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Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day

June, 2020 - June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day, a time for us to recognize and celebrate the cultures of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Andrea Louise-Martyn, from our Community & Indigenous Affairs team, explains what the day means to her and how you can celebrate virtually this year.

2020 Indspire Awards
Andrea Louise-Martyn attending the 2020 Indspire Awards, March 6 in Ottawa.

Andrea Louise-Martyn, Indigenous Relations Advisor

National Indigenous Peoples Day is important to me because of my Métis heritage and, as an Indigenous Relations Advisor, I work on a variety of initiatives to strengthen Cenovus's relationships with Indigenous communities, and build internal understanding of working with Indigenous people.

Like everything else, our festivities this year will be a bit different because of the restrictions in place due to COVID-19. However, I’d like to mark the occasion by sharing what Indigenous Peoples Day means to me and how we can all celebrate together virtually.

To me, National Indigenous Peoples Day is a chance to honour my grandparents and celebrate the uniqueness of my Métis culture. My maternal grandparents were really influential in my upbringing. My grandpa was a trapper, a guide and a fantastic storyteller. My grandma was a seamstress, a skill she acquired from the nuns in residential school. They were both from Kelly Lake Métis Settlement, but lived in Beaverlodge. My family roots run deep in western Canada and I’m fascinated by the strength and resiliency that my ancestors had.

Some of the signifiers of our vibrant Métis culture include the Michif language, our beadwork and our music and dance. I enjoy watching the dancing, but unfortunately don’t have the music in my feet like some of my cousins do!

In a typical year, I usually celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day by attending the events hosted in Calgary. It’s an opportunity to celebrate with friends and there’s usually an abundance of great entertainment and delicious food – stew and bannock are often on the menu.

This year, I plan to participate in some of the virtual events that will be taking place for National Indigenous Peoples Day, including watching the broadcast of the 2020 Indspire Awards. I attended the awards ceremony earlier this year in Ottawa, where eleven outstanding Indigenous individuals were honoured. The photo above is me at the ceremony, wearing my Métis sash. Read more below about what the colours of the sash represent. It was a wonderful evening showcasing the diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada and included outstanding performances by Indigenous talent. I hope you all enjoy National Indigenous Peoples Day, and I encourage you to take time to celebrate using the resources below.

Learn about the Métis sash

There are meanings to the colours of the traditional Métis sash that was presented to Andrea:

  • Red is for the blood of the Métis that was shed through the years while fighting for our rights
  • Blue is for the depth of our spirits
  • Green is for the fertility of a great nation
  • White is for our connection to the earth and the creator
  • Yellow is for the prospect of prosperity
  • Black is for the dark period of the suppression and dispossession of Métis land

Traditionally, the sash was worn by men, but today it’s worn by everyone, usually around the waist or draped over one shoulder. The sash was not only a beautiful accessory but a practical item of clothing, it could be used for back support for voyageurs, a belt, a harness, a washcloth or towel, a bridle, a saddle blanket and the fringes could be used as an emergency sewing kit. Versatility at its finest!