he canoes that glide through Esquimalt Lagoon today, hold a rich history across BC.It’s how Indigenous people moved and met for millenia.

“We’d like permission to come ashore!” shouted one canoer, in front of awaiting Songhee and Esquimalt Nation elders.

Much like a border crossing, the visitors ask permission to come ashore when they’ve reached other nations’ lands.

And the canoes Friday were met with a warm welcome, kicking off National Indigenous Peoples Day on the south island.

“The colonial settlers didn’t ask permission, they just came ashore,” said Premier John Horgan.

“So reminding ourselves of the traditions of the Lkwungan speaking people here on the southern Vancouver Island was very powerful.”The festivities will last all weekend in a sharing of traditions, a coming together where elders can pass their knowledge onto the next generation.

“In our culture we don’t have books, or textbooks to tell you what the teachings are. So it’s very important to listen, and to be able to pass along to pass that on younger people,” said Butch Dick, an elder of the Songhees Nation.

And the youngsters, are watching carefully.

“It makes me feel like I want to dance with them,” said Janice Pelkey, while watching the traditional dancers.This year brought the biggest crowd yet to Royal Roads University, where hosting the event remains a huge honour.

“People think about this place as a colonial castle, but in fact indigenous people predated any kind of colonial settlement for thousands of years. So today is about honouring that connection,” said Phillips Steenkamp, President of Royal Roads University.

Indigenous festivities will be held all weekend at the Royal BC Museum.

Kori Sidaway