In the heart of the ByWard Market, hundreds took in performances by Indigenous artists. The event also brought out several local entrepreneurs like 11-year-old scrunchies designer Mya Beaudry.  

"I’m honoured to be part of this block party it helps me grow my business,” said Beaudry, the CEO of KOKOM Scrunchies.

"It’s not too often you get to be part of something that’s all Indigenous people," said Kaytlyn Nadjiwon who runs Soft but Sturdy, a bead work jewellery. "A lot of it is already sold out today!"

The event was the first of its kind in the downtown core, taking place during National Indigenous History Month as a way to showcase the culture which has always existed before the arrival of settlers.  

"In order to have reconciliation we have to start building better relationships and the only way to do that is to interact with each other,” said Rae-Anna Whiteduck, one of the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival ambassadors. "We’re trying to create a space for Indigenous people to feel welcome and also to share part of our culture."

The block party also coincided with the launch of Adaawewigamig, which means place of trade or selling. The year-round ByWard Market storefront supports Indigenous youth-owned businesses, completely owned and operated by First Nations, Inuit and Metis people.

The space, also offering a community space for Assembly of Seven generations, the group providing a safe space for youth to connect with others and reconnect with their culture. 

"In the community spaces we want to do a lot of workshops," said Gabrielle Fayant, the co-founder of Assembly of Seven Generations. "Colonization has impacted folks so much but now we are starting to bring the space back which is rightfully for Indigenous youth."

Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses will once again take over William Street on June 21 for National Indigenous People’s Day. For many, it will be another chance to invite more conversation around the rich culture and history of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people.

"It gives me an opportunity to welcome people into our space and acknowledge my ancestors who to trace back their lineage to this territory," said Whiteduck.