REGINA — Crowds of people dressed in orange gathered in Regina on July 1 to take part in Buffalo Day, a celebration of the buffalo, the land and Indigenous culture.
Organized by the Buffalo People Arts Institute, Buffalo Day took over the newly-renamed Buffalo Meadows Park, featuring a morning-to-evening schedule of events for children and families.
Local storytellers, artists, drummers and dancers joined the festivities throughout the day, which included a collaborative chalk mural project on Dewdney Avenue and a children’s powwow, among other activities.
Kevin Wesaquate is one of the artists and storytellers who took part, and he felt the day was an excellent opportunity to share Indigenous culture and traditions — especially with a younger generation.
“To have these kids take part is just so important, not only for them but for everybody,” said Wesaquate. “The buffalo, the cultural teachings that surround tipis and these pipe ceremonies, these kids are learning at the same time as the settler community is learning.”
Buffalo Day serves to celebrate the sacred relationship between Indigenous culture and the buffalo, he explained.
“We had this mutual relationship of sharing the land,” said Wesaquate. “And right now we’re in a stage of resurgence of Indigenous identity, Indigenous protocols, and [we]re trying our best to reconnect to the land.”
For Wesaquate and many others, seeing such a large turnout at an Indigenous created and focused event — and on Canada Day — felt like a positive step for the community.
“I really appreciate the diversity of people that are showing up,” said Wesaquate. “I think it’s bringing that cohesion in the community that needs to exist [and] when youth see someone other than Indigenous people putting in the work to make stuff happen, that is just so impactful.”
Several communities across the province had cancelled their Canada Day celebrations in a show of respect for Indigenous people following the discovery of hundreds of residential school graves earlier this month.
Although that was not necessarily the case in Regina, where events were cancelled months ago due to pandemic concerns, organizers at Buffalo Day hoped that a community event would help some with the grief they are feeling.
For Wesaquate, he felt the public display of Indigenous strength and culture is one way to continue down the path.
“When I do my storytelling and my poetry, I always tell people, we have to talk about the truth before reconciliation,” said Wesaquate. “And I think as the truth comes out, which isn’t going to happen overnight, there’s so much work to be done and along the way, if we learn to pace ourselves, we’ll get to that reconciliation.”