National Indigenous Peoples Day - Actions you can take
June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day (NIPD), an occasion to honour the vibrant and diverse cultures, contributions and achievements of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples of this land.
This year especially, we urge everyone to take actions leading up to NIPD and onward.
The headlines of unmarked graves found at the Kamloops residential school have sparked a more widespread awareness and deepened understanding of the terrible treatment, death and horrors that Indigenous Peoples have endured and continue to endure. This was not news to Indigenous Peoples; these are the stories and truths they have been sharing for years and that have caused intergenerational trauma and effects. Let’s also remember that it is not all history or a past chapter. One recent example of injustice and discrimination was discussed during the "Agnutmaqan (Stories) from Mi'kma'ki" virtual gathering in November. We invite you to re-read the quotes and listen to the stories from Mi'kma'ki on that webpage. Further, let’s not forget the tragic situation with Joyce Echaquan or the lack of clean water on reserves. These are but a couple examples.
We know the truths are disturbing and difficult, but it is a reality that needs to be faced and well understood by non-Indigenous people in order to be changed. Imagine how difficult, disturbing and exhausting it is for Indigenous Peoples, and then realize just how resilient they are.
The thoughts, prayers and gestures of respect are good, but more is needed. Perhaps you get discouraged at thinking that you are “just one person”, but you can have an impact. Channel your outrage, grief or other uncomfortable emotions into action.
Here are some concrete actions all are invited to take:
- Educate yourself. Set time aside on a recurring basis for this, such as 30 minutes or more per day. If questions come to mind, jot them down and keep them handy. You will find the answers as you keep reading, learning and listening.
These are just some good starting points or ideas:
- Read or review the section on Missing Children and Unmarked Burials in the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- Read or re-read the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and follow up on those you can
- Read the many reports made available on the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) website.
- Read about Treaties and Agreements in Canada
- Read the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Read the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples
- Read this article on the residential school near Sudbury: Column: Visiting former Spanish residential school a harrowing experience | Sudbury Star (thesudburystar.com)
- Read the final report from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry, or view films or documentaries related to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
- View films or documentaries on residential schools (such as We Were Children or Indian Horse), or other:
- Learn more about the Indigenous territory you are on, and the Indigenous Peoples, cultures or languages of this land and Turtle Island. For instance, you can learn more about the Nishnaabemwin language via this website including a bilingual (Nishnaabemwin-English) dictionary that Prof. Mary Ann Corbiere has worked many years on, with many consultations.
- Do more research on your own. Lots of information is available.
- Make space to listen and surround yourself with more Indigenous voices and perspectives.
- Follow Indigenous pages or companies on social media; subscribe to the newsletters of Indigenous organizations or groups; follow Indigenous media outlets; subscribe to an Indigenous magazine; add Indigenous music or podcasts to your playlists; seek out the work of Indigenous authors or artists when choosing books or movies. Search and you will find some at local libraries, on your streaming services and all around. There are a number of free options if money is tight.
- Support Indigenous people and businesses - especially those that are local - as much as you can. Purchase artwork, food, books, movies, clothing, etc. from Indigenous people. Donate and support initiatives and events they organize, such as Prof. Tasha Beeds’ Nibi-Nikwejiwong Water Walk.
- Some other ideas if you’d like to make a donation:
- Write letters and communicate with leaders and those in power to help amplify Indigenous voices.
- Share your findings and pass along Indigenous perspectives to those around you. Spark conversations with others. Keep amplifying and keep the momentum going.
- Make sure to share their stories of strength, survival, resilience and cultural celebration, too. It’s important to understand and amplify their hard realities and stories, but also their many stories of joy and success!
You could, for example, tune in to APTN Indigenous Day Live 2021.
- You will get more ideas as you do some of the aforementioned things. A few more ideas can also be seen here: Beyond thoughts and prayers: Actions you can take to support residential school survivors in Canada | The Star
It may not be an all-encompassing list, but all these tangible actions can all help advance important reconciliACTION.
May we honour the resilience and beauty of Indigenous peoples as we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day!