Monday, June 21 is National Indigenous People’s Day—a chance to recognize, honour, and celebrate the heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples! This year, in light of the findings of children buried on the sites of former residential schools, the increased attention on Canada’s legacy of colonial violence, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate effect on Indigenous communities we are taking a different approach than we have in recent years, both as an organization and as individuals.
We are re-learning the oft-ignored history of this country, re-thinking how to make change while offering support in a time of grief, re-imagining what it means to celebrate during a pandemic, and responding to the systemic racism and state violence that continues to plague our society. And we are encouraging you, our members, to do the same.
Maybe you want to learn about the traditional and unceded territory that you live and work on and think about what “unceded” means to you or what it means to live on unceded land.
Maybe you want to buy orange ‘Every Child Matters’ shirts for your staff team to support the Urban Native Youth Association while raising awareness.
Maybe you want to sign up for The Federation’s Reconciliation Book Club. The third ‘season’ just finished and we are about to re-launch another year of reading and learning with a new list of books. You can read more below and sign up to participate here.
Maybe you want to look a few weeks ahead and consider thinking about what Canada Day means and what purpose it serves in 2021 and whether you would be better off spending the day on reflection and critique rather than signalling patriotism and loyalty to a state built upon theft and violence.
Will Rogers, the Cherokee actor and vaudeville player once said, “We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.” It’s our responsibility to use our power and privilege—however much we have—to recognize and champion the rights of Indigenous people, to call out racism where and when we see it, and to effect change within the systems of which we are a part.
And while each of us has a responsibility to celebrate and learn on National Indigenous Peoples Day, we must be mindful what we do and how we do it to ensure that our attempts at learning or growing do not put the burden back on our Indigenous community members.
This lesson is especially significant this year since opportunities to gather in our usual ways are not available. We are under restrictions and there are ways we can learn and celebrate and acknowledge Indigenous people while staying safe.
There is a lot of energy focused on the work of anti-racism right now and an array of calls to action available to you. There are also more Indigenous resources, books, movies, and podcasts than there have ever been. Below are a few of those books and a few virtual and outdoor, distanced events that are taking place across the province.
Things to Read
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action.
- 21 Things You May Not Know about the Indian Act by Bob Joseph.
- The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King.
- Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Issues in Canada by Chelsea Vowel.
- Speaking Our Truth by Monique Gray Smith.
Things to Do
- Organizations around Revelstoke are hosting a variety of events both virtual and outdoors.
- Read and choose from the ’10 Things You Can Do’ in response to the findings of remains on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops from Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.
- Attend online events to commemorate National Indigenous Peoples Day including a virtual drum circle, online storytelling sessions, and Indigenous Plant Workshops.
- A drum circle is planned for National Indigenous Peoples Day at Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park in Prince George.
- Join this National Indigenous History Month workshop to immerse yourself in authentic Indigenous arts & culture in British Columbia.
- More virtual learning events can be found on the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre website.
- North Shore News has suggestions on ways to celebrate National Indigenous History Month on the North Shore and beyond.
Taking the next (or first) steps…
When it comes to the hard work of decolonization and anti-racism, it is hard to know where to start or what to do first. We, at The Federation, are very thankful for the wisdom and guidance of our Indigenous members and colleagues, and we will continue to do our best to ensure our work doesn’t become their work.
So, over the next few days, I invite you all to live into what altogether better really means. Reach out and have some maybe hard conversations. Be present. Be curious. Help each other figure out what to do and how to do it, hold each other accountable, and then recognize the steps you’ve taken together as you figure out the next ones.
Director of Programs and Services
Director of Administration and Finance
Join the Reconciliation Book Club
One specific initiative that has reconciliation at its heart, is The Federation’s Reconciliation Book Club. We are preparing to launch into year four of the book club and are encouraging people to sign-up for another year of reading and learning together. The book club meets every other month to discuss a piece of literature by an Indigenous author. You can register to participate in the 2021/22 Reconciliation Book Club here. Participants will get to vote on the books they would like to read over the next year in the coming weeks.
The idea for the Reconciliation Book Club came out of the 2017 Social Policy Forum. It was a response to the hesitation, fear, and lack of knowledge expressed by non-Indigenous members that was keeping them from doing more to change and decolonize social services (and society in general).
Reading and talking about Indigenous stories, histories, and ideas is one first step in that direction—it’s a way to take responsibility for learning without burdening Indigenous community members with the work of teaching us. (Plus, purchasing these books is a direct way of supporting Indigenous artists and their families and communities, especially if you buy them from an Indigenous-owned bookstore like Iron Dog Books.)