Today is National Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Canada. As people all over the world engage in discussions of racism with renewed intensity, it seems like a good opportunity to learn something about the Indigenous peoples in our respective areas of the land we call Canada.
It is easy to find news, most of it very bad, about present-day interactions between Indigenous people and police. Canadians who follow current events will likely also know something about pipeline protests, land claims, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, suicide rates, boil-water advisories, and residential schools. All of this is pretty awful.
Do you know how we arrived at this situation? I use “we” to refer to all of us who live in Canada, because all of us are parties to the Treaties that were made between Indigenous people and settlers. We live here, and therefore we are all responsible for this relationship.
Much of how we arrived at this situation has to do with the Indian Act of 1876, which is still in effect today, with amendments. If you have ever been led to believe that the Indian Act was beneficial to Indigenous people, it’s important to note: “The Indian Act was such a successful piece of legislation for the Canadian government that it was used as a model by white South African legislators when they set up their brutal system of apartheid” (Tanya Talaga, 2017, Seven Fallen Feathers, p. 59).
I have spent a not-insignificant amount of time reading and learning about issues facing Indigenous peoples, and there is still so much I don’t know.
Also, it is a shame that what the average Canadian hears in the context of Indigenous peoples is so rarely good. There is a lot to be learned and celebrated when it comes to Indigenous perspectives.
I’m going to share a few things here that might be of interest to you, if you’d like to take this opportunity, at this deeply-felt moment of change, to learn something new.
You can read the Indian Act here.
You can read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s findings here.
Unsettling Canada – A National Wake-Up Call, written by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson, is the topic of this first episode of “An Anti-Racist Educator Reads”, a discussion hosted by my school board’s curriculum lead for Indigenous education. The guest, Nancy Rowe, is an incredibly knowledgeable, tenacious, and generous educator I have been honoured to learn from. You can learn a lot from this one hour of listening to her.
A CBC-curated list of books to read in honour of National Indigenous History Month can be found here.
The Sacred Relationship is a beautiful documentary illustrating Indigenous connections to water in nature.
The Preservation Project is a YouTube channel that contains some fascinating Indigenous teachings from individuals with specialized cultural knowledge. (Unsurprisingly, I particularly love the dancers.)
If you are looking for more sources of information, make sure that the voices you read or listen to are actually those of Indigenous people.
May our learning be fruitful!