Aboriginal Day promotes pride
Hundreds of people ranging in age from school children to elders, gathered at Monck Park Tuesday for the annual National Aboriginal Day celebrations, hosted by the Conayt Friendship Society.
Marked by drumming, dancing and storytelling, the event allowed the local aboriginal people to celebrate their rich culture and share it with other members of the community who attended.
“For us, Aboriginal Day is every day, but this is one day we can showcase what we do everyday in our communities,” said Tim Manuel, who was master of ceremonies.
The day began with a prayer and a grand entry as well as opening remarks from local chiefs and dignitaries and went on to include entertainment, children’s activities and a free lunch for all in attendence. Throughout the day, the weather was sunny and warm befitting the first official day of summer.
“Aboriginal Day gives us a chance to celebrate and socialize with people you haven’t seen for a while,” said Former Thompson language teacher, Jim Toodlican commenting on the relaxed nature of the event. He said that while the celebration adds to the strength of the community, it’s more about having a good time than thinking too much about the past.
Even so, several people in attendance commented on how the pride in the aboriginal community has grown over the years.
“Growing up there were a lot of uniformed attitudes towards our people, but I have seen more pride in our culture as our people heal from residential schools,” said Manuel. “We take pride in who we are and where we come from.”
The change has also been apparent to Mayor Susan Roline who grew up in the Nicola Valley.
“It’s nice to see the pride in their culture coming out more and more,” said Roline indicating the colourful regalia and drumming. “I’ve seen the cycle and the change that has taken place — they’re not ashamed of who they are.”
Roline also said it’s important to recognize the contribution that aboriginals make to the community of Merritt, making up 32 per cent of the urban population and well over 50 per cent of the trading area.
“Today is to celebrate aboriginals but it’s not just for aboriginals,” she added. “I’m happy to see lots of Merrittonians out here.”
National Aboriginal Day was first proclaimed by Governor General Romeo A. LeBlanc on June 13, 1996. In his proclamation, he marked June 21 as a day to recognize the aboriginal peoples of Canada including the First Nations, Metis and Inuit for their contributions and to celebrate their culture.