FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. -- Canadians across the country are marking the 26th annual National Indigenous Peoples Day.

It’s intended to recognize the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

To mark the occasion, the Indigenous Education Centre in Fort St. John hosted a Doig Day make up event.

The pandemic cancelled the annual grade four student visit to Doig River First Nation for two years. Doig Day celebrations returned in May 2022, but School District 60 welcomed grade six students who missed out on festvities in 2020 to the centre on Tuesday. 

District Principal for the Indigenous Education Program Pat Jansen was happy students got to learn about Indigenous culture hands on by playing high kick, listening to storytelling and roasting bannock over the fire.   

 “Whenever you talk to a grade 12 student you ask them if they remember Doig Day and they remember so this was our way of making up for that,” Jansen said.

Students kicked off celebrations with artic games in the field at the Indigenous Education Centre. A lot like Doig Day, the event shared First Nation culture but also Metis and Inuit traditions.   

School District 60 Superintendent Stephen Petrucci said "The overarching theme here for us is under that umbrella for truth and reconciliation and part of that is to learn. Were in the education system and the best way we can participate in truth and reconciliation is through great education activities for our students.”

Next year on National Indigenous Peoples Day the school district and centre plan to host grade six students who missed Doig Day in 2021.

Meanwhile in Chetwynd, there was a message of solitary and support on Tuesday. 

The district planted flowers out of respect for the unmarked graves found at residential schools. There are 215 marigolds for Kamloops and another 93 for Williams Lake in a garden bed near the muncipal office.

The district also released photos of a candle lit hike at sunrise Tuesday morning. The trek to the top of Old Baldy also featured a smudge ceremony and prayer.

In the Northern Rockies, Fort Nelson First Nation hosted a day long celebration, but the main event was the hand game tournament. There was a $3000 prize for whatever team finished first in the tournament.

A drum dance, movie night and free swim were also planned Tuesday evening in Fort Nelson.

Farther south, the South Peace Child Development Centre got a taste of Indigenous cooking with a twist. Staff and students at the Dawson Creek non-profit enjoyed Tina’s bannock tacos.

Back in Fort St. John, Margaret Ma Murray students sang at the ground breaking for the Doig River First nation urban reserve. 

Part of the presentation there highlighted how National Indigenous Peoples Day coincides with the first day of summer. Many Indigenous communities have celebrated their culture near June 21 for generations due to the significance of the summer solstice as the longest day of the year.

With files from Regan Hasegawa