“Many First Nations across the country are celebrating our time to come together to celebrate our identity as a nation of people,” says MBOQ Chief Don Maracle. “It’s a time of celebration, and it’s also a day that other non-Indigenous Canadians can learn about the culture and history of First Nation’s people, as we work towards reconciliation from a dark time of our colonial past.”
The festivities began with a parade to the Mohawk fairgrounds, picking up students in grades 3 to 8 from Quinte Mohawk School along the way.
Quinte Mohawk School Principal Jennifer Maracle-Westgate and Acting Vice Principal Sherry Procunier decided to bring their students to the community event to ensure that everyone gets to participate in the festivities.
“Tyendinaga is close to a lot of surrounding big cities,” says Procunier. “Our kids go off to high school in Belleville, Napanee, surrounding boards. Just for them to get some roots established here, so when they do go off they know that they have a home to come home to and that they do have their own language and culture here.”
Students and attendees participated in games and activities, some of which incorporated language lessons — an incredibly important aspect of Indigenous culture.
“You think differently when you’re speaking in your own Indigenous language,” says Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na Language and Cultural Center Executive Director Callie Hill. “It’s just so important because it’s at the root of who we are, the root of our identity and our existence. And it’s especially important for these young people here to be able to grasp that.”
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Indigenous Peoples Day is a work holiday for those living in the area, and usually the students would have the day off of school as well. Instead, they took the day to learn and celebrate with classmates, all in the name of culture, community and language.