On June 21 some will celebrate, some will choose not to, and some will undertake ceremony in recognition of this special time in the calendar.
Here in Canada, this day is recognized as a day to “celebrate the heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis” (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada).
Many Indigenous communities, organizations, and businesses across Canada will close their doors for the day, and allow their members, employees, and customers an opportunity to celebrate; and others will host celebrations themselves.
Yet, there are Indigenous voices who have shared that:
- more should be done to recognize and celebrate the achievements of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis;
- that one day is not enough for Canadians to celebrate and learn about Indigenous people; and
- celebrating Indigenous people should be accompanied with more learning and understanding.
National Indigenous Peoples Day: Bringing light to larger issues
I don’t disagree with these sentiments. But I do believe that last year brought a lot of opportunity to have larger conversations about issues that are important to Indigenous people.
Last year, I worked with an amazing team of committed professionals to prepare for a major multi-sport and cultural celebration for Indigenous youth that took place in Toronto in July 2017. I reflect on the many events we have hosted or been invited to attend, which have celebrated not only the athletic achievements of Indigenous youth, but their leadership and commitment to Indigenous languages, culture, and heritage.
The work with Indigenous community stakeholders, with city officials and departments, with college and university campus partners, and with the recruitment of an army of volunteers – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – has shown that the desire to learn, to understand, and to gain knowledge about Indigenous people is there.
The work is not over.
Reconciliation has only begun and there is much to be done. But where does one start? There are many resources online to learn more. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is a start, and checking out CBC Indigenous is another great jumping off point.
Through my own reflections and understanding, as an Anishinaabekwe, a woman from the Anishinabek nation (Odawa and Pottawatomi), our teachings ground us in a value system, our traditions guide us as we seek Mino Bimaadiziwin (to live a good life), and our languages help us to understand and articulate our connection with Shkaagaamikwe (Mother Earth) and the four gifts given to the Anishinabek of Shkode, Nibi, Aki, and Nodin, (fire, water, earth, and air).
As Indigenous people seek to share with non-Indigenous people and new Canadians, our history, our current situation and our vision for our children, their children and for seven generations onward, any learning should include an understanding of what Indigenous people have endured to be where we are today. The place of Indigenous people today should not be interpreted from an antiquated, one-sided view of history books, but from a genuine and real outreach to individuals and to communities in the spirit of learning and sharing.
For me, June 21 is about celebrating with other Indigenous people, our songs, our dances, our languages, our love and respect for the land and waters, and our resilience and perseverance to honour our ancestors and work toward a better future.
As we strive for the betterment of our children, communities, and nations — we do so with the understanding and knowledge that our decisions and actions of today can and will impact seven generations into the future. At the same time, we are the seventh generation who our ancestors considered long ago, and we cannot forget about our own voice and ability to act today.
Marcia Trudeau-Bomberry (Athabasca University Master of Business Administration, 2015) is from Wikwemikong, Ontario. She was Chief Executive Officer of the Toronto 2017 North American Indigenous Games, a weeklong multi-sport and cultural celebration for Indigenous youth.