First Fathers and Mothers
It’s long past time for settlers and new Canadians, who are swearing a new oath of citizenship to uphold the Treaties, to really see our indigenous peoples – Inuit, Métis and First Nations – for who they are. They are the first fathers and mothers of this land, who helped the first settlers during their early years – through bitter winters and blistering summers. They were healers, guides and when the time came, they fought side by side with settlers to defend territory.
Then, as settlement expanded and grew more confident and even arrogant, the indigenous people became an inconvenience. Settlers pushed, government pushed and policy pushed. Treaties created reserves, then came Indian Agents, and residential schools followed behind. In the North, Inuit people were given numbers and their children were moved south to residential schools too. Broken trust, stolen children, broken lives. And yet indigenous people are resilient, strong, united.
With the recent discovery of the 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops residential school, we are all together in mourning. But indigenous people are not surprised by this finding. They have been calling for such searches for some time. And now in Brandon, more unmarked graves are found. Other residential school sites will be examined now for similar gruesome findings. So many lost children. So many wounded parents and grandparents.
How can the settler communities of today reconcile with their local indigenous community?
- Recognize that you are living and working on unceded land, or name the treaty that is in place.
- Honour the values, traditions and culture of the local indigenous people.
- Invite them to your events to open or participate in them.
- Make a space for them. Ask them during the planning phase about their contribution, not at the last minute.
- Empathize with them during their difficult times – such as the recent events at Kamloops and Brandon by writing letters of support, aligning yourself with them.
- Make visible your support by, judiciously and with permission, displaying the symbols of the indigenous community in your space.
- See and acknowledge indigenous people in your community who are working and living there.
- Welcome them,
- Respect them.
- Listen to their stories.
It’s June 22 – the day after National Indigenous Peoples Day. What part are you playing to reconcile with our indigenous neighbours?