Indigenous Peoples Day marks progress while honouring history

Charlotte YellowHorn-McLeod said she can remember the days after then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the government’s role in the residential school system.

It was Indigenous Peoples Day and a handful of people were gathered in Bowness Park where one woman appeared to be shaking.

“All she said was, ‘I can’t believe its happening. I can’t believe that somebody finally believes us,'” YellowHorn-McLeod recalls.

“It seemed like nobody would listen. Nobody would take them seriously.”

Fourteen years later, about 200 people – many of them not Indigenous – walked from the federal Harry Hays Building to Fort Calgary both in remembrance and celebration.

“The settlers have come out. And they’re standing shoulder to shoulder with us so that we all walk into the future in a better way. I’m so grateful for that,” YellowHorn-McLeod says.

“The settlers have come out. And they’re standing shoulder to shoulder with us so that we all walk into the future in a better way. I’m so grateful for that,” YellowHorn-McLeod said.

Darcy Turning Robe grew up in Calgary but kept strong ties to his family’s Siksika roots, learning traditional songs and the Blackfoot language.

During Tuesday’s ceremonies, he shared a song passed down from his great grandfather.

“And when he sang that song, just imagine all the travesties: we weren’t allowed to sing, we weren’t allowed to speak our language, we weren’t even allowed to practice our culture. There was a break there,” Turning Robe said.

But the fact those songs and the language survived at all should be a reminder of the strength and resilience of Indigenous peoples.

The fact those songs and the language survived at all should be a reminder of the strength and resilience of Indigenous peoples.

“Those songs outlived many things and they’re still there and my songs that I made that are gifted from creator are going to outlive me,” he said.

He said relationships have improved in recent years, but says more needs to be done, starting with more people getting involved in events such as pow-wows in First Nations communities.

“We’re here, we’re not going anywhere, and we’re not mad. We’re happy and I think a lot more people should come out and enjoy these celebrations,” Turning Robe said. “There’s too many people thinking ‘we’re not allowed to’ – but our culture is a sharing culture.”

“Why don’t you guys come and be part of the change?”

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