Wednesday, July 24, 2024
July 24, 2024

Indigenous People Weekend meaning shared

By MARCIA JANSEN

DRIFTWOOD CONTRIBUTOR 

Salt Spring Island is celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day with a three-day weekend of events and activities that celebrate Indigenous arts and culture, creating opportunities for discussion of reconciliation. We asked islanders, Indigenous people and settlers, what this weekend means to them.    

Gizem Sozen

A conversation between islanders Jon Cooksey, Pam Tarr, Gizem Sozen and Adina Guest was foundational to the idea of the weekend.   

“For me, the Indigenous Peoples Weekend is a chance to show support and solidarity to the Indigenous Peoples whose traditional lands we are living on,” said Gizem Sozen, who moved to Salt Spring Island in September 2023. “As an immigrant settler new to Salt Spring Island who runs a small pop-up bookstore focusing on social justice, I feel that it is my political responsibility to participate however I can in the efforts of Indigenous Peoples and their allies towards decolonization. So when Jon and Pam broached the idea about the Indigenous Peoples Weekend, which I think at that time was still germinating, Adina and I, enthusiastically told them that we would support the project and like to participate.” 

Caroline Dick 

Caroline  Dick (Tahltan/Irish) is the Indigenous coordinator at the Salt Spring Island Public Library and helped form the idea of the Indigenous Peoples Weekend. She’s organizing the Indigenous Art Market — on Friday, June 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (note the date has changed from the original schedule) — and will be giving mini-tours of the Indigenous Learning Area in the library on Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours start in the lobby every half hour. 

“With Reconciliation work, there is a focus on trauma; that tends to be what a lot of people focus on. There is so much joy and beauty in Indigenous cultures and this weekend is an opportunity to celebrate and share our cultures.”

At the Indigenous Art  Market visitors can brow and purchase artwork, jewellery, paintings, knitting, cedar weaving and northern-style bannock. Vendors include Indigenous folks who are residents of Salt Spring Island, as well as from various First Nations on Turtle Island. 

Sherry Leigh Williams

On Friday, June 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Métis artist Sherry Leigh Williams is hosting a “Meet the Artist” drop-in event in the ArtSpring lobby gallery space, with Sheena Gering, to conduct walk-and-talks about their work and Métis culture. The ArtSpring lobby exhibition is also open on Saturday, June 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the festival, and continues until June 28 during ArtSpring opening hours.

“For me, this weekend is about acknowledging the struggles that every Indigenous person has endured since contact,” said Williams. “Despite losing our way of life, our homes, our land and even our children, we have not only survived but we continue to thrive. I feel it is important to develop relationships with both settler and Indigenous People, to have an understanding and appreciation for our cultural differences as well as the things we share, so that true reconciliation can occur.”  

Joe Akerman and Chris Marshall

Joe Akerman, who is of mixed Quw’utsun and European heritage, and Chris Marshall are involved with the Grace Islet 10-year Anniversary Event at Centennial Park on Sunday, June 23 from 10 a.m to 2 p.m.

Akerman: “It has been 10 years since local nations and Salt Spring residents came together to protect the burial ground of our ancestors on Grace Islet. This gathering is an opportunity to talk about what happened then and since, to discuss the present and future and to pay respect to local elders, as well as a way for us as a community to support them.”  

Chris Marshall adds: “I think this weekend is a chance for us newcomers — that’s what I’d like to call the settlers — to educate ourselves about what happened in the past and what we can do today. Do your research, there is so much material available out there, and of course, come to the anniversary event to learn about the people who lived here before us.”

Volunteers are still needed for the Anniversary Event at Centennial Park. Contact Chris Marshall if you can help out: chrismarshall2406@gmail.com.

Events list updated

Indigenous Peoples Weekend events kicked off on Tuesday with a webinar presented by Transition Salt Spring featuring Quw’utsun speakers Deb George (Sulsameethl) and Maiya Modeste (Sulatiye’) and called Climate, Culture, Land: Cultivating Community Resilience Through Indigenous Approaches.

 Go to gulfislandevents.com/indigenous-peoples-weekend/ for details about everything that will take place. Several more events have been added since last week’s article about the festival was published.  

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