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Saturday, July 13, 2024
National Indigenous Peoples Day in NOTL was all about friendship and togetherness
National Indigenous Peoples Day activities at the Niagara Regional Native Centre on June 21 opened with traditional drumming and singing. RICHARD WRIGHT
Rosey Searay gets help making a dreamcatcher from Wyller Fushtey during the National Indigenous Peoples Day activities June 21 at the Niagara Regional Native Centre. RICHARD WRIGHT
Archery instructor Kirstyn Smith helps Rawerawi Bowering-Burns with archery technique during National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations in NOTL June 21. RICHARD WRIGHT

The Niagara Regional Native Centre celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21 with an open-door approach where visitors were expected to simply enjoy a day of socializing and, if so inclined, to take part in various low-key activities.

“This year, we decided to keep it on a little more of the casual side, allowing people to come here and just be together,” said the centre’s unity team director Liz Sault.

“There are a lot of people who aren’t here normally here which is wonderful,” she added. “I feel like it is bringing community back together, which is really the intention of this.”

Centre staff and friends opened the day by attending a morning flag raising ceremony at St. Catharines City Hall. 

They then moved to the friendship centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake for a well-attended afternoon that featured a mix of youth and age and was highlighted by an opening ceremony of drumming and singing followed by a small traditional feast, mingling and “community facing” events. 

Those events included arts and crafts and activities such as drop-in archery and lacrosse lessons.

“For me it is really about the little ones,” said Sault, just as a group of children ran past laughing and enjoying their day.

“It is about letting them know who they are in a positive way.”

At one small play station on an outdoor concrete platform at the back of the centre, that message of self-respect and identity was driven home with the simple addition of a small pool of water where children splashed and played..

“Water is life” and “Niibii,” the Ojibway word for water, read a hand-made sign adorned with messages of everything from how water sustains all things, to more serious messages of how clean water has become a luxury rather than a right in some Indigenous communities.

In the back field of the centre, healing and wellness co-ordinator Roger Jacklin spent the day overseeing the archery range.

Jacklin explained that archery isn’t just about a steady hand and good aim. He provided teachings about what he believes is a bigger meaning behind the bow.

“Today we are trying to get across respect,” he said. 

“To do archery you have to have respect for the bow, respect for the arrow, respect for the people around you and respect for yourself. We are trying to instill that everyone around you is important.”

The Niagara Regional Native Centre is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and holds regular programming from socials, mental health, nutrition, literacy and youth empowerment, just to name a few. 

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