Sunrise ceremony in Toronto marks National Indigenous Peoples Day

Jun 21, 2023 | Canadian News, Headlines

Toronto marked National Indigenous Peoples Day with an annual sunrise ceremony on Wednesday morning.

The traditional sunrise ceremony began in Nathan Phillips Square, launching the first event in the city this year to mark the day.

It was also one of the events across the country to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Garry Sault, an Elder from the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, led the ceremony.

“We do this every year to remind people, to give thanks for our mother dear’s, for the trees to grow and fish that swim,” Sault said.

Anishinaabe Ojibway Grandmother Kim Wheatley said the ceremony is about remembering and giving thanks.

“Sunrise ceremony is a time of us to greet all creation, to give thanks, to remember our place, to be on this Earth and embrace the beauty and the privilege of being alive,” Wheatley said.

Wheatley also hoped that all Canadians could join together on this day and be part of the reconciliation.

“I want Canadians at large, humanity at large, you are welcome to our ceremonies,” Wheatley said.

Dozens of people attended the ceremony, including Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, and several city councillors.

All those gathered formed a circle with the sacred fire under the five Indigenous flags during the ceremony, while it proceeded with a pipe ceremony, smudging of sage, blessings and singing songs, and sharing the strawberries and water.

McKelvie proclaimed the day following the ceremony, saying her goal is for Torontonians to honour Indigenous traditions and culture.

“My hope is that this ceremony will inspire Torontonians to learn and reflect on the diversity, traditions and valuable contributions of Indigenous communities and guide their personal journeys towards reconciliation,” McKelvie said.

“We continue the important work towards advancing truth, justice and reconciliation, as outlined in the City’s first Reconciliation Action Plan,” McKelvie said.

The city has proclaimed National Indigenous Peoples Day since 1998, as part of the Indigenous Peoples Month in June, with events across the city aiming towards truth, justice and reconciliation.

The National Indigenous Peoples Day, formerly called the National Aboriginal Day, was first recognized in 1996 and is aimed to celebrate the unique heritage, diversity and valued contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples across Canada.