National Indigenous Day

Today was a day of firsts. My first day of a month long experiental learning course in the Yukon, called “Stories North — Stories of Reconciliation,” and the first time National Indigenous Day was celebrated as a statutory holiday. What a day this was!

For the past two and a half months I’ve been on a “vacation,” so I thought getting back into the school/working routine was going to be hard. But not here. My journalistic instincts kicked in right away — I spent my day collecting audio, shooting video and brainstorming story ideas to carry me through the month… and maybe even beyond.

However, I’m finding it difficult to reflect on the day’s events just because of the overwhelming sense of being in a new place, time and culture — sensory overload.

Besides beautiful mountains and flowing rivers, the Yukon is host to an amazing community of Indigenous peoples, whose traditions and ways of life I had the opportunity to experience firsthand during their celebration of today’s holiday.

There are no words to describe the feeling of hearing drums, seeing dancers, tasting authentic foods, and listening to the stories of Creator, the resounding struggles experienced by many generations as a result of residential schools and perseverance and strength in the face of these challenges. It was humbling to say the least.

I came to the Yukon knowing little about the impact of residential schools, but today was also an important day in scratching the surface of this history. My classmates and I were lucky enough to have participated in a blanket excercise where we learned, from two amazing women, some of the history of Indigenous peoples leading up to residential schools and where they stand today. But like I said, this only scratched the surface, there is so much more to learn.

I can only hope that each day I spend in the Yukon over the next month will be as full of life and learning experiences like today — I’m still processing it all and it’s only been one day! But I now understand what John Muir meant when he said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” This place is contagious, it settles into your being, makes you feel small. But, it’s amazing.

National Indigenous Day celebrations in Whitehorse, Yukon. Photos by Brooke Peloquin. June 21, 2017.

Brooke Peloquin. June 21, 2017.