Event successful in spite of tabling issues
By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor
National Aboriginal Day, a day that the Canadian government describes as a way of “offering Aboriginal Peoples an excellent opportunity to share their rich, diverse cultures with family members, neighbours, friends, and visitors,” was celebrated on June 21. Douglas College held events celebrating the day on June 18 at the David Lam campus in Coquitlam, and on June 19 at the New Westminster campus. The Other Press was in attendance at the New West event, hosted in a joint effort by the Aboriginal Gathering Place and the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU).
The day kicked off in the concourse with speeches, a ceremonial smudging, and a performance by the Git Hayetsk Dancers, who have been performing traditional dances internationally since 2003. The dance group performed to loud drumming, which drew a crowd to the campus’ spacious concourse.
Noticeably absent from the concourse were the presence of information tables. Instead of tabling in the concourse, the rest of the event took place on the fourth floor of the campus, in the hallway outside of the art gallery. “The tablings are all happening up here because they said we can’t table downstairs,” said DSU Member-at-Large Shila Avissa, adding that it was likely because of the construction project underway on the concourse’s ceiling.
“I would have preferred if we could have been in the concourse,” said Lorna Howat, the DSU’s Disabilities Liason. “ I think we would have been able to access more students and have more students involved with this.”
Despite “not enough” students coming through, Howat describes the event as a valuable educational experience for students. Howat was in charge of a DSU table devoted to busting stereotypes about Aboriginal Peoples, which Howat says were a surprise to some: “A lot of people were aware that Aboriginals do pay taxes, and that not all their education is paid for, where some people just weren’t sure. And that’s fine. This is an opportunity to educate them. We just want to educate the student about Aboriginals and National Aboriginal Day.”
Avissa described the events from the previous day at David Lam, which, like the New West event, featured tables, button blanket workshops, and documentaries, as well-attended: “Yesterday’s [turnout ] was great,” Avissa said, adding that “the Git Hayekts dancers attracted so many people at David Lam, because of the drumming. All the people start coming to the atrium, it was amazing.”
The commemorative is no stranger to upsets and controversy. Artemis Fire, faculty member and instructor of Aboriginal Child and Community Studies, notes that the day was originally intended to have a different name: “The original request for this day came from the National Indian Brotherhood, which is [now] the Assembly of First Nations. That was in 1994. In 1996, it got claimed as a day by the Canadian government. But when they made the original request they wanted it to be called National Aboriginal Solidarity Day, which is different from National Aboriginal Day.” Fire stressed the importance of the difference in meaning of the two names. She also noted the importance of the event in furthering the education of both students and the community.