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Hamilton connects National Indigenous Peoples Day with skateboarding

June 21 was National Indigenous People’s Day, which also coincides with Go Skate Day, a global celebration of skateboarding. On June 21st, the staff of Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, Ontario spent the day at the water park in Brantford, supporting the Brantford Regional Indigenous Centre. On June 23, the centre celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day and called it ‘We Share Our Stories,’ offering a sneak peek at its plans for a new cultural centre. The day was filled with art, hands-on activities, lacrosse demonstrations, smoke dancing, food, artisans, film showings, and Indigenous art and historical exhibitions.

To support the Go Skate Day events, the centre has collaborated with other cultural centres in various Indigenous communities on the Skateboard Project. This initiative is spearheaded by the Kanien’keháka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Centre in Kahnawà:ke, Quebec. Last year, the centre sponsored a skateboard competition and held an exhibition of all the skateboard decks designed by different artists from different communities, highlighting some of the best Haudenosaunee designs in the world.

According to Heather George, executive director of Woodland Cultural Centre, “Go Skate Day, which falls on June 21 and will be marked at Six Nations of the Grand River, is another way Indigenous people can assert their sovereignty and build community.”

Woodland Cultural Centre has primarily been a promoter of Go Skate Day and sharing the work of the artists. The centre has brought awareness to Indigenous art in a different form by showcasing senior artists and fine art in its gallery spaces. Creativity, athleticism, and expressions of Indigeneity are ways of asserting sovereignty for Indigenous people. Seeing skate parks in our communities or someone with a deck in an urban environment represents ongoing sovereignty.

Go Skate Day, the start of summer, being outside, and building community all contribute to the assertion of sovereignty. Go Skate Day allows people of all ages to participate and fosters intergenerational knowledge transfer and community building. It was a fantastic opportunity for families to experience Indigenous culture and heritage firsthand and for the community to come together. The group will gather again on July 5th to honour Robbie Robertson, who passed away nearly a year ago. This event will celebrate his contribution to the centre’s capital campaign and his leadership as a musician from Six Nations, featuring performances by Lacey Hill and Jace Martin.