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Indigenous Peoples Day celebration engages youth

Mostly virtual programming offered by city celebrates Indigenous culture, shares teachings on impacts of colonialism.

THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay-area youth had a chance to join in a full day of programming for Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, mixing a celebration of Indigenous culture with learnings on the ongoing impacts of colonialism.

Traditional dances, art, and cultural teachings were on offer via a mix of virtual and limited in-person events, organized through the City of Thunder Bay’s Youth Move and Youth Inclusion Program initiatives.

A Facebook Live talk by elder Ira Johnson centred on the cultural values of the four directions.

The film Birth of a Family, which follows four siblings separated at birth as part of the ‘sixties scoop meeting for the first time, was also screened in the evening.

Perhaps the centrepiece of the day came as elder Lorna Turner of Red Rock First Nation shared medicine garden teachings over Facebook Live and to a small group of volunteers and attendees present in person.

She spoke about the significance of several medicinal plants she had harvested and brought to plant in a new Youth Move medicine garden at the Kinsmen Youth Centre on James Street.

Turner also paid tribute to victims of Canada’s residential schools, saying those children would not be forgotten.

With the heaviness of the recent discoveries of previously unrecorded residential school deaths, Turner said, it was impossible for Indigenous Peoples Day to be entirely celebratory.

“We’ve had some significant learnings in the last month to the most recent weeks, of finding children out in B.C.,” she said.

However, she said her way of celebrating was to share her knowledge with the next generations.

Those teachings were eagerly accepted by youth Ashlynne Froebe, a relative newcomer to the city who said she was eager to learn more about the history of residential schools.

Froebe and her mother, Kathy Pockett, said they were pleased to see substantial youth programming on Indigenous Peoples Day.

“As a child, I left my culture,” said Pockett. “Now that I’m older, I wanted to share it with my children.”

Froebe was one of about 40 youth who painted along from home earlier in the day using an art kit created by local Ojibwe artist, Kevin Belmore, as part of the city’s programming.

While it may not quite match the resonance of an in-person event, Youth Move program coordinator Carlee Garieri said the virtual programming had largely proven a hit with youth – and their parents.

Monday also marked the first day of free drop-in programming at Youth Move, which will run through the summer six days a week for youth aged 10 to 18.

More details are available at the city’s website, and residents can email youthmove@thunderbay.ca for more information.