Indigenous Peoples Day is a day for Aboriginal people to show their colours and strengths, said 22-year-old Ruthie Jackson of Williams Lake.
“We can share our culture that other people may have not learned about yet,” said Jackson, a natural resource worker with the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG). “Recently with everything about our history being brought to light, hopefully we can see our story being part of the school curriculum.”
Jackson attended a chili and bannock event hosted by the TNG in partnership with Yeqox Nilin Justice Society and Denisiqi Society at Herb Gardner Park on Friday, June 18 that attracted about 200 people.
Sitting on one of the park benches Tory Amut, 65, was enjoying the food.
“We are the First Nations people and I have respect for all nations, no matter what tribe you are from,” he said.
Originally from Tl’etinqox First Nation, he has lived in Williams Lake for about six years.
“Now and then I go back when I can get a ride and visit my family,” Amut noted. “I enjoy it and I’ve never got a dull moment and am just happy with the way things are going. That’s the kind of person I am. I never get mad at anyone.”
Gene Cooper, who also works for the TNG’s natural resources, said the day is important.
“We have been trying to find a place that we naturally belong to, which was denied for the longest time,” Cooper said. “Since the recognition through this day I think people are listening that we are saying, ‘we are here to stay, we are willing to share and we want to work with you.’ That’s why this event is open to everybody.”
Cooper said he is hopeful with education, non-Indigenous people will have a better understanding of First Nations people in Canada.
“Indigenous Peoples Day is about being proud, recognizing your heritage and being able to express that nationally,” said Danielle Gilpin, the TNG’s emergency operations centre’s (EOC) chief planning co-ordinator.
Raised at Tl’etinqox, Gilpin moved into Williams Lake to attend secondary school and has lived in town ever since.
She has been working with the EOC since March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic first began.
“To us it’s a time to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous together to celebrate our culture,” said Jenny Philbrick, executive director of the TNG.
“That’s why we were serving food, that’s part of our culture and a way to get to know each other.”
Williams Lake First Nation will be hosting an event Monday, June 21, at the Chief William Arbor, open to staff and community members from WLFN, Xat’sull First Nation, SXFN and Canim Lake Indian Band.