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Royal Roads University in Colwood celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day

National Indigenous Peoples Day was on Friday, June 21

On Friday, June 20, Royal Roads University hoisted its seventh annual celebration to honour National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The event began in the morning with the Lekwungen Traditional Dancers and Singers performance at the Shore Stage, and the shows, activities and events continued throughout the day.

The venue at Royal Roads was packed with people of all ages, all assembled to honour the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures within British Columbia and beyond.

“We have the largest number of distinct Indigenous cultures right here in B.C. and this is a great opportunity for people to meet representatives of those cultures in the form of people who actually live and work with Indigenous communities,” said Leslie McGarry, the CRD partner in the day’s celebration.

“This is the seventh year for the celebration here at Royal Roads and, every year, we get more than 4,000 people attending. It seems to be growing every year.”

McGarry said that the celebration is a perfect opportunity to learn about the diversity of Indigenous cultures with activities like the guided forest walk-through, where participants can learn about the forest through an indigenous lens.

“They’ll be looking at the forest the way the Indigenous cultures have traditionally done,” said McGarry. "The forest was used for medicine, and a host of other practical applications.”

Given the educational aspects of the day’s activities, it was only fitting that a significant number of school children attended the celebrations.

“We have children here from as far away as Nanaimo,” said McGarry. “It’s a great opportunity to help educate and inform students about this important part of B.C.’s culture. But there’s also a lot of fun, activities, food and celebration. This is a lot of fun for everyone.”

Jo-ina Young, a Metis elder for SD62 and another long-time volunteer at the celebration agreed.

“The greatest thing is that the school kids get to experience the Indigenous cultures here in nature,” said Young.

Her group had set up a traditional circle of tee-pees at the site, and although her display drew upon the culture of the plains Indigenous cultures, it helped to demonstrate the similarities in the respect that indigenous people have always shown toward nature.

“We’ve set this up like it would have been for the buffalo hunts. The people would hunt the buffalo, but they used every part of what they hunted for clothes, food, medicine, shelter … nothing was ever wasted,” she said.

As the morning progressed, a welcoming ceremony took place that marked a traditional canoe landing protocol practice follows, led by lək̓ʷəŋən Elder Butch Dick, joined by guests and family members from the lək̓ʷəŋən speaking peoples, the Songhees and Xʷsepsəm Nations. At noon, the official main stage opened with singers and dancers, followed by stage performances throughout the day.

There were also children’s field games, crafts, storytelling and songs, a frybread station and a host of food options.

Overall, it was a day that both honoured the Indigenous people’s resilience and the preservation of their cultures, while celebrating the significant contributions that Indigenous communities have made to art, music, language and traditional knowledge.