Thousands of people dressed in orange shirts filled Royal Athletic Park Saturday (Sept. 30) to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at the South Island Powwow.
The event – now in its second year – brought together Indigenous dancing, drumming, food, and the knowledge of elders to celebrate Indigenous culture, and respect the survivors of residential schools and their families.
“It’s pretty humbling to see everybody come together and stand together,” said Chief Ron Sam of the Songhees Nation, which hosts the event. “There is a long road ahead of us to true reconciliation … but the more we stand together and show the young people what reconciliation is the sooner we will get there.”
Sam said being able to include so many elders from his nation and others at this year’s event meant a great deal for him as it was not possible last year.
Following the first grand entry of the day – which saw elders, dancers, leaders, and more parade into a giant circle lined with attendees – several elders and residential school survivors took to the microphone to share their stories and what it meant for them to see so many people from all communities gathered in one place.
“We really need to embrace the elders in our communities and give them the space and the floor. Really, that is what this day is about. We have turned it into this celebration today, but there are elders who still need that safe space to share their stories,” said Sam.