Written by Mansharn Toor, Policy Analyst for Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation
Canadians in 2017 proudly waved their red and white flags, celebrated and cheered on fireworks to mark 150 years of the Canadian Confederation. For many Indigenous peoples, this year was a reminder of their resilience and the struggle that lies ahead. As we transition into the 151st year of Canada’s confederation, its important to look at actions that can help heal the nation.
The 150 Acts of Reconciliation for the Last 150 Days of Canada’s 150 written by Crystal Fraser and Sara Komarnisky, outlines 150 activities Canadians can do to “think about Indigenous-settler relationships in new ways.”
The #150Acts challenge is designed to confront settler colonialism by inviting people to consider their role. The #150Acts range from eating bannock to learning about the sophisticated and complex governing structures of Indigenous peoples. There are a number of action items that are easy to do, from the comfort of your warm sheets in bed. It is as simple as subscribing, retweeting or sharing content related to Indigenous governance and supporting Indigenous organizations. To mark the end of Canada’s 150th our team took the #150Acts of Reconciliation challenge.
Sedrii Nur, attended a Pow Wow ceremony where she experienced and engaged in the continuity and beauty of Cree culture, stating “our history isn't very kind when it comes to how hard settlers tried to assimilate [Indigenous peoples] so it was really good to see a group of people keeping their culture alive.” Nur, who lives in Treaty 6 region, also visited Native Delights, a well known Edmonton food truck that serves up delectable bannock burgers.
Others took the opportunity to research the significance of Two-Spirited individuals. Two-Spirited, is often a misunderstood term which refers to individuals who possess “both a feminine and masculine spirit” which as Hunzah Hayat describes “can encompass a wide variety of gender identities.” Others like Rick Alvarez, who never heard of the term, now knows not to conflate Two-Spirited with a person’s sexuality, rather it a social role that is unique to Indigenous peoples.
Another uniquely Indigenous tradition is the honour in wearing a headdress. The headdress, as with other harmful depictions of Indigenous identity, have been appropriated for costumes and festival wear. Many people, as Quais Amer states “don't mean to appropriate [cultures]” it is just that people “never do their research, which turns into ignorance.” For people, who genuinely want to celebrate the beauty of Indigenous cultures, âpihtawikosisân encourages people to buy and proudly wear beaded earrings, moccasins and beautify art by Indigenous peoples. Its important to note the significance of the headdress is, as is the Indigenous view point, which is very interconnected in complex and sophisticated governing structures. As Hayat discovered, Indigenous peoples had intricate land and fire management structures where fire was understood as “a part of healing the land, and thus used it to hunt and maintain the land.”
The impact of Indigenous Residential Schools, for Amer and Nur is a significant period of Canada’s recent history that cannot be understated. Nur, went as far as visiting a Residential era school in Saint Albert, Alberta. She summarizes the experience as such:
“[the school] is an 8 min drive from where I live. The school closed in 1966 which is still part of the century all of us were born in. Despite the attempt to try to assimilate first people; it's a display of their strength that they still have cultural gatherings (like pow wows) where they celebrate and embrace who they are. What a resilient group of people – respect.”
In fact, the last Indigenous Residential School to close was in 1996. The importance of taking the journey of reconciliation is vital to how we wish to shape the next 150 years. Whether it is simply discovering the traditional land you reside in, visiting your local museum or wearing an Orange T-shirt on September 30th, each step of reconciliation will take us a little closer to reframing the Indigenous-settler relationship. To learn more please visit the 150 Acts of Reconciliation and use the hashtag #150Acts to participate in the discussion and shape how we all participate and act upon reconciliation as intended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.