Home News Sharing culture in Tiohtià:ke

Sharing culture in Tiohtià:ke

Folks gathered in Montreal’s Old Port to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day this Wednesday, with a ceremony led by Sedalia Kawennotas Fazio and dances all morning. Eve Cable The Eastern Door

The sound of jingles filled the air in the Old Port this Wednesday as people from all walks of life gathered to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day. 

“You can sit down and be a lump on a log. Or you can get up, and find out what our culture is all about,” said Kahnawa’kehró:non Ray Deer, who was in attendance with his family as the Deer Family Dancers. “We invite people to come up and do a few dances. People are here as tourists, they have their family with them, and they’re participating. We’re dancing here together and we’re demonstrating our culture.”

As jingle cones rang from dancers’ dresses – each dress had 365 cones representing each day of the year – children tapped their feet and got up to dance. One family had stumbled upon the event who were visiting from the United Kingdom. 

“We didn’t know it was (Indigenous Peoples Day), so it’s great that we saw something like this by chance,” said Louise Archer, in attendance with her partner and young child. “What I like is the participation. Getting up and dancing with my daughter is something that makes her understand this in a way just telling her about it doesn’t, and now she understands this is what Aboriginal dance looks like, which is amazing.”

Archer also noted the importance of education, explaining that she had seen and heard of limited Indigenous education in school systems in the United Kingdom. 

“I do think it’s disappointing that we didn’t know about this before visiting. I do think it’s shameful that countries around the world, especially the UK, aren’t also recognizing this day given their history,” she said. “I’m so glad we came here, but this day should be global so everybody knows about it.”

For Deer, the day is both an important day of public education, but also a significant moment for Indigenous people to reflect on their history and future.

“It’s significant for us to come back out here and put our feet back on the island of Montreal, Tiohtià:ke, to acknowledge that we were here, we are here, and we’re going to be here in the future,” he said. 

The Deer Family Dancers were also joined by Owen Mayo and his wife Kwena Bellemare-Boivin, who brought their three children with them. The event was a family affair for spectators and dancers, which Deer noted is significant.

“We teach the next generations, and that’s why I bring all my grandchildren, and we bring all of our younger children. we let them come in and walk on this land and together; we let everyone know that we’re still here,” he said. “They are the ones who need to carry it forward.”
TV crews and reporters from countrywide news outlets were there to report on the day, something Deer said is ultimately a good thing.

“The documentation is what’s important, to have this recorded and have a report on a TV program. One day they’re going to see themselves, and be like ‘hey, that’s what I was doing when I was two years old, three years old,’” he said. “When they’re our age, it’ll be a kind of history lesson. They’ll be able to say ‘yes, I participated in this. I did our traditional things on our land.’”

Seeing so many tourists come out and learn about Indigenous culture for the first time was also heartwarming to Ray, who said that cultural exchange has been something important to him throughout the years.

“Having served in the military, I got to meet so many different nations and live in different lands, so I got to acknowledge and participate in their culture,” he said. “It’s nice to see so many people come out here, and people that are visiting, who want to participate in our culture. It’s a significant day.”

This article was originally published in print on Friday, June 23, in issue 32.25 of The Eastern Door.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.