Canada’s First Nation population contribute a lot to the well-being of the country, said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy on Thursday, helping kick off National Aboriginal Day celebrations in Thunder Bay.
Aboriginals helped build Canada into the country it is today, hence the importance of recognizing that contribution, Beardy said.
“It is not really made public and I think it is important that we celebrate Aboriginal Day with the Canadian society to appreciate our contributions as First National People to the development of Confederation.”
Beardy was one of hundreds who gathered at Marina Park for a celebratory powwow, featuring Native dancers and drummers, and a collection of businesses and organizations from throughout the city there to mark the day.
A pre-dawn ceremony was held to start National Aboriginal Day, and the festivities continued all afternoon long.
“I’m very impressed here today,” Beardy said. “There are many people from many walks of life here. I think the apology of a few years ago really helped bring focus to our contributions as First Nations people. Definitely it’s exciting here.”
Beardy said it’s important for First Nations governments, businesses and provincial and federal interests to work together, given the increased interest in developing Canada’s North, particularly in the lucrative Ring of Fire.
There are benefits for everyone to realize, but it First Nations want to be consulted and consider themselves part of the process, not casual bystanders.
“I think it’s important that we build positive relations with First Nation people in the Canadian society, and that’s what I think we’re doing here,” he said.
But while Beardy is happy with the progress being made, there’s more that can be done, he said.
“Definitely there’s always room for improvement. I think the area that needs to be improved the most is in terms is in the history books and in the curriculum of schools across Canada. There has to be an accurate reflection of the contributions of First Nation’s people in the history books,” Beardy said.
The Marina Park celebration wasn’t the only activity honouring National Aboriginal Day in Thunder Bay. For the third straight year officials from Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre also marked the occasion with a special outdoor ceremony at the fountain at the hospital’s entrance.
Hospital CEO Andree Robichaud said the hospital board has made improved Aboriginal relationships part of its strategic core heading forward, a fact she acknowledged Thursday.
“We serve a number of Aboriginal clients at our hospital and as part of our community we need to engage and appreciate the traditions of the Aboriginal communities,” Robichaud said. “It’s one way of paying respect to our patients and our clients who come here within our walls.”
The hospital served traditional First Nation food in the cafeteria , and Robichaud said they’re bringing an Aboriginal liaison on board to help make further improvements in the future and guide them in sensitivity training for staff on how to better serve First Nations.
“And we’re looking at putting a healing garden within our walls. And at the end of the day I think our biggest milestone is that if we can have within our staff more Aboriginal professionals and staff, we’ll have met the ultimate milestone for our organization.”
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