Last week, May 22 to 25, marked Indigenous Awareness Week (IAW). The week was created to honour and raise awareness about the First Nation, Métis and Inuit cultures in Canada. First introduced in 1992, the week helps to increase awareness of the indigenous people within the federal public service.
“This Awareness Week was then adopted by Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF leadership as one of the four Employment Equity commemorative events to be held during the year,” said Anne Génier, directorate army public affairs national defence. “IAW invites members of the Defence Team to reflect on the past while looking to a positive future where we, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, can all thrive alongside each other to build a better society and a better Canada.”
In the days since, it’s developed into a week-long celebration, providing people all over Canada with the chance to learn more about First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples, past and present. The theme for this year’s Indigenous Awareness Week was dubbed “Dancing in Unison.”
“This is an important week to commemorate because diversity is a source of strength and flexibility and plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) remain a strong, innovative and forward-looking organization,” said Génier. “We strive to be reflective of Canada’s cultural, ethnic and linguistic makeup, as well as its regional diversity.”
To achieve this objective, Génier said the CAF is committed to increasing diversity and promoting inclusiveness amongst its personnel.
“Moreover, the CAF embraces diversity through its inclusive personnel policies, ongoing education and awareness initiatives, training, career fairs and coordinated commemorative events at locations across Canada, such as the IAW,” added Génier.
Events held during the week included a commemorative event held at the National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. The event started off with keynote speaker Brigadier-General Jocelyn Paul, an address from Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, Commander and Canadian Army and Defence Team Champion for Indigenous Peoples. Attendees were also treated to Inuit throat singing, drum dancing, a display of artifacts, demonstrations of traditional artisanry and given the opportunity to try traditional Indigenous dishes.
In addition, the Council from the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan Golden Lake First Nation, in Ontario, set up a 16-foot educational display that told the story of their people.
“This display was set up on base in Petawawa from May 22-25 for troops to read and be educated on the history of the indigenous people in the area,” said Génier.
In Eastern Canada, the Royal Artillery Park Officers’ Mess in Halifax, held an event on May 22. Starting with a smudging ceremony led by Deb Eisan, followed by an open prayer by Honorary Colonel Julien. Next was a welcome from the 5th Canadian Division Commander, a Mi’kmaw Honor Song, a Strong Women song, an explanation of the Pow Wow dances and teachings of the braid by Deb Eisan and a demonstration of Women’s Traditional Dance. They concluded the event with a closing prayer.
Western Canada will be holding their event on May 30.
“A traditional pipe ceremony will be held at the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation (near Edmonton) to highlight and foster the relationship between the Department of National Defence, Canadian Army, and First Nations,” said Génier. “This particular ceremony will highlight the relationship between the 3rd Canadian Division, 1 Military Police Regiment, and the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.”
Finally, throughout the week, the 2 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group posted pictures of Canadian Rangers on their Facebook page, found here.
All of the events were planned and organized by the Canadian Armed Forces.
During #IndigenousAwarenessWeek, we honour the Indigenous people of Canada, past and present, and the many Indigenous cultures that enrich the mosaic of the Defence Team and our nation.
The theme for this year is “Dancing in Unison”, which invites the Canadian Forces including the RCAF to reflect on the past while looking to a positive future where we, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, can all thrive alongside each other to build a better society, and a better Canada.
📷 Cpl Alana Morin