L’nuey P.E.I. hosted a Mawi’omi — meaning gathering or celebration — on Sunday to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day.
The virtual event went from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and featured videos posted to the L’nuey P.E.I. Facebook page.
It was an event about more than celebration, said Annie Martin, communications and administration assistant with the group.
“A big focus for us is education," she said. "There can’t be reconciliation without education, so there’s a lot that we’re focusing on with that.”
The event began with a video of a sunrise ceremony, opening prayer and honour song performed by Junior Peter-Paul filmed in Skmaqn—Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst, Epekwitk.
“I think they had to be there for four in the morning,” said Martin. “There was drumming and song and prayer and, I believe, it was the first time the two young guys got to see this happen, so it was really beautiful.”
Videos followed of chiefs Junior Gould and Darlene Bernard, a reading by Julie Pellissier-Lush, P.E.I.'s first Mi'kmaw poet laureate, and a show of solidarity from the City of Summerside, that on Friday hoisted the Mi’kmaq Grand Council flag in celebration of the day.
Premier Dennis King also recorded a message, in which he said to take the day as an opportunity.
“An opportunity to listen, to learn from oral histories and traditions and most of all, to strengthen our active role in making meaningful reconciliation.”
Those words meant a lot to Martin, she said.
“He’s been a great partner along the whole way with Indigenous people, so to acknowledge that and say more than just ‘Happy Indigenous Peoples Day,’ he really added to it and you can tell he really cares about our people.”
King wasn’t the only politician involved, as MLA Lynne Lund’s statement from June 18 in the legislature was posted.
In the statement, recognizing June as National Indigenous History month, Lund acknowledged while it’s easy to learn and celebrate many parts of Indigenous history, other aspects of Indigenous and colonizer relations in Canada are uncomfortable, but equally important to acknowledge. She mentioned Canada’s first prime minister bragging about genocide or the recent deaths of two Indigenous people shot and killed by RCMP in New Brunswick and disproportionate number of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons.
This was an important and powerful inclusion for the day, said Martin.
“It’s a brief video, but it’s worth watching. I think it balances the celebration too, just to acknowledge all aspects of Indigenous people in Canada and everyone’s relationship with them.”
To round out the day, there was a closing prayer by Jimmy Bernard and video of a sunset taken by Mi’kmaw artist Patricia Bourque.
The final post was a video showcasing and celebrating Mi’kmaq fathers.
Despite not being able to gather in person, the day turned out great given how many people were able to get involved, said Martin.
“Lots of things you’re really excited to be working towards and then to see it all come together, it’s just like, ‘wow.’ You’re just so proud. It brings so much more meaning to the day to see everyone’s contributions.”