June 29, 2017
Canada’s 150th Birthday: Celebrating Indigenous Voices
**Special thanks to Elfie and Liz Dungate for the use of the photo above! **
“Our spirits couldn’t be broken,” says Elfie, “They are scarred but definitely not broken.”
Nationwide celebratory events have just passed marking the founding of Canada as a state some 150 years ago. For Indigenous peoples like Elfie, who personally identifies as a strong Haida woman, this was a time for reflection and time to celebrate Indigenous contributions to Canada while still remaining critical of the actions of the past.
Having been here for thousands of years prior to first contact with foreign settlers, the Indigenous communities have always had a special relationship with nature and the environment. Elfie describes this dynamic by saying, “It was always about stewardship and respect of the environment and each other. Our communities were built on trust and sharing”
Canada's birthday milestone went down across the country with fireworks, barbeques and parades occurring coast-to-coast. Posters, banners and signs littered the streets and flooded social media channels promising that this year’s celebration would be especially unique. But there's something wrong with this picture...
Many Canadians will have forgotten that this country was built on the suffering of an entire group of people who were here long before the Confederate settlers arrived. Countless lives were lost. Families were torn apart. Entire languages were suppressed. Cultures in many cases were destroyed. That is only the tip of the iceberg.
The children and grandchildren of residential school survivors carry the pain with them. For others, the legacy of colonialism and the practice of forced assimilation still weighs heavily within their nations as the government had tried, and yet, ultimately failed to destroy their Indigenous spirit and sacred way of life.
Looking back and moving forward, Canada Day is a time to celebrate the beauty of the Indigenous communities that are found all across the country.
Many Indigenous youth are using their voices to promote Indigenous cultures in the Canadian mainstream media. Maddi Grier is one student belonging to the Blackfoot nation, who has gone so far as to create her own media platform to help tell the stories of up-and-coming Indigenous artists. Her platform has inspired many to showcase their Indigenous cultural pride and allowed them the opportunity to be able to tell their truth through whatever creative and compelling means they choose.