VANCOUVER – CUPE was proud to celebrate National Aboriginal Day in Oppenheimer Park on Friday June 21, as a major sponsor of the day’s many activities in the Downtown Eastside.
Mona Woodward, Executive Director of the Aboriginal Front Door Society, was the emcee for the day. Celebrations got underway with a welcome and opening prayer from Kelvin Bee, an elder in residence with the Aboriginal Front Door Society. Chief Robert Joseph, Executive Director of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, had strong words about healing. “Embrace reconciliation in your lives,” he urged. “By embracing the wholeness of who you are, you can stand against anything and everything. Be proud to be an aboriginal!”
Chief Constable of the Vancouver Police Department Jim Chu and Mayor Gregor Robertson also said a few words, emphasizing that Vancouver has declared June 2013 to June 2014 the “Year of Reconciliation”. The key, Mayor Robertson said, is that “all cultures understand the past, and are able to heal from it.” CUPE BC Diversity vice-president Leanne Toderian spoke about the importance of aboriginal workers within CUPE BC, and gave special mention to the CUPE workers at Oppenheimer Park.
A delicious lunch of buffalo stew fortified hundreds of people for the afternoon, and face painting, balloons and juggling delighted kids of all ages. The afternoon’s entertainment included Dalannah Bowen singing the blues, powerful pow-wow drumming, the spectacular Kwhili Gibaygum Nisga’a Traditional Dance Group, and aboriginal hip-hop artist, Manik.
CUPE’s tent was well attended, with information and gifts of pens, first aid kits, apples and beautiful CUPE posters. Many other community groups came out: Beautynight, the DTES Kitchen Tables Project, Aboriginal Front Door, Vancouver Native Health, UBC Learning Exchange, and Watari were among the displays.
To view photos from the day’s events, please see our gallery