June 20, 2016 8:35 pm
Updated: June 20, 2016 8:42 pm

Milestones celebrated at kickoff to Aboriginal Awareness Week

WATCH ABOVE: Over the past year, indigenous people in Canada have been winning significant victories and marking milestones. All of which will be celebrated during Aboriginal Awareness Week now officially underway in Calgary. Kim Smith reports.

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Aboriginal Awareness Week is now officially underway in Calgary as the opening ceremonies kicked off Monday over the noon hour in Olympic Plaza.

This year marks 20 years since Canada declared June 21 as National Aboriginal Day.

“If we look back, historically Calgary’s been a leader with native awareness events,” said Adrian Wolfleg, a long-time volunteer. “We had some of the first events back in 1989 and led the way along with Ottawa.”

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Over the past year, Indigenous people in Canada have been winning significant victories and marking milestones.

“There seems to be an openness towards our culture and embracing our culture,” Elder Doreen Spence said.

Last month, Canada officially adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, almost a decade after it was adopted by the General Assembly.

Local elder Doreen Spence was involved with advocating the UN in the 1970s.

“We still have a long ways to go on an international scale. I found that New Zealand, for instance, is so far ahead of us,” said Spence. “Coming home, it’s kind of disappointing to see how slow the progress has been.”

Last June, following years of testimony, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its landmark report outlining 94 recommendations for change.

“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take a partnership. It cannot be done exclusively by government,” Spence said.

Local filmmaker Cowboy Smithx said youth have no excuse not to be involved with advocating for change.

“I never had access to media,” Smithx said. “We were living in an isolated community on the reserve and barely had three channels in those days. So now there’s all these opportunities.”

“I think we’re going to see more voices emerge and we’re going to see a more dynamic conversation because we’re hearing from multiple perspectives.”

Aboriginal Awareness Week events continue throughout the week in Calgary.

Aboriginal Awareness Week kicked off Monday at Olympic Plaza.

Kim Smith / Global News

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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