National Indigenous Peoples Day will bring rockin’ good times to several sites on unceded Coast Salish traditional territories.
One of the biggest be in the Downtown Eastside on Wednesday (June 21). There, a Carnegie Community Centre street party will run from 1 to 4 p.m. Chief Bill Williams of the Squamish Nation and Carleen Thomas from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation will offer the official welcome.
For this event, the City of Vancouver will halt vehicle traffic on Main Street between East Hastings and East Pender streets. This will create space for Muttdog, Carnegie’s lexwst’i:lem drum group, Big Drum with John Sam, and dancer Larissa Healey to offer pop-up performances. In addition, the Carnegie Community Street Party will include crafts, medicines, and smudging.
Meanwhile over at Vancouver City Hall, 16 Indigenous flags are flying throughout the month of June. One features the artwork for National Indigenous Peoples Day 2023, designed by a member of the səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nation.
The artist, Candace Rose Thomas, is a great-granddaughter of actor, musician, poet, author, and Tsleil-Waututh icon Chief Dan George. He earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor for his performance in the 1970 film Little Big Man.
Another big celebration is on the lawn of the Vancouver School Board at the corner of West 10th Avenue and Fir Street. On Tuesday (June 20), volunteers were erecting a nine-metre teepee.
Indigenous music on VSB lawn
The hip-hop group Curtis Clear Sky and the Constellationz will be one of the star attractions. Its music is infused with Latin-funk, soul, ska, reggae, and blues, along with incredibly uplifting lyrics.
A good example is in its emotionally charged video for “Our Home”. It features lyrics like: “You don’t have to give up where you live / Stand together and show them what is / Beautiful people is who we are / This is our land, this is our home…”
Watch the video for “Our Home” by Curtis Clear Sky and the Constellationz.
Clear Sky has long advocated for Indigenous youths. This dates back to the early 2000s when he would attend Vancouver police board meetings with future cabinet minister Melanie Mark and back-to-the-land advocate and youth worker Preston Guno. They launched a prolonged campaign demanding that the VPD treat Indigenous youths with more respect.
In those days, 10 to 20 Indigenous youths approached the microphone at each Vancouver police board meeting.
“We maintained this until the VPD gave in and acknowledged the issues that eventually created several outcomes including a requirement for new recruits to take Indigenous cultural awareness training, and the aboriginal policing centre,” Clear Sky wrote in a tribute to Guno after he died in 2018 from cancer.
Tsatsu Stalqayu Coastal Wolf Pack will also perform at the Vancouver School Board celebration.
Watch Tsatsu Stalqayu Coastal Wolf Pack perform a Canoe Paddle Song.
Events at Canada Place, Burnaby, and Surrey
“Tsatsu Stalqayu translated into English means Coastal Wolf Pack,” the group’s website states. “A traditional Salish song and dance group, the group consists of over 25 male and female members of a single family, from age 6 months to over age 50. Their variation in age and gender allows for more song, dance and stories to be shared on stage and in their presentations.”
Meanwhile at Canada Place, Kwakiutl artist Stan Hunt’s memorial pole honouring residential-school students will be raised at Canada Place.
Yet another big event is scheduled at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver from 3:30 to 8 p.m. It will feature canoe families paddling on the water, Indigenous workshops, live music, and a salmon barbecue.
The City of Burnaby’s National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration is in the Edmonds Park and Plaza (7433 Edmonds Street) from noon to 5 p.m. It will feature several performers, including Métis singer Sandy Scofield, who’s scheduled for 4 p.m. Also in the lineup are Haida hoop dancer Raven (1:15 p.m.), Tstasu Stalqayu Coastal Wolf Pack (2 p.m.), Waceca Métis Society (2:45 p.m.), and Plains Cree poet-rapper and spoken-word artist Tawahum (3:30 p.m.).
This event is easily accessible by SkyTrain because it’s close to Edmonds Station.
Surrey’s National Indigenous Day Celebration and Wellness Event runs from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Bill Reid Millenium Amphitheatre. It’s hosted by the Semiahma (Semiahmoo), q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ (Kwantlen), and q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), upon whose traditional territories Surrey is located.