WIIKWEMKOONG—National Indigenous Peoples Day provides an opportunity to learn about the culture and history of the first people of this land, but in Wiikwemkoong the day was also a celebration that embraced everyone walking into Thunderbird Park.
The day began with opening remarks and a recital of Dewagan—the story of the drum—and progressed through demonstrations of dance styles by champion hoop dancer Lisa Odjig before a grand entry kicked off a powwow social.
One of the highlights of the powwow social was a surprise birthday celebration and dance honouring the occasion of the 80th birthday of Order of Canada recipient and Indigenous women’s rights activist Jeanette Corbiere-Lavell.
“Jeanette has advocated for Indigenous women’s rights at the Organization of American States, the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the Committee to End Sex Discrimination, and at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,” shared Wiiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier. “Her passion for education led her to work as a teacher (who still teaches at Wiikwemkoong High School), a school principal and education counsellor and sits on numerous boards and committees. Her quest to achieve equity under the law for Indigenous women is featured in the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg Manitoba.”
Ms. Corbiere-Lavell was presented with a blanket by her family and, following a circuit of the dance arena, the community shared in a birthday cake.
There were plenty of vendors providing food and artisan crafts at the event throughout the day, while at the baseball grounds Science North’s Great Northern Ontario Road Show provided land-based science demonstrations and pavilions. Following science demonstrations with children, historian Josh Manitowabi provided a history of the Island treaties to an attentive crowd.
The day’s events were crowned with a livestreamed performance by Crystal Shawanda at the JUNO Awards before the sky lit up with a fireworks display.