Growing interest about indigenous culture sparked a substantial increase in turnout for the National Indigenous Peoples Day event held in Langley City’s Douglas Park on the July 22 weekend.
About 600 people attended, up from the 400 who visited the previous year, estimated Danielle Placek, an aboriginal outreach worker in Langley for the Lower Fraser Valley Aboriginal Society, the group that organized the Saturday event.
“It’s amazing the number of non-indigenous people who reach out to myself and my co-workers,” Placek told the Langley Advance Times.
Describing herself as an “urban aboriginal woman,” Placek views the annual celebration of indigenous arts and culture as an opportunity for “joy and healing and togetherness” for indigenous people.
“This is a part of every Canadian’s culture,” Placek added.
“Everybody in Langley, you deserve to be a part of this culture and immerse yourself in it.”
Memories are still fresh of a time when their culture was not celebrated in Canada, due to federal government policies that aimed to eliminate indigenous language and culture, Placek related.
“It’s affected everyone in my family. My mother is a child of the ‘sixties scoop’ [when indigenous children were removed from their families and placed in foster homes or adopted], my grandmother is a residential school survivor. So that’s trauma and hurt that is still present in our family today.”
“It’s not something that is ancient history,” Placek stated.
For her, the event was an opportunity to take pride in the fact indigenous culture is healthy.
“This is Canada’s history,” Placek said.
“We are still speaking our languages and we are still creating our art and living in our traditional ways that our ancestors and families have passed down to us and we’re thriving.”
She looks forward to the event every year, calling it “wonderful.”
“I feel joy and healing and togetherness [when I attend], I feel that we can overcome and we will heal our families.”
“When we can come together and celebrate all of our successes and our beautiful culture, and all of our differences too, it’s really healing and important for all indigenous people.”
“Culture saves lives,” Placek maintained.
“Culture heals hearts and minds and souls.”
This year’s event offered free hot dogs and bannock baking, elder’s bingo and children’s entertainment as well as traditional dancing and a message from elders.
Fort Langley National Historic Site celebrated the day with an array of indigenous-themed events.
They included artist and designer Lisa Shepherd, who taught Métis dance workshops, a bannock baking presentation around the central fire pit in the fort and a tour of the Salmon Walk sculptures located outside the Fort in the surrounding orchard.
Tour company Voyageur Adventures offered the adventurous an opportunity to experience the history of Canada’s indigenous fur trade by making a two-day paddling trip from Mission to Fort Langley in 34-foot “canot de maître”replicas.
National Indigenous People’s Day started in 1996 as National Aboriginal Day and was renamed by the federal government in 2017.
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