By Shannon Boklaschuk
Honey Constant (BSc'19) sees National Indigenous Peoples Day as an opportunity for learning.
“It means celebrating our culture with each other, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike,” she said. “We should come together as a community often like this to learn about each other.”
National Indigenous Peoples Day is held annually on June 21, the summer solstice. It is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
Constant—who recently received a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) spring convocation ceremonies—uses archaeology as a way to reconnect with her culture.
She is the senior guide for visitor services at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. The national historic site will host a number of free activities on National Indigenous Peoples Day, including powwow dancing, tipi raising, traditional games, puppet tales, wagon rides and more.
For Constant, the best part of working at Wanuskewin is sharing her knowledge of the park with others and “helping people connect to the story, the land and our people—all while I learn and reconnect on my own journey.” In the fall, she will begin graduate studies in USask’s College of Arts and Science under the guidance of archaeology professor Dr. Ernie Walker (PhD).
“I knew I wanted to be an archaeologist since I was young because it combines humanities and sciences. I love Plains archaeology because it helps me connect to my past as a nēhiyaw woman, and as an archaeologist I can help share our rich history,” Constant said.
“As an archaeology grad student, I wish to continue my work with Wanuskewin. My project is creating interpretive archaeological programming from my Indigenous perspective—making the cultural knowledge equal to the science, as it is our past and can contribute to our future together. As well, I know as a profession we can play a role in Reconciliation in Canada. Exploring that with our department will be exciting.”
For College of Arts and Science alumna Candace Wasacase-Lafferty (BA’18), National Indigenous Peoples Day is a time of pride—both personally and professionally. As USask’s senior director of Indigenous engagement, Wasacase-Lafferty has seen the day grow over the years and include more people from diverse backgrounds and lived experiences.
“It is an opportunity to take the time to get to know each other and normalize the feelings of inclusiveness and appreciation,” she said.
Wasacase-Lafferty is involved in the fourth annual Rock Your Roots Walk for Reconciliation, which will take place on June 21 at 9:30 am in Saskatoon’s Victoria Park. The walk is sponsored by USask and Reconciliation Saskatoon, which includes dozens of organizations, non-profits, businesses, faith communities and other partners that have come together for a city-wide conversation about Reconciliation. Reconciliation Saskatoon provides opportunities for everyone to engage in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action.
“The University of Saskatchewan has been involved in the Rock Your Roots Walk since its inception. We are a member of Reconciliation Saskatoon, which brings together many organizations across the city to plan this event, and other events, that promote a healthy dialogue on our shared, but often misunderstood, history,” said Wasacase-Lafferty.
“Rock Your Roots is a powerful event that brings together many people. Walking together is our opportunity to publicly show what really matters—unity and hope.”
When asked what Reconciliation means to her, Wasacase-Lafferty, a member of the Kahkewistahaw First Nation, said she sees it “as a process and not an end goal.” As long as people are committed to learning and openness, “we will lead ourselves to a better, caring and compassionate world,” she said.
USask is committed to growing a more inclusive campus, and that is exemplified by the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis. The centre is an inclusive, intercultural gathering place that honours Indigenous values.
“From its design to the people who study, work and gather here, the building symbolizes intercultural connectedness,” said Wascase-Lafferty.
Wascase-Lafferty believes everyone can take part in Reconciliation by showing up and learning, and by being open, kind and humble. She also noted that the principles of National Indigenous Peoples Day extend beyond June 21.
“There is a vibrant Indigenous cultural community here in Saskatoon,” she said. “Seek out the opportunities and you will find many.”