Chatham-Kent marks National Indigenous Peoples Day (GALLERY)

National Indigenous Peoples Day at the Ska:na Family Learning Centre in Chatham-Kent. (Photo by Millar Hill)

Residents from all corners of Chatham-Kent came out to mark the 26th annual National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The day is intended to recognize the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

The municipality marked the day with an outdoor event at the Chatham Eight Site located at 25 Eighth Street, which ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We’re here to celebrate our people, our ways of knowing and being with the community,” said Ska:na Family Learning Centre (SFLC) Executive Director Faith Hale. “It really is a community coming together, we say around reconciliation today but National Indigenous Peoples Day has been around for quite some time.”

The event featured Indigenous vendors, food booths, drumming and dancing demonstrations, as well as community information booths.

“Some people have brought their wares, artistry,” said Faith. “We’re teaching our dances and our songs.”

According to SFLC National Indigenous Peoples Day Coordinator Naomi Wilson, this year also marked the first in-person celebration for Chatham-Kent.

“This is our second year celebrating, but our first time celebrating in person,” said Wilson. “Last year, the event was held over Zoom.”

National Indigenous Peoples Day is meant to be a time for celebration, reflection, and learning, according to Hale.

“We get to share our Indigenous ways of being and knowing,” said Hale. “The importance is education.”

It’s been another challenging year for First Nations communities, with more discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential schools all over Canada.

Earlier this year, several delegations of Indigenous leaders travelled to the Vatican to ask the Pope for an apology for the Catholic church’s role in the residential school system.

The Pontiff did offer an apology, and a second apology is anticipated but on Canadian soil in July. The Pope is scheduled to visit Edmonton, Quebec City, and Iqaluit.