'This gives us strength': Thousands gather in Sask. to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day

A sea of orange in Saskatoon for National Indiegnous Peoples Day celebrations in Saskatoon on Friday, June 21, 2024. (Jason Warrick/CBC - image credit)
A sea of orange in Saskatoon for National Indiegnous Peoples Day celebrations in Saskatoon on Friday, June 21, 2024. (Jason Warrick/CBC - image credit)

The pounding of drums could be heard echoing far and wide through Victoria Park in Saskatoon Friday, with festivities underway to culture, heritage and family on National Indigenous Peoples Day.

"We're here, we're valuable and it's important that we reconnect with our identity," said Janelle Desjarlais, a member of Moosomin First Nation who attended a march held in the park with her son.

"That's what today means to me — raising our next generation of Indigenous children to be stronger, better, healthier, and continuing that cycle of intergenerational success."

The crowd was a sea of orange as thousands marched at the Rock Your Roots Walk for Reconciliation. The hour-long march took place along the river, with various cultural performances along the way.

The crowd continued to grow as people gathered after the walk for more festivities. Drummers, dancers and singers performed and lunch was served for everyone.

"It's a day put aside for our people to bring some culture and tradition here to the park," said Sanford Strongarm, the master of ceremonies of the event.

"It's also a time of gathering and to meet up with new friends."

Shawna Arcand was among those who gathered at Saskatoon's Nation Indigenous Peoples Day celebration on Friday, June 21, 2024. She brought her grandchildren Isaac Arcand, left, Jordyn Arcand, centre, and three-month-old Jaydyn Arcand.
Shawna Arcand was among those who gathered at Saskatoon's Nation Indigenous Peoples Day celebration on Friday, June 21, 2024. She brought her grandchildren Isaac Arcand, left, Jordyn Arcand, centre, and three-month-old Jaydyn Arcand.

Shawna Arcand was among those who gathered at Saskatoon's Nation Indigenous Peoples Day celebration on Friday, June 21, 2024. She brought her grandchildren Isaac Arcand, left, Jordyn Arcand, centre, and three-month-old Jaydyn Arcand. (Jason Warrick/CBC)

People of all ages joined in the celebration, from elders to groups of children in attendance with their teachers.

Along with the performances, a teepee was set up for smudging.

"The smudge will help you, it'll help you heal," said Shawna Arcand, a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation who lives in Saskatoon. She is also a residential school survivor.

Many in attendance at the walk said they were marching to show solidarity for victims of residential schools.

Arcand brought her three grandchildren to the event. She said she wants them to learn about their heritage, and a celebration that means a great deal to her.

"This gives us strength," she said. "To see everybody participate, it's a wonderful feeling."

Regina's celebration for National Indigenous Peoples Day on Friday, June 21, 2024.
Regina's celebration for National Indigenous Peoples Day on Friday, June 21, 2024.

Regina's celebration for National Indigenous Peoples Day on Friday, June 21, 2024. (Will Draper/CBC)

Crowds also gathered for celebrations in Regina's Victoria Park, which hosted Inuit games, Cree syllabics and Métis jigging.

People of all backgrounds joined in, some learning about these traditions for the first time.

"We just want to educate the newcomers surrounding our culture," said Scarlet Kelly of Peepeekisis First Nation.

"It's really awesome to see so many people here, wanting to learn and being open to learning about our culture, because for a long time our culture wasn't [taught] to others," she said.

Kelly said to her, the celebration is about showing everybody she's proud of who she is.