been calling for such a national holiday since 1982.
"These separate nations and peoples have been crucial to the settlement and development of this great country and will continue to be so in the future,” Canadian Race Relations Foundation chairperson Albert Lo said in a statement.
“This day can serve as a positive re-introduction to that history and those cultures and we encourage all to participate in their local Aboriginal Day activities."
Winnipeg marked the day with a celebration village in The Forks neighbourhood, skateboard demonstrations and free live concerts.
"It's really about bringing ourselves back to our cultural roots and where we come from," Kenecia Tootoosis, 16, a Plains Cree from Poundmaker Reserve in Saskatchewan, said.
Tootoosis, the 2013-14 Miss Manito Ahbee, took part in the grand entry, which served as the opening ceremonies for the powwow competition.
"I'm really happy to see youth here because they need this. They need this to reconnect with their culture."
Tootoosis took time during her opening ceremonies presentation to remind those in attendance about the more than 1,000 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, singling out Cherisse Diane Marie Houle, who died in July 2009 in Winnipeg, just six days shy of her 18th birthday.
The federal government has repeatedly shut out demands for a national inquiry into the missing and murdered women.
Six organizations in Brantford, Ont., joined forces to celebrate National Aboriginal Day.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate that we live next door to the largest First Nation in Canada, as well as coming together with the growing aboriginal community living in the city and the county,” said Sherry Lewis, manager of community programs with Brantford Native Housing.
Other events — concerts, gatherings and flag-raisings — were held across the country.
“We are the youngest and fastest growing population in the country and our people are asserting their rights, title and the treaties to revitalize their languages and cultures and to build stronger First Nations citizens, communities and governments,” Picard said.
“We must support these efforts because strong First Nations make a stronger country for all of us.”
— With files from Glen Dawkins
National Aboriginal Day celebrated from coast to coast | Canada | News | Toronto (external - login to view)