Instead of the typical red and white usually donned on Canada Day, orange shirts filled the lawn of Buffalo Meadows Park in Regina as dozens gathered to celebrate Buffalo Day.
Indigenous leaders from the Buffalo People Arts Institute hosted the event in lieu of Canada Day celebrations.
"Let's celebrate the day, but celebrate the land, the community the children, and let's call it Buffalo Day. Because before all these buildings were here for the city, this was prime buffalo land,” said Joely Bigeagle-Kequahtooway, organizer for Buffalo Day. “This is the day to celebrate our resilience and our connection or reconnection to that the Tonka spirit."
The day focused on learning about the history of the buffalo and the impacts of the residential schools.
While organizers were happy to see people of all backgrounds at the celebration, they hope the conversation will continue.
"When we talk about Truth and Reconciliation, I think there are so many people who still aren't yet at the truth,” Bigeagle-Kequahtooway said. “There's a big education component that we need to figure out how we're going to share, especially with the discovery of children's bodies…I mean that's when you start to really think about the truth of that, you know it is horrific.”
Along with storytelling from Elders and street painting, a traditional pow wow was held.
Organizers said they hope this type of celebration can help bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, while creating allies for their community.
"For the kids out here, when they see other folks – other than Indigenous people – putting in work to make this stuff happen. It just is so impactful for those kids…I think that's what builds community,” said Kevin Wesaquate, a painter and storyteller at the event.
Other events scheduled to take place in Regina Thursday include a smudge walk at the First Nations University of Canada and a candlelight vigil at the Legislative Building.
If you are a residential school survivor in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.