Hundreds of people from Treaty 1 First Nations gathered at the future home of an urban reserve in the heart of Winnipeg for a pow wow in celebration of National Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Friday.
First Nation elders and chiefs, members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and a few councillors from the city marched in the Grand Entry that officially kicked off this year’s festivities at Kapyong Barracks.
The day continued with intertribal dances and musical performances, as well as public information sessions on the future of the former military barracks, although little was said about the plans of the urban reserve set to be built on the site.
“Today is truly a historic day,” said Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches, spokesperson for the seven Treaty 1 First Nations. “The goal today is to create some dialogue. To actually start off in a good way, through ceremony and tradition, to open Kapyong to discussions going forward.”
While there was no mention of specific development plans for the urban reserve, Friday marked the beginning of a public consultation process between the Treaty One Development Corporation and members of the surrounding area.
“We want to make sure that anything we put on these lands is going to benefit all,” said Whelan Sutherland, CEO of Treaty One Development Corporation. ”We want to ensure that we really push that unity. We don’t ever want to be an ‘us and them’ approach.”
The land that Kapyong Barracks sits on does not officially belong to the Treaty 1 First Nations yet. An agreement in principle was made in April 2018 between the federal government, Treaty 1 First Nations, and Canada Lands Co.
Sutherland said the transfer of the land is in its final stages, and Winnipeg can expect an announcement about the land ownership “very soon.”
As for Friday, Sutherland said it was less about the development and more about the celebration, a sentiment that was echoed by a number of chiefs that spoke during the ceremony.
“To each and every one of you who are from the Treaty 1 territory, be proud,” said Francine Meeches, Chief of Swan Lake First Nation. “This is a day to be proud of who you are, so be proud.”
Encompassed by seven massive teepees, each one representing a First Nation of Treaty 1, people of all ages joined in the dancing and celebration.
Various dances and performances were scheduled throughout the day, with the celebration ending around 8 p.m. Organizers estimated over 1,000 people showed up throughout the day.
-Article courtesy of email@example.com (Winnipeg Sun)