You may have heard of some unrest, protest and resistance coming from the Indigenous nations in Canada. We’re coming up to one of the biggest celebrations the country has seen in our history, but it’s not a happy celebration of 150 years of confederation for all Canadians. For some of us, it erases a huge amount of history on this land and the pain endured on it.
‘We’re glossing over 13, 14,000 years of history,’ Ry Moran, the director of the National Research Center for Truth and Reconciliation told Your Morning, ‘As an Indigenous person, it’s very hard to reconcile with that… [and] the dismissal of that long history and it is hard to celebrate 150 years of colonial history that we have in this country.’
Indigenous activists and leaders want to draw attention to the disturbingly recent past that saw Indigenous children wiped of their culture and language through residential schools and entire groups of people denied rights. While we may believe that we are making great progress (and yes, some has been made), the process is moving far too slowly for a community forced to live on the outskirts of the land they’ve always lived on.
On Thursday, a group of Indigenous activists erected a ceremonial teepee on Parliament Hill as a reminder of what Canada 150 means to the Indigenous community. After negotiations with the police, the demonstration was moved to the celebration grounds, about 20 meters from the main stage on the Hill.
Are they trying to put a damper on the Canada 150 festivities? Not at all. This teepee is ceremonial and the activists invite any non-indigenous people to come and participate with them. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, points out that Capital Hill is actually on Algonquin land and this demonstration is not a protest, but a means of co-existing in this space.
The name ‘Canada’ was actually a gift from Indigenous peoples, coming from the Iroquoian word, kanata, meaning ‘village.’ Blackstock points out that while Canada has a reputation for being a welcoming global village to immigrants from around the world, we need to extend that same kindness, respect and support to the Indigenous communities.
‘There are things people can do about it and that’s what we need to realize,’ she says, ‘When we live in a village, in the company of one another, we need to look out for each other’s well-being and equity and justice.’ The Caring Society’s website has seven suggestions of quick and free ways Canadians can do just that.
There is a lot Canadians have to celebrate. As Anne-Marie Mediwake points out during the interview, there are millions of Canadians who chose this country and want to celebrate that while also honoring the Indigenous peoples here. The best way to do so is by not silencing them for the sake of a fun Canada 150, being aware of and sharing their concerns and not forgetting all that on July 2nd.
‘We have to think about compassion and love,’ says Metis actor and singer Tom Jackson, ‘We need to share that. We have people in our communities and we have Round Dances. And we dance. And we ask everybody else to dance… This is Canada Day, and I’m telling you, I want you to dance.
‘I’m celebrating the fact that we have a voice and that we’re using that voice and we’re creating that change,’ he continued, ‘Let’s use this day to change the world.’