The Sunshine Coast's first Kanata Day celebration drew about 50 people to the Sechelt Indian Band Community Hall on Monday for an afternoon of storytelling, music, food, and ceremony.
The event was organized by 80-year-old shíshálh elder Xwu'p'a'lich Barb Higgins, who said the name was a return to the Iroquoian word for village, "Kanata," which Jacques Cartier transcribed in his 1535 journal as "Canada."
"It's my idea of what Kanata Day should be. Canada Day is a colonial thing, and you don't see many Indians around for it," Higgins said.
The celebration brought together elders from Sliammon First Nation, Kwakiutl from Alert Bay and "quite a number of Cree," but the majority of participants were non-Aboriginal, she said.
"But that's OK. That's what it's all about. If we're going to make any headway with our prime minister, it's going to be all people joined together, not one specific bunch. We are all people. We all have rights," she said.
Ceremonies included building a watchman with stacked stones the night before on Gospel Rock, and blessing it on Kanata Day after the activities in the hall.
"About 25 people came out there and we did a ceremony," Higgins said, adding that the property owner assisted. "It's still there. It's cemented in place."
The shíshálh had traditionally placed a territorial marker on the site, she said.
"It was like a shrine. It was a lookout place, where they kept sentinels."
Higgins said a 12-year-old Sliammon girl provided one of the highlights of the afternoon.
"She stood before the audience and she spoke for about 20 minutes about the problems and how they could be solved. Then she sang a song hoping for better things in the world. It was very touching.
"There was also drumming and singing. People didn't want to leave. They were having so much fun."
Higgins said she would like to see the Kanata Day concept spread next year to other First Nations and hopes to bring the event back to Sechelt as well, adding that she is under marching orders.
"It's my elders that set me on this," she said.
© Coast Reporter