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Collingwood marks Indigenous Peoples Day with ceremony, music

'What I’d like to stress today for everybody of all nationalities and ethnicities is we all have to heal together,' said Painted Sky, an Ojibwe pipe carrier and knowledge keeper

Collingwood marked National Indigenous Peoples Day and the summer solstice with ceremony, teaching, and music on June 21. 

Ojibwe knowledge keeper Painted Sky led a pipe ceremony for a crowd at the Awen Gathering Circle, welcoming all nations and ethnicities to the event and focusing his words on the consistent work of healing together. 

For 32 years, Painted Sky has carried a pipe and shared the knowledge, tradition and culture of First Nations with communities across Turtle Island.  

“I’ve been walking the Red Road and it’s been a long journey,” said Painted Sky in an interview with CollingwoodToday. “This way of life is not an easy way of life, there are many difficulties, there are lessons, and there are losses … but we are there for each other, and I want to share that element with everybody.”

He shared some of his life story with the crowd, including the day when his teacher presented him with a pipe when Painted Sky was 17. A pipe must be earned and given as a gift. 

“Today is a day of celebration for Indigenous people, and not just Indigenous people, but all nations and all ethnicities,” he said. “What I’d like to stress today for everybody of all nationalities and ethnicities is we all have to heal together. There has to be a beginning. There has to be a point where you have learning, and awareness, and teaching.” 

Now residing in Barrie, Painted Sky is Bear Clan Ojibwe from Treaty 3 Couchiching Fort Frances. He and his wife, Katherine Heino, are third-generation survivors of the residential school system. Both of their mothers were in residential schools, Painted Sky’s father was part of the 60s Scoop. 

“The other reason I’m honoured to do this is because I want to remind people of the children we honoured last year,” said Painted Sky. “To me, that’s a continuance, it’s ongoing … You have to stay positive, and keep focused, and remind people that every child matters.” 

He urged the crowd to keep them in mind, and keep them in perspective. 

“The numbers keep growing and escalating, and the more they come, the more that I feel,” he said. “Healing does not stop. It continues. You have to keep continuing to heal.” 

Following the pipe ceremony, Painted Sky performed some of his original songs and Heather McIntyre, who is part of the Aajiijack Crane Clan with the helper of Wazhaashik (Muscat Clan) on her grandfather’s side. She is an Indigenous life and wellness coach and delivered a teaching on the change of seasons. 

She spoke to the importance of diverse gatherings as powerful medicine for unity. 

The change of seasons event was organized by the Collingwood Indigenous Circle in partnership with the Town of Collingwood.

Later in the evening at the Collingwood Shipyards Amphitheatre, the Juno-winning band Digging Roots performed an outdoor concert to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. 

Digging Roots includes husband and wife duo Raven Kanatakta and ShoShona Kish, and their songs are a blend of folk-rock, pop, blues and hip-hop. 

Enjoy these photos from the concert.