As I, and many others shuffled into the rehearsal studio in the Arts Commons, children, families and elders sat wide-eyed waiting for the event to begin. We had all gathered at the Arts Commons to celebrate Indigenous culture and heritage for their National Indigenous People’s Day Celebrations. The room reflected the diversity of Calgary’s city, young people, persons of all abilities and different ethnocultural background.

The Master of Ceremonies for the event was Coming Lightening, also known by his English name Richard Sparvier. Coming Lightening is a leader in the Siksika and Calgary community, Chief of the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Students Council and hosts the CJSW radio show Blackfoot Language Stories. After he welcomed everyone, an elder completed a prayer and smudge to beginning the pow wow.

The Eya-Hey Nakoda drum group and dancers from across Treaty 7 shared their powerful music and movement as part of an inter-tribal dance where all attendees were welcome to dance and participate. It was an incredible site to witness people of all cultures, ages, genders and abilities rise up and share in this healing music. This pow wow was designed to welcome and heal and it did just that.

As a settler, reconciliation it is my responsibility to learn – that means entering into spaces that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable so I may begin to learn my role in colonialism and reconciliation. Opportunities like this pow wow are a privilege and I am truly grateful for the ability to participate and continue to learn about the transformational power of Indigenous cultures in Mohkinstsis, Treaty 7 and beyond.

On National Indigenous Peoples Day, myself and YW Calgary honour and celebrate the rich heritage, culture and contributions of Indigenous peoples across Canada. When we started building our new home in Inglewood, the women and families we support we’re are the heart of the designed and planning. From the big windows with natural light to the artwork throughout the building and the private and public spaces including the library and smudge room, the diversity of the community we support is reflected and embraced in every aspect of the building, including Indigenous culture.

At YW we see the disproportional representation of Indigenous women, including women whose aunties, cousins, sisters and family members are among the missing and murdered. The faces of women in our emergency shelter programs are lined with pain: of the moment and of years and past generations. We know that access to trauma-informed and culturally responsive services are vital for Indigenous women’s healing. Last year, YW supported more than 428 individuals identifying as Indigenous by providing access to shelter and housing, counselling, parenting supports and employment resources.

Today is an invitation for Canadians to take time to experience and learn about Indigenous cultures and histories; to learn about approaches to reconciliation and allyship; a call to action for all Canadians.

Learn more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.