Indigenous peoples mark Canada Day in diverse ways
Canada Day is a time to reflect on historical and contemporary points of dispute between Indigenous people and Canada
Canada Day is a time to reflect on historical and contemporary points of dispute between Indigenous people and CanadaBy Staff University Relations
Jean Becker joined the University of Waterloo in January as the new senior director, Indigenous initiatives. Becker, who is Inuk and a member of the Nunatsiavut Territory of Labrador, has a long track record of building reciprocal relationships between post-secondary institutions and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities.
Many people will be celebrating Canada on July 1. Please share how some Indigenous peoples prefer to mark Canada Day.
The answer to that may be as diverse as are Indigenous people in Canada. Some will attend various celebrations, others will do nothing, while some see it as a day to reflect on the past 153 year history of difficult Indigenous/Canadian relations. In 2017 the Director of the Sudbury N'Swakamok Friendship Centre commented in regard to Canada's 150 celebrations, "Frankly we don't have any reason to celebrate. The fact of the matter is that Canada does not celebrate the original people, it celebrates itself.” The reality is that Canada has never done a convincing job of including Indigenous people in meaningful participation in this country.
During 100-year celebrations of confederation, an Indigenous perspective was delivered by Chief Dan George at the Vancouver Empire Stadium to 32,000 people on July 1, 1967. He began: "How long have I known you, Oh Canada? A hundred years? Yes, a hundred years. And many, many seelanum more. And today, when you celebrate your hundred years, Oh Canada, I am sad for all the Indian people throughout the land."
That address remains relevant today and if anyone has not read it they should. It will help Canadians understand unresolved historical and contemporary points of dispute between Indigenous people and Canada.
What are some of the contemporary and historical events that Canadians could be reflecting on as people mark Canada Day this year?
The list is long. A starting point could be the Indian Act of 1867 which established separate laws to govern some Indigenous people that remains in effect today. Canadians could reflect on the treaties across Canada. These are legal, binding documents that cannot be arbitrarily ignored or dispensed with, without the agreement of both parties. The failure to uphold treaties remains a serious impediment to peaceful relations between the original peoples and Canada. Canadians could reflect over Indian residential schools, Indian hospitals, modern Indigenous education, Indigenous people and the police and justice system, missing and murdered Indigenous women, Indigenous people and the health system among many others.
Many Canadians are not aware of Indigenous history in Canada. What are some good resources for people to read, view and engage with?
The internet is a good resource as long as you use reliable sources and understand where your information is coming from. Olive Dickenson's 1992 text Canada's First Nations: A History of Founding People's is an excellent Canadian history told from an Indigenous perspective. Tom King's highly readable The Inconvenient Indian is both entertaining and a critical reflection of the history of the relationship between Canada and the United States and Indigenous people in both countries. Maria Campbell's classic 1973 book on her experiences as a Métis woman, Halfbreed was recently re-released with a new foreward by Campbell and pages that were withheld by the publisher in the original edition. There are so many resources today that richly illustrate Indigenous experiences in this country, both historic and contemporary, that I think you could devote your life to reading them all. Google Indigenous Canadian authors and you will find more material than you can imagine in every genre from prose to poetry to plays.