Community members crowded Rotary Park for the first time in three years to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, marking a return to ‘normal’ for yet another beloved Merritt event. Warm weather and blue skies greeted participants for a day of culture and fun.
Hosted by Citxw Nlaka’pamux Assembly (CNA), an Indigenous community organization made up of eight local First Nations, in collaboration with other community organizations, the event drew an estimated 700 attendees throughout the day of activities. Organizers say response from Merrittonians was overwhelmingly positive, with those of all ages and backgrounds gathering to join in on the celebration.
“There were so many in attendance, and looking around there were just a lot of smiles. I hope everybody enjoyed the day as much as I did,” said Virginia Aspinall, programs coordinator with CNA.
“Everybody was just really happy to get together. This was our first celebration for Indigenous Peoples Day since 2019. It was really nice to get out and celebrate together.”
Indigenous Peoples Day at Rotary Park by Izaiah Reyes
Those attending the event were treated to not only gorgeous weather, but a wide variety of events and activities. Traditional hand drummers, powwow dancers, and elders sharing their stories and experiences engaged and entertained crowds. Attendees walked between a variety of ‘stations’ such as medicine kit and harvest bag making, face painting, and a selfie booth.
Aspinall said the event was a great success for both CNA and other organizations who participated, adding that this year saw great engagement and information from vendors and local organizations.
“We had some beautiful dancers, we had many stations with crafts set up, and lots of information sharing from the different organizations.”
National Aboriginal Day, now called National Indigenous Peoples Day since a name change in 2017, was first announced in 1996. It serves as a day for the recognition of Indigenous culture, heritage, and contributions in Canadian society. While celebrations have been mostly virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event at Rotary Park showed the community’s love of the event.
“It went by in a flash for myself personally,” added Aspinall with a laugh, who said her favourite part of the day was seeing the smiles of those returning to an in-person celebration for the first time in years.
For more information on CNA and their community initiatives, call 250-378-1864, or visit www.cna-trust.ca