Nation-Based Sovereign-Based Government

FNT2T Life Long Learning: Indigenous History Month – Niiwin

June 29, 2021

Treaty 2 Territory – Boozhoo! June is Indigenous History Month and June 21st was National Indigenous Peoples Day.

June is Ode’imini’Giizis, which is Strawberry Moon. FNT2T Life Long Learning has been writing a weekly piece on our history for this reason. This is week Niiwin. However, First Nations (Indigenous) peoples know that being First Nations (Indigenous) is not one day, one month, or one year. Nor is our history, or our present. We are not a token decoration to be brought out on occasion and placed on the shelf for the remainder of the year. Learning and unlearning is, and must remain, a constant journey.

Week Behzig of Indigenous History Month shared the great intellect and knowledge of our ancestors, which was transmitted to the next generation by oral history and tradition. Week Niish talked about the systems of our ancestors and the arrival of the newcomers (some use the term, settlers). In those early years of contact, newcomers needed and depended on the knowledge of our ancestors because they knew the land, waters, weather, climate, stars, animals, migration patterns, plants, ecosystems, and habitats. After all, the Creator placed each First Nation in their traditional territories. We also briefly discussed encroachment, renaming, colonization, terra nullius, doctrine of discovery, and manifest destiny. Week Niswi shared some history on policy, colonization, and treaties.

It’s a difficult time for us right now with the recent finding across Turtle Island. Our hearts are heavy. Many of us knew this truth for a very long time because of oral history but the recent findings still hit us hard. It is important to take care of yourself and each other today and tomorrow. And pray in your own way that works for you.

Our ancestors were very resilient. Strong. But we are allowed to have emotions and responses that are completely human and valid given the recent findings. We don’t have to “be strong” or “positive.” Remembering our history is not “being negative.” It is important to remember out of respect and honour. There are people who held marches and rallies for having to “wear a mask” because they believe it goes against their human rights; thus, to place unrealistic expectations upon First Nations (Indigenous) peoples to remain silent and stay positive during a time such as this seems – yet again – unfair and unjust. It is not fair or just to expect First Nations (Indigenous) peoples to do so as a means to cater to others’ comfort. For much too long, the comfort of others has come at the expense of First Nations (Indigenous) peoples. If you need to reach out for someone to talk to, there is the Residential Schools Survivors and Family Line at 1-866-925-4419. Take the time you need.

Back in 1995, Indigenous professor and activist, Joyce Green, wrote a piece titled “Toward a Detente with History: Confronting Canada’s Colonial Legacy” (http://sisis.nativeweb.org/clark/detente.html) in which she writes “In Canada, “conventional” history (history which underpins our social and political conventions) has distorted our collective consciousness, overstating certain contributions while making others invisible.” In other words, history and its writers have been selective in what it includes and doesn’t include, which is why life long learning (education) is so important. Yet, many wish to cling to what Green refers to as the grand “colonial myth.”

There is comfort in knowing the next generation is shedding the fears that many still hold within them due to indoctrination; and what Howard Adams and Peter Puxley refer to as the colonial mindset. Through his music, great writer and musician Bob Marley wrote: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” It is a process that definitely takes time (learning and unlearning), but it is happening. And now during this time it is the children who have revealed Canada’s truth because the 94 Calls to Action have largely been ignored since they came out in 2015: http://trc.ca/assets/pdf/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf.

Children are powerful. The seemingly smallest people or beings are very powerful. In Anishinaabe story, it was the muskrat who was able to dive way all the way down to capture a morsel of earth. In Omushkego (Cree) story, it was Chakapesh, a tiny man, and his sister (orphans) who held within them great powers given to them by the Creator (no one was to mistreat them because the Creator was looking out for them). In another Omushkego (Cree) story, it is the tiny Shrew who was able to snare the sun. And in the bible, there is David and Goliath. The stories are there.

The last line in the Maori film, Whale Rider, is powerful. As many of us know, the Maori people in New Zealand have had a similar experience as Indigenous peoples here on Turtle island. In that film, a young Maori woman states: “My name is Paikea Apirana, and I come from a long line of chiefs stretching all the way back to the whale rider. I’m not a prophet, but I know that our people will keep going forward, all together, with all of our strength.” Powerful.

Miigwetch. Take care of yourself. Renew and revitalize.

Submitted By: Donna Beyer, Life Long Learning Keeper

Image: Source Unknown.

Last modified: June 29, 2021

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