The Git Hayetsk dancers. Photo: Valentina Ruiz Leotaud

This article was published originally on the Vancouver Observer on November 9, 2015.

First Indigenous City Gathering draws a crowd

By Valentina Ruiz Leotaud, November 9, 2015,

It was Saturday night and pouring rain. Still, activists, young people, not-so-young people and children crowded the SFU Woodward's theatre for the first Indigenous City Gathering

The night started with drinks and appies at a community market that was set in one room. While Corey Bulpitt did some live painting, artisans were selling dreamcatchers, accessories and organic coffee. Among those in attendance were City Councillor Andrea Reimer and Aboriginal Tourism BC representative Cecilia Point, as well as many artists and other community members. 

Around 8 p.m. everyone moved into the theatre filling it completely. Shane Pointe, ceremonial traditional speaker from Musqueam, was in charge of the emotive opening words and blessings. "This wouldn't have happened 15 years ago," he said later. 

Pointe also highlighted the importance of the event by sending a message to the general public. "We know who you are, the sadness is that you don't know who we are. It's in moments like this that we get to share that with you." 

Shane Pointe.

Then came the highlight of the evening: A set by the Git Hayetsk Dancers that had the audience clapping, laughing, and dancing as they paid tribute to ancestral legends. 

Amanda Strong and Bracken Hanuse Corlett then presented their stop-motion film Mia', about an Indigenous street artist who is transformed into a salmon and reconnects with her ancestral land. The movie was highly praised by the audience, as it was when it was showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival. 

Bracken Hanuse Corlett and Amanda Strong.

Among the final speakers was Ginger Gosnell-Myers, the Aboriginal City Planner at the City Manager's office who had strong words for the Indigenous community. "Hurting isn't what we are," she started saying. 

Gosnell-Myers stressed how important it is for First Nations to know who they are and where they come from to be truly happy and successful. She said studies have proven that the more people know about their background, the more likely they are to vote, volunteer, join a post-secondary institution and grow in their lives. 

Ginger Gosnell-Myers.