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'We're still here': Richmond Hill community to celebrate Indigenous culture with live performance June 25

Yorkregion.com
June 13, 2022

Live music, traditional dances, Indigenous arts and craft are expected to fill Elgin Barrow Arena in Richmond Hill on June 25 to celebrate the National Indigenous Peoples Day.

It is the first annual Indigenous People’s Day celebration held by the Richmond Hill Indigenous Action Committee, a Richmond Hill community group formed in 2021.

"It is important to have events like the Indigenous Peoples Celebration because it showcases what our community does and has to offer to outsiders/allies as well as allows us to connect and celebrate our own traditions and practices with each other," said Matthew Bergman, one of the four committee members of the group.

Richmond Hill has a rich Indigenous history. According to last the census in 2016, there were over 500 registered Indigenous people in Richmond Hill, but that number is likely to be two or three times higher or more, according to Bergman, who spoke to Richmond Hill council this February.

"We feel it is important to let the world know that we're still here in a positive way," Bergman said. " ... as Indigenous people in the community, we ourselves as well as other members of the community we know and talked to from Richmond Hill and surrounding areas have grown tired of having to travel to Barrie and Toronto for gatherings, events and teachings."

He said the group decided to take it upon themselves to ensure that the Indigenous people in the community "are properly represented and provided for in some capacity."

The public is welcome to join Indigenous artists and dancers for an afternoon of fun and performances from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Featuring The Shining Waters Singers drum group, a live performance from Wildhorse and Indigenous dancers, the celebration will bring together Indigenous arts and crafts, games and prizes.

“I am excited to work with them in the regard that we get to share with more communities the importance of honouring and educating,” said Jared Bigcanoe, a member of the Shining Waters Singers, who will be performing traditional music at the event in Richmond Hill.

Bigcanoe, who grew up in the Ojibwe community on Georgina Island, said he has participated in educational events about Indigenous culture and issues extensively in many communities and he was excited to bring his performance to Richmond Hill.

“It's a lifetime thing for me, and it's my responsibility to share the songs and the drums and things that will help our community. We look at it as if it's a form of sharing medicine with people,” Bigcanoe said.

The Indigenous singer said he will open the event with a song and will perform throughout the four-hour-long event including interactive music.

The event is scheduled to take place in June -- the National Indigenous History Month -- a time for acknowledging, learning about and appreciating the immeasurable contributions of First Nations, Inuit and M├ętis have made and continue to make today.

The Government of Canada has also chosen June 21, the summer solstice, for National Aboriginal Day, now known as National Indigenous Peoples Day.

For generations, many Indigenous peoples and communities have celebrated their culture and heritage on or near this day due to the significance of the summer solstice as the longest day of the year.

Last October, the city council approved a land acknowledgement statement but then in November decided to direct staff to have further consultation after some Indigenous residents raised questions about the wording.

Mayor David West -- then Ward 4 councillor -- first proposed to endorse a land acknowledgment in March 2019.

The Indigenous Action Committee is accepting vendor registrations for the event from Indigenous crafters, artists, small businesses or organizations. Please reach out to the organizer at rhilliac@gmail.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/IndigenousActionCommittee.