Preparations are underway for the South Island Powwow, marking this year’s National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on Saturday.
This is the second consecutive year First Nations from across Vancouver Island will the gathering at Royal Athletic Park for one of countless Orange Shirt Day events happening on the island and across the country.
“This is something we are very excited to have brought back and very excited to be able to host on this day,” Samantha Dean, with Songhees Nation South Island Powwow committee, said. “We think it fits very well with what the goals are and just what the purpose of the day is and what it stands for.”
She explained the powwow is a way to celebrate Indigenous resiliency, using song and dance to honour the culture.
Dean added it also creates a safe space for Indigenous people to express themselves.
“As well as creates a space for non-Indigenous to come and witness and learn,” she said.
This year, more than 10,000 people are expected to participate and watch the powwow.
There will be a grand entry, speeches, dances and about 60 vendors.
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Eddy Charlie, local residential school survivor and co-organizer of Victoria Orange Shirt Day, said it’s powerful to see the community come together at an event like a powwow to talk about the horrors and loss survivors carry with them every day.
“To see children participating and celebrating culture in a way that people like myself were not allowed to is a huge gift, it’s a huge reminder of everything we have lost,” Charlie said. “I think it gives great hope that events like this can help slowly bring our culture to the eyes of greater Canada and the community.”
The powwow will run from 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday.
The Orange Shirt Day committee has also planned a reconciliation ride where residents can cycle through some traditional lands and learn about them.
That gets underway at 9:15 a.m. at Songhees Park by the Delta Hotel.
“Opening this opportunity for everybody to participate, I think that’s very powerful experience,” Charlie said.
Organizations and companies around the Island are also doing their own reconciliation work.
Members of CFB Esquimalt wore orange shirts during their formation run Friday morning.
Cpt. Kevin Whiteside, base commander, said this wraps up a month of Indigenous education on the base.
“A bunch of reading, book walks, speakers program and Thursday we had the Lekwungen dancers form Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations performing for us here at the Naden Athletic Centre,” Whiteside added.
CHEK News will also be airing a number of Truth and Reconciliation Day events.
The third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation event in Ottawa will be broadcast at 10 a.m.
There will be a special addition of Our Native Land at 3 p.m. and the docudrama ‘A Cedar is Life’ will air at 8 p.m.
Charlie said there have been a few steps forward with reconciliation, like these events, but more action needs to be taken.
He said officials from both the provincial and federal governments need to be more present at Orange Shirt Day events to have their apologies and efforts towards reconciliation truly make an impact.