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By Cassie MacDonell

Local Journalism Initiative

“(National Indigenous Peoples Day) is important for many Indigenous peoples, both culturally and spiritually, and has been for thousands of years,” said Communauté autochtone de Sherbrooke-081 KITNÉ (CAS) President Michel Fontaine.

CAS and Actions interculturelles will commemorate the national day with a free event in Sherbrooke on Tuesday, June 21, their first since 2019. “It is a day for Sherbrooke residents, Eastern Townships residents, and all Quebecers and Canadians to remember the history, humanism, achievements and richness of Indigenous cultures and the contribution of Indigenous people to Quebec and Canadian society,” said Fontaine. Fontaine listed dances, music, songs, crafts, sacred fires, exchange circles, exhibitions, tales, and herbal teas as a few things to expect from the event.

The Sherbrooke celebration was born in 2019 when CAS contacted Actions interculturelles to ask if the two organizations could work together on the project. “It’s really thanks to the First Nations community of Sherbrooke. (Actions interculturelles) has a certain structure and know-how when it comes to multicultural activities, but they know about the traditions and what we must include in a celebration like this,” said Jacqueline Belleau, Directrice régionale de Actions interculturelles pour l’Estrie et le Québec.

Everyone is welcome to attend—including families. Belleau highlighted the projection of Voyage musical- à la croisée des cultures by La Boite interculturelle in particular, which is an audiovisual presentation about the power of music to unite through culture. “We think that for families for kids between 6 and 11, this will be very interesting,” she said. The group will also present the audiovisual presentation of First Nations folk tale Chompipa, which Belleau described as very touching. After the performance, the crowd will break into discussion circles, with each group having a member of the First Nations community in it. “These are great opportunities to celebrate, but they are also great opportunities to educate,” she said.

The two aforementioned events will be in French, but English subtitles will be provided. Belleau added that she plans to do her best to ensure English is not forgotten during the celebration.

To start the event, there will be an acknowledgement ceremony of the non-ceded territories and Indigenous hymns. Following the opening, there will be a purification ceremony, dance show by Les femmes aux tambours de Wendake, a sacred fire and moment of remembrance, and a performance by Indigenous flutist Patrick Therrien. The full schedule, available in English, can be seen on the Facebook page of Communauté Autochtone de Sherbrooke- 081 KITNÉ. “The whole idea is to celebrate the history of different First Nations cultures and their really unique role in the past, the present, and the future of the country,” she said.

After 8:30 p.m., attendees can taste the traditional bread Bannock, drink Indigenous herbal tea, browse the Indigenous artefacts exhibit, browse an Indigenous crafts exhibit, and more.

Belleau explained that the event could not have been possible without support from the Canadian government’s Canadian Heritage department, as well as support from Deputée de Sherbrooke Christine Labrie. “We are happy to once again organize an activity as part of National Indigenous Peoples Day with the Sherbrooke First Nations Community-081 Kitné and other partners,” finished Mohamed Soulami, Executive Director of Actions interculturelles.

The event will be held at Parc Belvédère (500 rue Thibault, Sherbrooke) from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21.

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