Kwantlen First Nation to make history at the Surrey Vaisakhi parade
Friday, April 20, 2018

Drummers and singers from the Kwantlen First Nation will take to the streets on Saturday to open the Surrey Vaisakhi parade for the first time in its 17-year history.

They will be part of the parade’s first Indigenous welcome, which Sikh organizers say marks an important step in building relationships between the two communities.

“It’s a sign of solidarity and respect,” said Moninder Singh, co-organizer of this year’s parade.

Surrey’s Vaisakhi parade is the largest of its kind outside of India, with 400,000 people expected to attend the event this year, along with 2,500 parade participants. The celebration is central to the Sikh faith, marking the harvest and the birth of the Khalsa. Many community organizations participate in the event, but this is the first year an Indigenous group has been formally invited.

Singh said organizers are hopeful that having the Kwantlen First Nation there will be the first step in building a relationship between the Sikh community and the Indigenous people who’s land they settled on.

“It takes a while for immigrant communities to understand their role in history, and recognize our setter roots here,” he said. “We are coming to terms with that, and one of the of the best way to do that is with the rightful caretakers of this land.”

Satnam Singh Sangra, one of the parade organizers and a teacher at at the New Westminster Secondary School, said the decision to invite Kwantlen was inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which called for faith-based organizations to participate in reconciliation.

“Vaisakhi is a time when Sikhs across the world reflect on and reaffirm their commitment to the values of equality, social justice, selflessness and community service,” said Sangra in an email.

The Kwantlen performers will be busy preparing for the celebrations on Friday, that will kick off the following morning.

“I’ve been calling around to all the drummers today and helping them get organized,” says Chelsea Waterbeek, receptionist at the Kwantlen First Nations office.

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Source: The Star Vancouver / Cherise Seucharan

Photo: Surrey’s Vaisakhi parade, the largest of its kind outside of India, is expected to attract over 400,000 people. This year, the Kwantlen First Nation will be opening the parade with an Indigenous welcome, a first in the parade’s history.  (DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS)