‘The day Indigenous people took the country back’

In many places across the country, Canada Day was officially canceled, as events saw hundreds and even thousands gather in support of Indigenous Peoples.

This year, July 1 was charged with new meaning, as rivers of orange flooded streets in major cities — showcasing Indigenous diversity, pride, and strength — in the wake of devastating discoveries in Canada.

Over 80 cities decided to officially get on board with cries for accountability and action, and officially ‘Cancel Canada Day,’ including Victoria, B.C., Penticton, B.C., Salmon Arm, B.C., and La Ronge, Sask. (though not all municipalities obliged).

Indigenous Peoples, joined by allies, friends, relatives and supporters, organized, gathered, spoke, sang, danced, drummed, marched, rallied, held ceremony, conducted work, and as Gitxsan journalist Angela Sterritt tweeted on the day, “took the country back.”

Around ten thousand people showed up in London Ontario, territory of the Chippewa of the Thames, the Oneida of the Thames, and the Muncey Delaware Nation, on July 1, to show their support for Indigenous Peoples.

Here are photos from independent filmmaker and photographer Moses Latigo Opong:

Photographer Moses Latigo Opong is selling this photo (with the dancer’s permission/request) titled ‘The Time Traveller’ and donating all funds to Atlohsa Family Healing Services which provides individual and community healing support. To ‘purchase’ the photo, Opong directs people to the Atlohsa donate page and asks to have proof of receipt emailed to kigaana@gmail.com.

‘We are the original people’

Also on July 1, Sekawnee Baker of the Squamish and Tla’amin Nations says he was given the traditional name Gusdzidsas, which means “always moving forward.” That’s the message he says he hoped to get across yesterday when he addressed the crowd gathered on unceded Coast Salish territories in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. 

“I’m not Canadian. My people, my Ancestors, my family — we are the original people of this land,” the 22-year-old recording artist and music producer told the crowd.

“I’m not Canadian. My people, my Ancestors, my family — we are the original people of this land,” says Sekawnee Baker of the Squamish and Tla’amin Nations at the #CancelCanadaDay event on unceded Coast Salish territories in Vancouver, B.C.

Over the phone to IndigiNews, he says he feels great about taking the stage. 

“It was a very spiritual and overwhelming experience,” he says. “I’m doing what the Ancestors want me to do. I feel like I’m walking in their steps and they’re giving me the power to continue.” 

There’s just one thing he forgot to say to the crowd, he says. 

“I really wanted to encourage everybody, no matter what age you are … surround [yourselves] with some Elders and learn. Learn your language. Learn your traditions. Learn your protocol. Go hunting. Go fishing. Just learn anything because one day we have to pass this down to the next generation. 

“If I don’t learn … my kids’ kids are not going to know anything, and that’s part of colonization,” he says. “They want us to forget.”

Sekawnee Baker of the Squamish and Tla’amin Nations. Photo by Isaac Zipursky

Honouring Our Children

Two separate events were held at the Victoria legislature building, in Lək̓ʷəŋən (Lekwungen) territory on July 1. The first took place during the day and was organized by Kasalas Sasha Perron, Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw from the Da’naxda’xw First Nation, who ran 216 km to raise funds for survivors of residential “schools.”

Leadership from the island Nations and various communities joined Perron at the wharf and marched beside and behind him and his family, for his last kilometre, meeting at the Victoria legislature for speeches, singing, dancing, stories and celebrations.

Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw dancers on July 1, the day “Indigenous people took the country back,” in Lək̓ʷəŋən territory.

Photos by independent photographer Colin Smith:

“It’s incredible to see how many people showed up here, all in orange, it’s really beautiful,” said Kasalas Sasha Perron, who was gifted a new name during the ceremony, to honour the work he’s committed to healing.
Robert Williams and Kasalas Sasha Perron on July 1.

The second event, ‘Honouring Our Children,’ held from 6-8pm was organized by Tiffany Joseph, who’s W̱SÁNEĆ, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and Quw’utsun. Both events were held with permission from leadership of local nations, and opened and closed with speakers from the communities.

“I have been so happy to hear from some of you how full your hearts were. How you cried and smiled and were filled up last night,” writes Joseph on the event Facebook page. “My favourite part was the elders getting up and dancing, I wanted to sing until every elder had the chance to dance! I loved seeing people in the crowd sing.”

One of the organizers of the ‘Honouring Our Children’ event from July 1, Tiffany Joseph. Photo by Colin Smith

After the evening event closed, a group led a march to the statue of British colonizer James Cook. While hundreds surrounded the area, the statue was taken down, tossed into the water, and a red dress, representing the countless Indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing, was put in its place. Two statues of queens were also taken down in Winnipeg, at Manitoba’s legislature on the same day.

To see footage of events in Vancouver, visit the IndigiNews Facebook page and for more from the events at the Victoria legislature, visit the IndigiNews Instagram page.

If you’re interested in showcasing your photography with IndigiNews, please email admin@indiginews.com


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