National Aboriginal Day celebrates “growing together” at Victoria Park

Mitch MacDonald
Published on June 21, 2014

The growing relationships between Mi'kmaq and other Island cultures were showcased during the National Aboriginal Day celebrations at Victoria Park on Saturday.

The festivities were hosted by the Native Council of Prince Edward Island.

Andrew Sark, director of communications with the council, said the theme for this year was “mawnukuti’k,” a Mi’kmaq term for “together we are growing.”

“It’s to highlight the existing partnerships we have in the community and also how we are fostering new partnerships in the community with the province, the government of Canada and different non-profit agencies.”

The Victoria Park event also saw speeches from Native Council Chief and President Jamie Thomas, Charlottetown Deputy Mayor Stu MacFadyen, Tracadie-Hillsborough Park MLA Buck Watts and Progressive Conservative party leader Steven Myers.

There was also a Parks Canada representative at the event, while the location in Victoria Park looked directly across from Port-la-Joye-Fort Amherst, symbolic of the longstanding relationship between Mi’kmaq and Acadian cultures.

The day also saw cultural displays, aboriginal crafts for sale, food as well as games and face painting.

“National Aboriginal Day provides an ideal opportunity for the Native Council of Prince Edward Island to share the unique and diverse traditions of the Aboriginal people of Prince Edward Island with the general public,” said Thomas.

The event was funded in part by the federal government.

In 1982, The National Brotherhood of Indians, now known as The Assembly of First Nations, acknowledged June 21 to be National Aboriginal Solidarity Day.

In 1994, the United Nations officially declared an International Day of the World’s Indigenous People as being August 9, starting in 1995.

In 1996, Canadian Gov.-Gen. Roméo LeBlanc, declared June 21 as National Aboriginal Day for Canadians.

Sark said although it wasn’t declared until 1996, the first National Aboriginal Day was celebrated on P.E.I. in 1994. That event was held by Keptin John Joe Sark.

“It’s a long celebrated even here for aboriginal people, not just Micmac but all aboriginal people,” said Andrew Sark.

Janet MacDonald, who was first involved with the native council in the 1970s, was one of several wearing a traditional Aboriginal outfit during Saturday’s celebration.

The bright and colorful outfit was handmade by MacDonald.

“It took me all winter… it was something for me to do,” said MacDonald. “Unfortunately it’s not a big crowd but it’s a good crowd and there’s enough drummers here to keep everyone entertained.

“I’m just so happy the youth are here because I’ve seen these youths since they were knee high, and I’ve wondered if they’d come back.”

The day also saw the launch of a Native Council initiative.

After the Victoria Park event, Sark went to Stanhope Campground where he and Parks Canada presented a puppet show and story called “The Story of Kitpu and the Great Flowers of Niskum.”

Kitpu is an aboriginal term for eagle, while Niskum means sun.

“The story is about the eagle and sunflowers and how the eagle helps the people by bringing seeds from the invisible world,” said Sark. “After the story, the kids are all given a seed packet and we show them how to plant sunflowers.”

The council is also dedicating part of it’s website for children to post pictures of their sunflowers as well as receive tips on growing the plants.

“They participate in the growing and fostering of the sunflower, learning about healthy living, fostering life and about another nation’s culture.”