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‘We’re going to paddle together’: Stz’uminus welcomed community for a day of culture and learning

Hundreds present on Stz’uminus homelands to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day
TzinquawDancers
Lawrence Joe of the Cowichan Tzinquaw Dancers is seen teaching members of the crowd a dance, which involved them swimming like a salmon and flying like an eagle.

Hundreds gathered on Stz’uminus homelands on Tuesday, June 21 to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day, and like many other groups around “Canada” that day, celebrated a day of culture, listening and learning. 

Members of the Stz’uminus and “Ladysmith” communities came together at “Transfer Beach;" hundreds of students from schools nearby attended, as well as families, Stz’uminus chief and council, “Ladysmith” mayor and council, as well as musicians, artists, dancers, and local organizations.

It was early in the afternoon but it felt like the evening. The sky was overcast. A slight wind made sure that sweaters stayed on, and dancers kept cool. Occasional raindrops had attendees looking to the sky, and sliding in close to those around them. The smell of freshly-barbequed salmon filled the air, as did the sound of children playing, and drummers drumming. If you stepped away for a moment you could hear the ocean loudly splashing up on the shore below the park. 

Performers stood in front of the large crowd that had gathered, but weren’t alone for long. The Tzinquaw Dancers from Cowichan, and the Young Wolves dancers from Stz’uminus First Nation (grades K-12) invited the crowd of children to participate in dancing with them. Hand-in-hand they danced; those who knew the dance already were happy to teach it, and those who didn’t were glad to learn.

The day is celebrated annually on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. 

Both Stz’uminus First Nation Chief, Roxanne Harris, and Mayor of “Ladysmith,” Aaron Stone, welcomed those present. 

Chief Harris took a moment in front of the microphone to recognize the residential “school” survivors, 60s Scoop survivors, and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in their community. She spoke of her dad, who survived residential “school,” and came out with a few scars. 

She also spoke of their community’s bright future.

“The way that we try to heal and get through these events is that, in the present, we celebrate opening our own schools, having our own daycare, having our own economic development,” she said, “It’s just a reminder that in our Nation we run our own governance,” she said. 

“Our goal is, in the end: to have our own ability to run our nation and support ourselves in our own way. There’s a lot of things we look forward to in our future, and in the future we’re trying to blaze a way for our children, and our unborn grandchildren.”

Five-time paralympian with Canada’s wheelchair basketball team, and Cowichan Tribes member, Richard Peter, spoke to youth at “Transfer Beach” about the importance of working hard and chasing your dreams, but always being safe. Surrounding him pictured above is Stz’uminus chief and council members, and “Ladysmith” mayor and council.

Stz’uminus First Nation Chief, Roxanne Harris, accepted a gift of a carved paddle and a blanket from “Nanaimo” and “Ladysmith” Public School System (School District 68) representatives, which she took as a symbol that, “we’re going to paddle together.”