National Indigenous People Day Celebrated

Photo by Megan Pounder/SaultOnline

Many people gathered at Whitefish Island on Thursday to celebrate National Indigenous People Day.

This event is held annually as a way to promote cross-multiculturalism both in the Sault and across Canada, said Chief Dean Sayers.

Sayers said this event is a great way to share some of the Anishaabe culture, food, games and teachings.

“It’s a really beautiful day to celebrate who we are. There seems to be not enough of an opportunity for people to really see a lot of the positive things about what it means to be Anishaabe, he said. “We don’t have to look very far, there’s so much.”

Another important thing, he said, was the importance of preserving the Anishinaabemowin language.

“We also recognize the need for our language. It’s a really beautiful language, and that’s what ties our culture, our traditions, our way of life together. And as a nation, we need to protect that. The world deserves to have our language. So we will be investing and we will take steps to protect our language.

We have a long way to go in our relationship (with Canada), and these types of activities take us a little closer to finding that balance in the communities,” said Chief Dean Sayers.

“We also need to have Canada – who actively tried to take away the language -we want to make sure that they’re accountable too, and provide the proper resourcing to make sure that our language is preserved, protected, enhanced and taught. Hopefully, as one of the official languages of these lands. That language has a really beautiful applicability with our environment and they go hand-in-hand. So we need that. The world needs that.”

Sayers said the event is held on Whitefish Island because it’s a significant piece of land.

“This island, and this area, has always been the gathering place for people from all over North America; The Great Lakes have always gathered in close proximity to the rapids here, and we would feed thousands, if not millions of people from the fishery here,” he explained. “It’s very prominent, very historical, very important to all of the nations around the Great Lakes and North America. We’ve always gathered here – for governance, political, spiritual, medicines, trade – this is where it happened. We’re continuing that tradition here today by being in this area and hosting people here from all over, including other tribes that are here today from all over Ontario and Canada, and we welcome them, just like we’ve always done. We’ve always been the host, so it makes logical sense for us to host this here in this sacred – very spiritual place for us. A lot of people, their moccasins have walked on these lands for millions of years.”

Lewis Bissaillion helps his mother, Leslie Gagnon, run her craft vendor. Photo by Megan Pounder/SaultOnline

Lewis Bissaillion helps his mother and grandmother run their craft stand at various events. They sell handmade dream catchers and stained glass feathers, which his mother, Leslie Gagnon, learned to make as a child.

“My stepmother taught me how to make the stained glass feathers, and I learned how to make the dream catchers when I was in Girl Guides,” Gagnon told SaultOnline. “I add the little animals, such as bears and wolves, to the feathers to give them a piece of each clan.”

Bissaillion said he thinks it’s important to have events like these to promote acceptance.

“Events like this are important because we’re a small community. Everybody is so close. So if somebody has hatred, that hatred is close,” he said. “But this really brings people together from all different cultures, from all different places, where you can see each other’s culture and really appreciate it more. I really understand what this is. For us, this is a big thing; this is how we make most of our money. This is a big thing for us to come here and sell our crafts. For us it’s a great thing.”




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