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Every Day is a Day for Justice

June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada, an opportunity to learn about the unique cultures, traditions and experiences of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. It's a time to honour the stories, achievements and resilience of Indigenous Peoples, who have lived on this land since time immemorial and whose presence continues to impact the evolving Canada. 

On June 1, 2023 Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau stated that “Indigenous Peoples have lived on this land for time immemorial and their unique histories shaped the Canada we know today…Only when we learn about and honour the rich history and cultures of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, can we truly walk the path of reconciliation…We cannot separate Indigenous history from our country’s history of colonialism and its lasting impacts, including systemic racism, inequality, and discrimination against Indigenous Peoples.”  

The deeper walk will be in spaces and places where family and community stories are heard

I would like to speak to two parts of this statement: (a) learn about and honour the rich history and cultures of Indigenous peoples in Canada and (b) the lasting impacts of colonialism.

I differentiate these two concepts of “learn about” as knowledge and “honour” as understanding.  Knowledge based on the “beads and feather” approach is where most non-Indigenous people are comfortable.  This approach focuses on the material culture of food, dance, regalia, crafts, and storytelling.  To come to the place of honour, non-Indigenous people must go deeper and seek understanding of the worldview of the local Indigenous community and the value and traditional knowledge of place.  The deeper walk will be in spaces and places where family and community stories are heard; where the territorial language is spoken and where traditional ceremonies are carried out.

The lasting impacts of colonialism includes systemic racism, inequality, and discrimination against Indigenous people. A widely respected Indigenous leader and activist from the Secwepemc Nation, Arthur Manuel states “colonialism has three components: dispossession, dependence and oppression.”  It began with dispossession all across the nation—our land being stolen and the inability to provide for ourselves as hunting grounds, fishing spots and gathering places were fenced off and enforced by regulations.  The government provided “relief” money to offset this disparity resulting in dependence.  The oppression of Indigenous people is seen every day in poverty, broken social relationships and despair.  Manuel states “it has devastated our social, political, economic, cultural and spiritual life.”  

Every day is a time to learn about and honour Indigenous people by supporting Indigenous people in this day of resurgence

This month there is a focus on learning about and honouring Indigenous people.  The injustice to this well-meaning plan is that once June 30th ends, for most people, the learning ends until next time there is a renewed focus. Every day is a time to learn about and honour Indigenous people by supporting Indigenous people in this day of resurgence—where Indigenous peoples’ voices are being heard and changes are being made so that Indigenous people are treated with dignity and respect in every area of society.  

From our traditional teachings, Indigenous people understand that all life is sacred and we must live to honour the Creator. The traditional land is also a gift from the Creator and we have a responsibility to steward the land well so that it is a gift to the next generations. History shows that the land was stolen and colonialism has placed a stumbling block by preventing Indigenous people from honouring the Creator through faithful stewardship. 

As followers of Jesus, our desire is to live to honour our Creator.  To honour Creator, we must honour all whom He has created, which includes Indigenous people.  To continue to walk in colonial ways, to treat the land only as a resource rather than a gift; to continue to see Indigenous people as “less than” or the “other” and to continue to accept the colonial oppression of Indigenous people in education, health, justice systems is to live dishonorably before Creator.  

As followers of Jesus, we must have one voice against the injustices and must work together to change the system.  It starts with each of us: to decolonize our minds, our values, our worldviews and to influence our family, friends, and colleagues to do the same.  Our traditional teachings remind us that what we do today impacts the next seven generations.  Let us live in such a way that our future is bright for all of us and that the next generations will inherit the goodness of the Lord, the kindness of mankind, and the humbleness to live in peace with one another.  

In the language of the Halq’emeylem speaking people, let us live lets’emo:t and lets’ethale—with a good heart and a good mind—all for the glory of God!

Resources for Learning and Understanding More:

Whose Land is it Anyway?
Unsettling Canada: A National Wake up Call by Grand Chief Ronald M Derrickson and Arthur Manuel
Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling and Reconciliation in Canada by Paulette Rega

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