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Sep. 24, 2021 | Friday
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Ceremony celebrates Indigenous Month in Niagara
The opening ceremony, launching Indigenous Month, was held on Saturday at Queenston Heights Parks. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Reconciliation doesn’t take a year. It’s not a two-year process, either – it does take a generation, says the director of an Indigenous education initiative in Niagara Region.

Tim Johnson, director of Landscape of Nations 360 Degrees, spoke to a crowd of more than 100 people who attended the opening ceremony for Indigenous Month on Saturday afternoon at the Landscape of Nations Memorial at Queenston Heights Park.

The annual event was held in celebration of the start of Indigenous Month, which acknowledges the achievements of Indigenous peoples. In the wake of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Indigenous Month aims to inform and educate Canadians about Indigenous issues.

The ceremony, organized by Niagara Parks in partnership with the Landscape of Nations 360 Degrees Indigenous Education Initiative, is one of a number of events taking place across Niagara as part of Indigenous Month.

Guest speakers on Saturday included Six Nations artist Raymond Skye, Michele-Elise Burnett, president of Kakekalanicks, an Indigenous arts and consultancy company that helps promote Indigenous art and artists, Niagara Parks chair Sandie Bellows and Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey. 

“I think anybody that walks on these grounds can feel the peace and harmony that is created now and going forward,” Bellows told The Lake Report. “It’s so great to see this crowd out here and I’m very honoured to be here.”

There’s no relationship more important than with Indigenous people, Badawey told the audience.

“In Niagara, we’re extremely lucky to have such a vibrant and engaged Indigenous population,” he said and encouraged people to learn, reflect and pass on the inspiration to others.

When he was designing the memorial, Skye said he was thinking about the warriors on Queenston Heights during the War of 1812.

He said he wanted to create something that honours not only leaders but unknown fallen warriors as well, to acknowledge and remember their efforts.

A few metres away from the ceremony, firekeeper Fred Bowering was keeping a sacred fire burning. He was also performing a smudging ceremony using white buffalo sage, sweetgrass and tobacco. Keeping the fire also helps him maintain sobriety, said Bowering.

Upcoming celebratory events in NOTL in honour of Indigenous Month include:

* Friday, June 14, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Queenston Heights, Celebrate OUR Nations: An Interactive Educational Experience.

* Friday, June 21, from 3 p.m. to sundown, at Virgil Sports Park, National Indigenous Day Celebration.

* Thursday, June 27, at 7 p.m., at Queenston Chapel, Laura Secord Homestead, author Tanya Tagaq speaks about her book Split Tooth.