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Burnaby comes out for National Indigenous Peoples Day

Community members honoured National Indigenous Peoples Day with dance, song and storytelling at Edmonds Park and Plaza on June 21.

Burnaby honoured National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 at Edmonds Park and Plaza.

The event featured a variety of performers, sharing their cultures with dances, songs and storytelling.

Carleen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation welcomed guests, saying it’s time to come together.

“We have to find a way to work together. And with this world, this planet in the state that it’s in now, all the little things we can do in our own communities is important,” she said.

Senaqwila Wyss, the director and programmer of the event’s ceremonies, said she focused on including local Nations and multi-generational dance groups and storytellers in the event.

“It’s about sharing our culture, but also to make non-Indigenous feel welcome; that it’s to learn about our culture through education, through hearing stories and hearing our songs, as it’s just a huge part of who we are,” said Wyss, who is from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation.

“When you can see different stories being shared openly ... it gives people, whether they’re from here or from elsewhere, that they have that opportunity to think like, ‘I have meaning, too, and I can share my life or stories from my family.’”

The Xwelmexw Shxwexwo:s Salish Thunderbird song and dance group came out with a paddle song.

Francis James, speaking for the group, said the young men dancing “have been dancing since they were still in their diapers.”

“They've been involved in our culture since then, since day one,” James said, noting it’s important to share that their people are thriving.

The event hosted an artisan market of Indigenous vendors, including Raven and Hummingbird Tea Co., jewelry by Mia and Desean Hunt at Laser Cut Heirlooms, and art by J.W. Groening of Blue Sky Native Artisan.

Mayor Mike Hurley told the NOW that it is important to honour the day because while Indigenous people have been on this land forever, they have been mistreated.

“I think it’s time to recognize the truth, and to really partner with them to see how we can move forward in a better way,” Hurley said.