Shared vision for National Indigenous Peoples Day

June 8, 2018
Lisa Weighton
“The whole day is about fun and bringing people together.” - Butch Dick

Inspired by the Esquimalt Lagoon, Butch Dick and Asma-na-hi Antoine had a shared vision for expanding Royal Roads’ annual National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations onto the water.

“Butch and I were in a meeting one day in Sneq’wa e’lun (Blue Heron House), and he was staring out on the beautiful lagoon,” says Antoine, Indigenous education and student services manager “He said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to see a number of canoes out on the water?’”

It wasn’t until Dick, a Lkwungen Nation educator and artist who sits as a member of the Royal Roads Elders Circle, challenged neighbouring universities to a bit of friendly competition that the event became a reality.

In 2016, Dick attended a meeting with Vancouver Island university presidents and Indigenous education directors at Royal Roads. At the end of the meeting, he challenged them to grab their paddles and hit the water.

“After that, planning started to begin,” says Antoine, a member of the Toquaht Nation of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth lands on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

The canoe challenge is part of the annual National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations on campus June 21. 

This year, Royal Roads is co-hosting the second annual canoe challenge with the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, University of Victoria and Camosun College, along with support from the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council (ISPARC) and Power to Be.

The canoe challenge is the main attraction, Dick says, adding he’s delighted to see the growing celebration become an annual highlight for Royal Roads and the community.

“It’s exciting,” he says. “The whole day is about fun and bringing people together.”

Royal Roads expects to welcome more than 800 guests, providing an opportunity for the community witness cultural practices and protocols, Antoine says.

“These waterways were the roadway for Indigenous people to travel by canoe from community to community,” she says. “When you’d arrive, the protocol is to state your intention and ask for permission to come ashore.”

The event will start at 10:30 a.m. Nine canoe families, including representatives from Royal Roads, the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, UVic and Camosun College, will practice this protocol.

“This protocol practice is a small sign of respect towards reconciliation,” she says.

Dick says hosting the event at Royal Roads, located on the traditional lands of the Xwsepsum and Lkwungen ancestors and families, is significant because of its rich history.

“Our people lived here and harvested and hunted on this land for thousands of years and that’s very important for people to know,” he says. “It’s about creating understanding between people.”

The event on Thursday, June 21 runs from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. and includes traditional drumming, singing and dancing, children’s field games, traditional foods, craft workshops, artists, vendors and a traditional plant walk along Colwood Creek with Cowichan Nation Elder Kenneth Elliot. Admission is free and parking is complementary. The university encourages families to consider walking or cycling to Hatley Park along the Galloping Goose Regional Trail.