Indigenous Feast Come Rain or Shine – The Eastern Door
Marisela Amador The Eastern Gate
The community came together this year for Indigenous Peoples Day to celebrate, share a meal, play games and end the day with a dance.
The event, dubbed an Indigenous block party by organizers, was the first of its kind as community organizations collaborated to create a free event featuring local vendors, food trucks, fundraisers, giveaways, organized games and sports, arts and crafts, ending with a social in the evening.
What started months ago as a Go Skate Day celebration for skaters in Kahnawake quickly turned into a day-long party to celebrate Indigenous people. The Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center (KOR) developed this project alongside Kahnawake Tourism, the Kahnawake Youth Center (KYC) and the Sports and Recreation Unit of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK ), along with sponsors and community groups to come up with a special day for everyone on Tuesday, June 21.
“I approached Tourisme (Kahnawake) and Center jeunesse (Kahnawake) to see if they would like to help me with the skateboarding activity alone,” said Scott Berwick, event organizer and KOR employee. . “And then it just grew from that conversation.
“I hope next year it will be bigger and better.”
Although the day saw rain, the event drew people from nearby, those from nearby communities like Akwesasne, as well as Indigenous families living in Montreal.
Akwesasne was invited to participate in a friendly soccer match with Kahnawake on the grounds of the Sports Complex. In addition, vendors from Akwesasne came to contribute to the event.
Victoria Ransom came from Akwesasne to showcase her Haudenosaunee-inspired artwork, sell prints and join in the fun. Ransom visits the community a few times a year, but this was his first time behind a booth in Kahnawake.
“I’ve never been to Kahnawake just to sell art, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to do so,” Ransom said. “And I also like the whole idea of the event. It seems like a really exciting thing to be involved in.
The event also attracted indigenous families living far from their communities. Megan Leinen from Listuguj came from Montreal with her cousin and her children to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in the community.
Leinen stressed the importance of gatherings like this for her two children, Logan, five, and Riley, eight months, to give them a sense of Indigenous community and culture that is lacking in Montreal.
“Just the sense of community that we don’t have,” Leinen explained. “Here, he has a community, even if it’s different. There are many similarities that bring it together.
Kahnawake gives cousins a sense of connection. This is where they can source their beadwork and be with nature. In this way, Leinen and her cousin really enjoy coming to Kahnawake for their well-being, and so coming to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day was good.
“It’s important not only for children, but also for adults,” she said. “It’s not our community, our community is in the East, but it’s the closest we have.
The event was also an excellent opportunity for visibility and education.
“We actually have the fundraiser for the U11 lacrosse team which sells pizza, drinks and snacks. KSCS is here for their What’s for Lunch? said Jordan Diabo of Kahnawake Tourism.
“They make cornbread and they also give out snacks and drinks. We also have Rooted here who was able to get out despite the weather. So she has some of her homemade juices and cleansers.
Originally, the event had around 25 vendors booked to attend. Although this number changed slightly due to rain, many were able to make it and share their skills, programs and gifts.
In these difficult and ambiguous times, it’s important to find ways to connect and support each other through the ups and downs, according to Megan Kanerahtenha:wi Whyte, an art therapist in the community.
“I’m only thinking about things that happened systemically and this systemic violence,” Whyte continued. “It inspires people to come together.”
At the same time, it’s not the only thing that brings Kahnawa’kehró:no together, she explained. Under a white tent on a patch of grass at the Sports Complex, Whyte animated a community mural painted by young people during the event.
“I think it’s important to have healthy ways to bring people together, in a fun way and to celebrate,” she said, noting the many connection points at the event: sports games, yoga in the park, various snacks, even gifts from vendors.
“To have different events like this, it’s community driven, community based,” noted Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Chief Jessica Lazare, who attended the event.
“It’s really cool to see how we can all work together to create this great thing, that we can all witness the talents and the gifts and the arts and crafts that we all have.”
Lazare was struck by the collaboration it took to organize this event, rather than just one organization to organize it alone.
“It’s everyone’s collaboration to create this and make it last all day,” Lazare said. “So that’s the cool thing about it, that we brainstormed together and came up with that.”