The sounds of drumming and singing rang across the grounds at Royal Roads University Thursday as celebrations were underway for National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The festivities began on the land, which are the traditional lands of the Esquimalt and Songhees first nations, before shifting to the water for a canoe landing protocol.

Premier John Horgan was among those participating in the traditional practice.

“Coming ashore symbolically, it was a really great experience,” said Horgan.

“Tthe importance of today is to really to bring two communities together,” said Asma-na-hi Antoine, Manager of Indigenous Education and Student Services, “to celebrate what reconciliation is.”

The shadow of B.C.’s history still weighs on the minds of those tasked with reconciliation.

“This isn’t easy at all and there’s gonna be missteps along the way but as long as well work with recognition and respect together we will get there, and we’re making big changes already,” said Simon Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

“These are issues that have been long-standing and its time we addressed them,” said Premier Horgan, “whether it be pipelines or forestry or mining or aquaculture and we need to reconcile that this land does not belong to investment. It belongs to the people of B.C. and firstly it belongs to indigenous people.”

While today calls for a celebration, he says the work for better relations happens every day.

Isabelle Raghem