They danced not for Canada Day but instead for an indigenous resistance movement happening across the country.
On Canada Day in downtown Kelowna, the Rethink150: Indigenous Truth Collective hosted an alternative to the Canada Day events happening around them.
It included traditional dancers from the The St’at’imc Bear Dance Group which spoke and danced powerfully to drums and traditional songs on the lawn in front of the Rotary Centre for Arts.
The performances were meant to challenge those who watched it.
Constitution Song is “meant to make you all feel a little uncomfortable,” said Rethink150 spokesperson Dixon Terbasket, noting the lyrics communicate indigenous resistance to stolen lands and assimilation, with lines such as ‘Canada is all Indian Land’ and ‘We don’t need your Constitution.’
“We are not performers,” one of the Bear Dancers stated in a release. “We did not come here to perform for you.” The group instead said it danced in solidarity with the resistance movement happening across Canada.
“This movement resists the dismissive celebrations of Canada’s sesquicentennial, bringing attention to indigenous perspectives and struggles. These struggles, and the colonial process which created them, require understanding from all who live on these lands we now call Canada, so we may move forward in a positive and healing way.”
It was another in a series of events held by the Retink 150 collective, which included the unveiling of two artistic billboards, public discussion and a spoken word/poetry event.
With the publicity bedind Canada 150 events across the country, the Rethink150 group launched their own campaign. It was a public effort to make people think about Canada’s history. Their events have received positive reaction but also plenty of negative with comments on the Kelowna Capital News Facebook page representing both sides of the issue.
“Yes, historical wrongs were met upon the indigenous peoples, but that was a sign of the times…we have acknowledged, and apologized for these tragedies,” wrote Merry Erin Edwards.
“Why do we keep trying to right the wrongs when they won’t even acknowledge the effort,” stated Donna Mae Lee.
While the bear dancers were outside, inside the Alternator Gallery for Contemporary art was a large image depicting colonial oppression. Discussions were held with indigenous perspectives shared regarding the last 150+ years.