The heritage, culture and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people are being honoured across the country Thursday.
There were several events in Winnipeg to mark the occasion, including ceremonies at the University of Manitoba and hoop dancing and drumming workshops at the Manitoba Children’s Museum.
A summer solstice concert will be held at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights at 6 p.m., featuring artists Indian City, Kinnie Starr and Scott Nolan.
Earlier in the day, there were celebrations at Winnipeg City Hall, which featured a smudging ceremony, dancing, drumming and Indigenous art.
Andy McKay was one of the young drummers and said the goal is to get more people interested in celebrating Indigenous culture.
“Just to get people more people engaged into it because there’s not a lot of people my age doing this,” McKay said. “They’re making bad choices like doing drugs, smoking weed, skipping school, stuff like that.”
Jessica Canard was live painting at City Hall and said the day is about unity.
“We’re here to work together and learn from each other and we all have knowledge that we can share,” Canard said.
“We’re all going to be living here together, might as well get to know each other.”
Great West Life also held an event Thursday to announce their continued commitment to Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord. The company hopes to foster a more inclusive workplace environment where more Indigenous Peoples can contribute. The company signed on to the accord a year ago.
“We want our workforce and our employees to reflect the communities that we live in, that we work in, and that we play in,” said Great West Life President and COO Stefan Kristjanson. “And the Indigenous population in Winnipeg is a fundamental, critically important community within Winnipeg.”
Rose Tobacco-Olson was one of the speakers at the Great West Life event.
“We speak a lot about reconciliation, and I think today would be a great day to be able to listen to other people’s stories and their journey through what they’ve been through,” she said.
“And for a non-Indigenous person, today would be something to just listen. It would be to get involved in our practices and sing along, dance along, and really feel the love that we have for our culture.”
The celebrations continue into the weekend with an Indigenous Day Live event at the Forks on Saturday.
PHOTO GALLERY: See images of festivities around Winnipeg Thursday
Changing the name
The federal government proclaimed this a national day back in 1996. It had always been known as National Aboriginal Day, but last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced it would now be known as National Indigenous Peoples Day, a term which better describes the population.
Saskatchewan MP Georgina Jolibois has introduced a bill in the House of Commons looking to make the day a national statutory holiday.
Prime Minister Trudeau said Wednesday they are looking very closely at this and consulting with indigenous communities on this topic.