IPS at National Indigenous People’s Day 2023

IPS/VanCity Family Canoe Paddlers (left to right): Lizz Brooks, Tasman Fitzmaurice, Connie Martin & Carol Itakura

IPS team members who attended and participated in NIPD 2023 activities, at Royal Roads University, shared some personal highlights of their experience. Our thanks to Carol Itakura and Tasman Fitzmaurice for sharing some of your personal perspectives and experiences of the day. Many thanks to our hosts Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, partners and community members for coming together to support and celebrate a wonderful day.

Dancers at Canoe Landing

Carol appreciated the huge community of talented Indigenous artists and crafters, teepees, challenging games, nature walks and the many talents of those on stage. For Carol, a top highlight was the traditional singers, dancers and drummers who performed in their beautiful regalia, and with instruments made from natural materials, such as seeds, bark, feathers and animal parts. Each sacred song, dance and drum performance expressed Indigenous identity, place and belonging. And each performance shared its own cultural story.

Tasman enjoyed National Indigenous Peoples Day very much. She especially loved watching the little ones from many schools in the area participating, running, dancing and laughing in the sunshine. Tasman enjoyed watching the Lekwungen Dancers, and how their regalia sparkled in the sunshine. Another highlight for Tasman was connecting with her classmates and Indigenous studies team members from Camosun College, whom she misses dearly. 

IPS Family

Carol Itakura described her participation in the canoe landing protocol as ‘an incredible experience and a great honour’. Carol said, “It was a good learning experience to practice, learn and honour the traditional teachings of the Lekwungen peoples of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.  For example, I learned that by raising and holding the ends of our paddles facing upward, it meant we were coming in peace. Each canoe had a leader who spoke on behalf of each canoeist to state the purpose of the visit and ask for permission to come ashore – a significant sign of respect.  By participating in this canoe protocol, all First Nations, Metis, settlers and visitors, are learning to live, work and celebrate together. In the words of Asmanahi Antoine, this demonstrates ‘how different peoples can proactively move towards reconciliation’.”

(left to right) Tasman, Lizz & Carol
IPS/VanCity Canoe Family

Tasman also participated in the Canoe Challenge and had a fantastic time paddling with the team and her husband. While paddling, she was excited to see the animals and especially the cute little otters, as they stuck their curious faces out of the water to see what all the commotion was about. The day left Tasman with feelings of hope, warmth, and belonging. She was very grateful to everyone who made this day possible and hopes to participate again next year!

The IPS/Vancity Canoe Team won First Place in the Swutth’tus Small Canoe Challenge!
Canoe Race Medals presentation ceremony

Carol credits the win to “the skill and expert steering and guidance of our Skipper – Páora Tangira, from Power To Be, whose words of encouragement and gentle reminders and advice to the whole canoe team during our Canoe Challenge, came at the right times when we needed it most. Each canoe paddler on the IPS/Vancity canoe team worked hard to paddle together, in sync, and as a Team. By taking to heart all the lessons learned in a few short practice sessions (before the event), we shared the satisfaction of celebrating our win together. Each canoe team member trusted and followed one another, stroke by stroke, and we became the winners! It wasn’t just the win that was exhilarating, it was the team effort that made the canoe challenge fulfilling. The moment when we received the wooden carved First Place award was a definite highlight!

(left to right) Rachelle Dallaire, Kai'a Hill, Connie Martin & Carol Itakura

With gratitude for community and the opportunity to come together, we look forward to seeing you next year at National Indigenous People’s Day celebrations.