'It's good for the heart': Here's how National Indigenous Peoples Day was marked in N.L.

·3 min read
Sabrina Muise says dancing is a form of prayer for her. (Colleen Connors - image credit)
Sabrina Muise says dancing is a form of prayer for her. (Colleen Connors - image credit)
Colleen Connors
Colleen Connors

The two Indigenous Friendship Centres in Newfoundland and Labrador celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day with sunrise ceremonies, workshops, and a lot of singing, dancing and drumming.

Mi'kmaw dancer Sabrina Muise was relieved to be able to take part in a cherished annual tradition she's celebrated since childhood.

"I love dancing," Muise told CBC during the dancing and drumming event at People of the Dawn Indigenous Friendship Centre in St. George's on Newfoundland's west coast.

"It's my form of prayer. I'm usually not all that good with words."

Muise says it was the first time she was able to meet with her community in a couple of years.

Colleen Connors
Colleen Connors

"It's good for the heart, it's good for the soul," she said.

People of the Dawn and First Light in St. John's are among a network of more than 100 Indigenous friendship centres across Canada that make up the National Association of Friendship Centres. The network recognizes itself as "the primary providers of culturally enhanced programs and services to urban Indigenous residents."

The singing and drumming ceremony at People of the Dawn is part of a series of celebrations happening at Indigenous Friendship Centres across the country in honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21.

Mi'kmaw drummer Troy Bennett was happy to be able to get a beat going again.

"It feels really good to get back on our drum and pray for our people," he said.

Colleen Connors
Colleen Connors

With the centre having only reopened at the end of March, members like Bennett and Muise hadn't had the opportunity to socialize with friends in quite a while.

"It's a very powerful feeling being amongst our people," he said. "We haven't been around for a long time."

About 30 people were in attendance for the drumming and dancing portion of the day's events.

The full schedule for the day included a sunrise ceremony, a senior's talk and a tribute to Darlene Sexton, a revered Mi'kmaw woman from St. George's who passed away in April.

On the Avalon Peninsula, First Light Friendship Centre marked the day with a week's worth of activities and events.

Colleen Connors
Colleen Connors

The programming kicked off on Monday morning with a sunrise ceremony at Cavell Park Community Garden in St. John's.

The event drew about 100 people. Among them was First Light executive director Stacey Howse.

"Our culture is so strong and it's so beautiful and we have so many talented people in our community," Howse told CBC News during the event. "We want to recognize everyone that contributes to the Indigenous community."

First Light's special programming for the week includes a kayaking course and a sweetgrass basket-weaving workshop, as well as workshops in Inuit and First Nations drum tying.

Back in St. George's, Mi'kmaw drummer Michael Ryan said he was relieved to finally be able to connect with his community.

"I feel good about this. I haven't done this in a while," he said. "I feel redeemed."

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