Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) celebrated National Aboriginal Day on June 20 at the New Westminster BC campus, with students, faculty, staff and the community. The JIBC community and guests met with Elders-in-Residence, experienced First Nations dancing and drumming and participated in Métis jigging.
National Aboriginal Day is an opportunity to celebrate Aboriginal culture and learn more about the stories and triumphs of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people and enjoy traditional drumming, dancing and storytelling.
It was proclaimed in 1996 by former Governor General Roméo A. LeBlanc and is held on June 21, a significant day because it is the summer solstice, and many Aboriginal groups historically marked this day for ceremony and celebration.
The celebration began with a welcome from Chief Rhonda Larrabee of the Qayqayt First Nation, Dr. Laureen Styles, JIBC Vice-President, Academic, and Sue Hendricks, Director of Aboriginal Programs and Relationships at BC Corrections and Co-Chair of the JIBC Aboriginal Education Advisory Council.
Attendees also had a chance to meet and hear stories from JIBC’s Elders-in-Residence, including Audrey Rivers, Ken Pruden and Phillip Gladue.
The day included First Nations dancing a drumming with the Kwhlii Gibaykw Nisga’a Traditional Dancers and Métis jigging with Eloi Homier and fiddler Kathleen Nisbet.
Phillip Gladue, a Metis Elder and one of JIBC’s Elders-in Residence, said at the event, “Today is a very special day for me and for all of us who are Aboriginal. It is an opportunity to celebrate and share our knowledge, history, language, and understand where we all came from. I am happy that JIBC is holding these events.”
Audrey Rivers, an Elder from the Squamish First Nation and JIBC Elder-in-Residence, said, “National Aboriginal Day is important, because we have a responsibility to share with our children the teachings from our ancestors, whether it is our language, our stories, or songs and dances. It’s important that they, and others, learn the history of our people.”
Ken Pruden, a Metis Elder and JIBC Elder-in-Residence said, “National Aboriginal Day is extremely important, especially for young people and those who are recovering from residential schools. It is also an opportunity to show the cooperation between different cultures and nations.”
“National Aboriginal Day is a time to celebrate our diverse cultures as First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in what is now known as Canada,” said Cheryl Matthew, Associate Director of Indigenization at JIBC. “It is also an opportunity for us to acknowledge some of the work we have done throughout JIBC in increasing our knowledge on Aboriginal people, increasing our successful deliveries of programs in Aboriginal communities, building stronger partnerships with Aboriginal communities and organizations, and launching our Elders-in-Residence program, which brings a wealth of Indigenous knowledge to JIBC.
“Today is a wonderful reminder that our cultures are continually evolving and that we have a shared history here in Canada.”
Photos of the event are available in an online album.