A crowd watches the Khowutzun singers and dancers perform during the National Indigenous Peoples Day 2018 celebration at Maffeo Sutton Park. TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/News Bulletin

Nanaimo celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day

Event held Thursday at Maffeo Sutton Park

The importance of National Indigenous Peoples Day and Nanaimo’s celebration is the opportunity to come together, says Chris Beaton, executive director of Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre and event co-organizer.

“The fact that we see many indigenous and non-indigenous people sitting next to each other, sharing a meal together, talking, developing a relationship, I think that is actually fundamental to today’s celebration.”

The fifth annual National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration took place at Maffeo Sutton Park on Thursday.

Families could listen to music and watch dancers perform at the Lions Pavilion, eat salmon and traditional bannock together or browse artisan booths and activities at the four-hour event hosted by Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre, Mid Island Métis Nation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Vancouver Island.

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Music by Khowutzun singers and dancers

Events happened across the country for National Indigenous Peoples Day.

According to the Government of Canada, it’s a day for “all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.”

Beaton said Nanaimo’s event has grown each year, and that in 2017, it drew upwards of 5,000 people. At the start of this year’s celebration, he said he hoped to see the same numbers.

“What’s really important as well is the involvement of the community organizations, that has doubled this year in terms of those that are providing children activities or family activities,” he said. “It’s really encouraging to see the partnerships grow in order to celebrate this day as a city and as a community.”

Free activities were put on by organizations like the Nanaimo Art Gallery, Vancouver Island Regional Library and Nanaimo Port Authority. St. Jean’s Cannery provided the salmon and Don’t Bannock Food Truck offered up the free traditional bannock.

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