What Does National Aboriginal Day Mean To You?

Every year on June 21st, National Aboriginal Day is celebrated in Canada. Now, I always tend to get completely cliche and exclaim that every day is “Aboriginal Day” for us as Indigenous people across North America because we live our realities, our cultures and celebrate our “Indigenousness” every day.

As for me, this year feels different. I’m in deep reflective mode lately (classic over-thinking Shan) about our growth as Indigenous people. I feel as though all Canadians have been embarking on a journey which includes but is not limited to:

  • The increased awareness of the 1,200+ cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls because of public marches, protests, dances and ceremonies. Because of the outcries from brave family members, the push for a national inquiry and for more support from our police force and the government. Because of the raised awareness that these mothers, sisters, aunts and daughters are being taken far too young and do not belong bound and found in our rivers. They are loved, remembered and respected and didn’t deserve the treatment they faced.

 

  • There is also an increased awareness about the residential school system era including the genocide of countless Indigenous children and the attempt to diminish our Indigenous cultures. So much has happened since the last school closed in 1997; formal apologies, investigations, healing circles and the told truth from various survivors and students who attended. There is also the increased understanding of the inter-generational effects that still effect our families and communities to this day.

 

  • The 60’s scoop has also been acknowledged. The stories of how many Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in Non-Indigenous homes where many were faced with physical, emotional and sexual abuse and many never saw their families again.  There was also a formal apology from the Manitoba federal government to those children and their families.

There is a major shift in our Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities toward reconciliation right now through these acts. Through raised awareness and education on our painful reality in Canada and the past issues that still haunt our communities to this day. There is action being done such as the implementation of Indigenous classes and the history being taught in our education systems, the invitations of our traditions into schools and events across the nation.

I also feel as though despite everything, our Indigenous communities are stronger than ever. We are reclaiming who we are as Indigenous people. We are relearning our traditions, our teachings, our languages and becoming increasingly proud in our identities. On top of that, all of us across North America and past those border lines are in a major time of healing and shifting. We are starting to discuss and become more aware of what had happened. We are educating and engaging all Canadians and communities across the globe of our rich history and our progressive ways forward. I am also seeing much interest from Non-Indigenous individuals to truly learn and help in any way that they can to work toward reconciliation . We are all making positive baby steps forward but we must keep going. We have much more work to do, much more healing to bring to our communities, our families and ourselves. We need to work on these new found relationships between all of us, we need to encourage our systems and our nations to take this journey with us. We need to re-establish trust and protect our children, our women and our communities.

This time of shifting is exciting and encouraging to witness. To see the healing taking place, to be a part of educating Canadians about our culture and our traditions through performing at different schools, events and gatherings across turtle island and internationally. I just hope this momentum doesn’t stop. I hope we continue to move forward. I hope that one day my children will see a world where our Indigenous women and men are protected and can feel safe in their own homes, that every community has clean running water, that they can continue to swim and witness the beauty of our lakes and oceans without the fear of polluted waters. I hope my children will see a strong nation and feel proud in who they are. I hope they will feel support from their leadership and governments.  I hope for a future where all Canadians are aware and truly equal. That’s all we can rely on is that hope. We must begin with ourselves which will then reach our families, our friends, then our communities and then hopefully across the nation.

Like I said, much work still needs to be done and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this. I hope this wasn’t too long of a rant but this has been on my mind for awhile. What does this particular day known as “National Aboriginal Day” mean to you? What does it mean to be a Canadian? I would love to hear from you! I also asked this question across my social media and here are some of the answers I recieved.

“Happy to those who join us to celebrate our heritage through good faith and a reminder of what our people have over came and we are still here as a sovereign nation no matter what tribe we come from nation to nation we are all related.” 

“Being proud in who we are. Celebrate our heritage.”

“Free Bannock.” 

“Showing pride that the government actually recognized us for one day!”

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Canada’s top priority?

  Stephen Harper recently got back from a summit in Toronto which dealt with the importance and top priority of saving the lives of mothers, newborns and children in developing countries. I understand the importance of helping others and many individuals around the globe certainly need that help. The thing I don’t understand and can’t […]

Sorry If I’m Not Distracted.

Through Imagethe last couple of years I have attended conferences, peace rallies, protests, etc. Every direction I’ve gone I have learned a harsh truth about our society. I started feeling overwhelmed with these issues that have never been brought to my attention before. I’ve discovered the millions of women across the globe being caught in cycles of abuse. I’ve discovered that many Indigenous and Non-Indigenous women are still going missing and are still being murdered. I’ve discovered that the government and other officials aren’t doing much about these women and not starting any inquiries. I’ve discovered that Indigenous communities up north – in our own backyard – are living in 3rd world like conditions. I’ve discovered the inter-generational effects of Residential schools and the thousands of horrifying stories from residential school survivors themselves.The fact that so many people, especially our youth, each year, end up taking their own lives.

There is so much more I can say that I have heard, stories and speeches that I’ve listened to. Cries for help and prayers for action to be taken. I have witnessed frustration, urgency and most importantly hope.

The thing that bothers me the most is the fact that so many people are oblivious to the actual truth and to the harsh dark realities that are in the world. I almost feel as though most of the world are distracted or maybe they choose not to be faced with this awareness. The fact is, millions of children, millions of people YOUR age are going through horrifying things right now. It’s come to the point where even the safety of our own planet is at stake and the safety of a sustainable future is at risk.
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I have found a frustration when the people around me are distracted by other things such as Miley Cyrus’ latest twerking debut, The latest fashion trend, Justin Bieber’s latest DUI, Getting the hottest new phone, etc. I’ll admit and be honest that I have been caught within these distractions that the media and dominant culture portrays from time to time but after becoming aware of much larger things I have just grown frustration to our mainstream society.  I also start to get frustrated when people view me as a “superhero” simply because I involve myself with many different community organizations and youth groups. I am not even close to being a superhero. The true hero’s are the mother’s who travel miles and miles a day to retrieve clean water for their families. The true hero’s are those children who have the strength and courage to tell their stories despite the many risks they face. The true hero’s have faced far greater adversities that I have ever faced in my lifetime.

All I ask of you – if you have continued reading to this point – is to wake yourselves up and wake up those who are around you. Make yourselves aware, let’s educate each other and begin a dialogue as to how we can move forward and start tackling these issues a little at time. Everything will take a group effort and if magnitudes of us come together we can create the change we want to see. By each person doing their small part it can really make a difference. We all have a choice and I’m asking for you to choose the path of awareness and to think a little less of those everyday distractions.

Thank you for sticking until the end. Take care ♡