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We're marking Indigenous History Month, both in grieving and solidarity with Indigenous communities and in celebrating Indigenous ways of knowing and being

Text graphic that reads: Marking Indigenous History Month 2021

We start Indigenous History Month in a sombre way – grieving the discovery of 215 children’s bodies, alongside residential school survivors, their families and all Indigenous peoples and communities across Turtle Island.

As outlined in our statement on discovery of mass grave on the site of the former Kamloops, B.C. residential school, this is not part of a “dark chapter”, as if it were a story told long ago and now just remembered or with surprise. These children, along with the hundreds of thousands of others, were violently ripped from families, from their communities, their cultures, their languages, their lands. This discovery is further evidence of this country’s ongoing genocide against Indigenous peoples and nations, symbols of Canada’s lack of commitment to the healing and reconciliation it claims to desire and work towards. This isn’t so much a wake-up call (those have happened, and you can see them laid out in media over the last 30 years), or a reckoning. This is a siren, an alarm that’s been going off for years that we can all hear again, while Indigenous people have heard it blaring throughout their lives.

Read our full statement here.

Take Action
Here are areas where we – as settlers, immigrants, and people whose ancestors were enslaved across the Americas and the Caribbean - can take action and to do the work to understand the history, its roots in genocide, and the ongoing impacts of anti-Indigenous racism throughout society. You can find additional resources from On Canada Project: Settlers Take Action.

The following are adapted from the Ontario Non-Profit Network (ONN)’s statement on five ways for nonprofit can take action now to support Indigenous communities.

  1. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action and commit to ways you and your organization will be accountable. In addition to the calls to action, you can find all the reports from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation here.
  2. Learn more about residential schools and g impact on communities and generations of Indigenous Peoples or take a free course on Indigenous histories and contemporary issues through University of Alberta (via coursera).
  3. Advocate to the federal government and your MP to ensure the Calls to Action are implemented. Currently only 8 out of 94 calls have been completed. Read analysis from the Yellowhead Institute about the lack of action.
  4. Advocate to the Ontario government and your MPP to work with First Nations to survey sites for unmarked graves at Ontario’s former residential schools.
  5. Advocate for Indigenous Health in Indigenous Hands and direct funding to Indigenous-led organizations and to issues Indigenous Peoples have identified need to be funded. 
  6. Listen to Indigenous voices. This week the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) released its own action plan in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, after stepping away from the federal government's action plan process relating to the MMIWG report, calling it 'toxic and dysfunctional' 

Further calls to action can be found in the statement released by our colleagues at the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council (IPHCC). You can read it here.

This month while we make space for grief, anger and mourning, we must also remember to create space for celebrations of Indigenous people, culture, language and life. Shared understandings are a path forward, and this month spotlights some of the ways that non-Indigenous folks can walk those paths.

Below we've collected a few starting points for people to learn about Indigenous artists, stories and ways of knowing:

As the month goes on, let's all try to be mindful -- of the hard truths of Canada's colonial history, of genocide in residential schools, of the steps non-Indigenous people and organizations and governments have yet to take (and how we can influence each other to take them), and of the rich histories of Indigenous peoples in these lands.

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