This Sunday is National Indigenous Peoples Day. Normally at this time, we would be sharing various events and celebrations that are taking place around the province. This year, we will all have to take a slightly different approach—re-thinking what it means to celebrate during a pandemic, re-learning the oft-ignored history of this country, and responding to the systemic racism and state violence that continues to plague our society.
Reconciliation at The Federation
Over the past few months (or years), you may have heard myself or a board member speak about The Federation’s commitment to reconciliation and resurgence. And you may be wondering what this looks like in our day-to-day work.
Truthfully, a lot of this work that takes place quietly and out of the spotlight. It often occurs in the many, many meetings we attend as part of The Federation’s initiatives and advocacy. Part of it is listening and seeking opportunities to amplify Indigenous voices and raising the profile of urban Indigenous and Métis communities. Part of it involves saying “no” to opportunities that conflict with our commitment to supporting Indigenous communities and their efforts to provide social services to their community members. And part of it means suggesting and developing different approaches when those conflicts arise.
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 three 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 (both fiction and non-fiction) by an Indigenous author. You can register to participate in the 2020/21 Reconciliation Book Club here. You can also vote on the books you would like to read over the next year.
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 keep them from doing more to radically change and decolonize social services (and society in general).
Reading and talking about Indigenous stories, histories, and ideas is one 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.)
Celebrating This Indigenous Peoples Day
This perspective was gifted to us a few years ago when The Federation was considering how to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day and it is something we have continued to embrace since then. While each of us has a responsibility to celebrate and learn on days like this, we should be mindful of 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. Yes, we are under strict restrictions but there are many 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.
- You can join the Next 150 Challenge and explore new books, movies and art while making connections in your own communities.
- There are also smaller, shorter challenges like the Rainbow Moccasins challenge created by Teddy Syrette, Ozhawa Anaung Kwe (Yellow Star Woman)
- And Jessica Bolduc’s Decolonize Now, Celebrate Later Challenge
- Or the Indigenous Film Challenge where you watch a movie from NFB’s collection of Indigenous cinema and write a review of it on the National Film Board of Canada website or post it on social media.
We would love to hear how you choose to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day so we can share it with other members! Email email@example.com or fill in this one-question form. One of the most inspiring and empowering aspects of this Federation is the learning that our members get from each other. By sharing your ideas about National Indigenous Peoples Day, you are giving others inspiration and opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
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 are very thankful for the feedback and guidance we have received over the years from Indigenous members and colleagues, and we work hard to make sure our work doesn’t become their work.
So I invite you all to live into what altogether better really means—help each other figure out what do to 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.