National Indigenous Peoples Day at Royal Roads

The Lekwungen singers and dancers at NIPD 2019 celebrations.

The co-hosts of National Indigenous Peoples Day 2024 celebrations extend a warm invitation for a day of fun and community connection on the Lands of the lək̓ʷəŋən (also known as the Songhees and Xʷsepsəm /Esquimalt Nations) ancestors and families. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, June 21 at the Royal Roads University campus. Everyone is welcome and admission is free. 

The National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations on these Lands are rooted in traditional cultural practices when waterways were roadways between communities. Families would travel by canoe and wait to be greeted from the shores of the community they were wishing to visit. The canoe landing protocol practice held at the start of the celebration brings this tradition to life as hosts and visitors share, learn and celebrate together.  

The day begins at 10 a.m. with the Lekwungen Traditional Dancers and Singers performance at shore stage followed by a welcoming ceremony and prayer on the shore of the Esquimalt Lagoon. At 10:40 a.m., a traditional canoe landing protocol practice follows, led by lək̓ʷəŋən Elder Butch Dick, joined by guests and family members from the lək̓ʷəŋən speaking peoples, the Songhees and Xʷsepsəm Nations. At noon, the official main stage opening with singers and dancers, followed by stage performances throughout the day. 

The Swutth’tus (Max Henry Sr.) Canoe Challenge starting at 12:30 p.m. will test the skills of 16 partner teams, taking turns racing canoes to navigate tight turns and return to shore safely. The winning team will hoist the coveted wooden paddle trophy to take back to their organization to display for the year. 

Activities on the grounds throughout the day will bring opportunities to gather, play, learn and enjoy food together. The activities taking place until closing at 3 p.m. include children’s field games and craft tent, a frybread station, vendor market and food trucks (with food/beverages for purchase), an interactive Métis showcase and storytelling and songs in Tipi. There will be an Elders’ tent and traditional plant walks on Charlie’s Trail along Colwood Creek with Cowichan Elder Siilnahumut Kenneth Elliott. 

This annual event has grown over the last decade, with community enthusiasm and continued support from partners, sponsors and volunteers.  

As there is limited parking available on site, the university encourages the public to take public transit, walk or cycle along the CRD Galloping Goose Regional Trail. There will be on-campus transportation between event locations available for Elders and guests who need assistance.  

The event is co-hosted by Xʷsepsəm Esquimalt Nation, Songhees Nation, Camosun College, Capital Regional District, City of Colwood, Indigenous Perspectives Society, Island Métis Family & Community Services Society, Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council, M’akola Housing Society, Métis Nation of Greater Victoria, Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Ocean Spirit Canoe Family, Power To Be, Royal Roads University, NA’TSA’MAHT Indigenous Education, SD62, Sooke Family Resource Society, University of Victoria, Victoria Native Friendship Centre and West Shore Parks & Recreation.