By Michael Freeman
June, In Canada, is celebrated as National Indigenous History Month. Indigenous Peoples have lived and thrived in the territory that is now known as North America for millennia. Oh, people may argue with the exact timeline but oral history and traditional knowledge are all that We, the Original Peoples, need as substantiation.
National Indigenous History Month is a time for remembering, a time for learning, a time for celebrating, a time for healing, a time for growth, a time of unification, a time of reconciliation, a time of hope and a time for like-minded peoples to come together to be stronger in unity.
Indigenous Peoples within Canada (defined as Aboriginal, Metis, Inuit) have had a diverse history and a unique experience coast to coast to coast, interrupted, complicated and forever altered by the arrival of explorers and immigration to this land. The struggle to coexist has been the foundation of a fluid relationship fluctuating from confrontational, at the worst of times, to one of pride and celebration, at the best of times.
Through your own search and study, explore the rich history of Indigenous Peoples. Be sure to research a good mix of historical documents, treaty documents, policy and documents of reconciliation. There are many current Indigenous authors and a wealth of their works to keep you connected, reading and learning for many weeks and months to come. Do not fall into the trap of reading only the history tomes written by non-Indigenous authors and filtered through their non-Indigenous lenses.
Due to the current pandemic affecting every aspect of society, many of the gatherings, celebrations and ceremonies planned in honour and recognition of the rich and storied history of Indigenous Peoples have been postponed or cancelled. Look to the virtual experience as you explore the many web portals available.
It is time to loose the bondage of the undercurrent of racism, in this country, against Indigenous Peoples. Become part of the solution, if you are not already, by committing to understanding the true relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples and actively working to improve it. Dig deeper than the spectacular layers of pageantry and the ignorant layers of the stereotypical.
Be curious. Be teachable. Be willing to learn. Be open to new ideas. But above all, enjoy the experience.
Michael Freeman is the UNE’s National Equity Representative for Persons with Disabilities, member of the EB Bargaining Team, President of UNE Local 00128, and a teacher and policy writer for ISC on the Six Nations Reservation in Ontario.