National Indigenous Peoples Day was marked this year by the sounds of drums, singing, and a procession of people walking over the Canada-US border and back again at the Roosville border crossing.
About a hundred people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, gathered Tuesday (June 21) morning at the crossing for the 25th rendition of the Annual Border Cross Walk.
The march was headed up by drummers and singers, with Chief Heidi Gravelle and Councillor Kyle Shottanana of Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it (Tobacco Plains Indian Band), leading on foot.
Gravelle said the basis of the border walk is that there was no 49th parallel for her people.
“It cut our families in half,” she said.
“The walk across the border and back around is significant to express that it’s been a detriment to us.”
The walk took place on the traditional and unceded territory of the Ktunaxa/Ksanka Peoples, specifically Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it. Also present were relatives and friends from their sister governments, including: ʔakisq̓nuk (Columbia Lake First Nation), ʔaq̓am (St. Mary’s Indian Band), Yaqan nuʔkiy (Lower Kootenay Indian Band), Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana, and the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho.
Gravelle said they don’t recognize the border in the sense that both sides are their home.
“(The event) brings our US Kootenay brothers and sisters up, and our Canadian, to bring us together and to celebrate who we are as Kootenay people,” she said.
“No matter of that border being there, it will never separate us, because of the significance of our land.”
The rest of the day was about ‘celebrating being Indigenous’, Gravelle said.
Activities were held at the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it administration building, featuring food, a local jewelry artist, traditional games, a pow wow dance and round dance.
Gravelle said the activities were about bringing people together, showcasing who they are, and creating an atmosphere that is culturally signified as Indigenous, warm, and inviting.
“I just want to thank everybody for joining us today, and showing support, that they want to be here.”
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