The Canim Lake band held a full day of games and contests at the Eliza Archie Memorial school for National Indigenous Peoples Day on Thursday, June 21.
Pam Theodore, who organizes the event every year, said the day is scheduled but people have freedom to celebrate in whatever way they feel.
“Like the tug-of-war,” she said. “We didn’t have that in the schedule, but somebody said, ‘let’s have one,’ so we said, ‘okay.’”
The band’s land administrator said the tug-of-war is one of the many games her people have been doing for years.
The day began with a 5 km race, won by 13-year-old Lexus Amut, and concluded with an Amazing Race, where teams had to have at least one child, one teenager, one adult and one elder.
Participants also played lahal games, traditional guessing games using bone, Indian Bingo, a game involving dice, tossed water balloons to each other, competed in sack races and played two-ball, a traditional sport involving a stick and two balls on a string.
“It’s akin to rugby,” but uses traditional items, explained Theodore. “It’s quite fun.”
She said they always make sure to have a lot of activities that include the children, even renting out large inflatable play areas.
A pirate bouncy castle and dolphin slide stood on the school’s field for this year’s event.
“It pretty much occupies them all day,” she said, “especially when it’s so hot.”
The tribal councils hold a large celebration in William’s Lake every year, according to Theodore, but not everyone can make the trip.
“We do something here to make sure that they get to have fun and celebrate their day in our community.”
She said the day is very important to her and that planning the festivities has become one of her favourite initiatives.
“All our elders are here today and they share their knowledge with our youth and we try to do activities that surround our culture and our traditions.”
Drums and singing rang out behind Theodore as she spoke. She explained the people were singing lahal songs as a way to celebrate and that they go on as long as they feel like. “If they want to sing, we let them sing,” she shrugged and smiled.
“They’re just having a lot of fun.”
Antoinette Archie, one of the elders, sat in the tent to talk to people about their ancestors and the different medicines that can be made from the native plants.
Archie said she taught the kids about medicine and then they drew the plants and what they learned about it.
“I was pretty proud of their work, so I displayed it here for people to see,” said Archie, “to show the people that they are learning something.”
Archie teaches the Shuswap language to children from kindergarten up to Grade 7. “They learn more, I think, when they’re little. They’re not afraid to use the language,” she said.
Other elders displayed artifacts and drums or ran a concession and bannock contest.
Jane Archie taught people to make birch bark baskets using bark and roots she collected in May.
The land was full of laughter and activity.