This month, we mark and celebrate Indigenous Peoples History Month and Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21. This is a time to find deeper understandings and recognize the rich and diverse histories, cultures, knowledges and artistic landscapes of Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island.

The Alliance for Healthier Communities and its members will also spend time this month reflecting on Indigenous health and wellbeing, on where we are in our work towards reconciliation and providing culturally safe and appropriate care, and what we see as pressing issues to work on together – including advancing Indigenous health in Indigenous hands as a primary goal.

The Alliance continues to work in solidarity and cooperation with the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council (IPHCC) and its members, as we jointly advocate for Indigenous health in Indigenous hands across the health and social services systems. This advocacy includes the groundbreaking innovations that integrate culturally safe approaches of Indigenous healers and Elders with the best of data-informed Western approaches to medicine. We believe an Indigenous-led approach is essential for improving health outcomes across the health system for Indigenous people and communities. This would be supported through a Provincial Indigenous Integrated Health Hub which we are strongly advocating for in partnership and support of IPHCC. We firmly believe, alongside IPHCC and Indigenous primary health care leaders across Ontario, that this framework would enable a process of health reform respecting Indigenous autonomy, self-governance, and decision-making.

Advocacy for clean drinking water in every community is ongoing. We will continue to work in solidarity with Indigenous health leaders and communities to ensure a healthy present and future for current and future generations. We’re thinking about what it means to act on the words of waterkeeper and activist Autumn Peltier, who told Alliance conference delegates earlier this month that land back is a primary message, and it means more than land, it also means cultures, languages, livelihoods, ways of knowing and being. When it comes to programs you see at an Indigenous-led primary health care organization or team, or the structures for governance and accountability for those teams, that’s where the concepts of land back can truly start to take shape and become real for people living in communities. Climate change is having disproportionate impacts on Indigenous people, and there is risk of those worsening if action is not taken. Land, water, air and soils are left unprotected, and seen solely as resources to be exploited towards “growth” as measured by colonial ways and knowledge. We must find ways to mitigate impacts on Indigenous people already marginalized by intergenerational trauma and colonialism’s impacts.

We’re listening to commentators like Professor Kate MacDonald, who writes: “As people gather to celebrate, it’s vital that this celebration is connected to the recognition of ongoing settler colonial violence and commitments to solidarity.” What does it mean to commit to being “in solidarity”? First off, we think it means recognizing and understanding the roots of trauma created by settler colonial and white supremacist violence, including the history of Residential Schools, the Sixties Scoop, and all policies of the government used to assimilate people and communities and destroy families and cultures. It means understanding that the history of colonialism and colonial policies is directly connected to the ongoing policies and mindsets at all levels of government that criminalize poverty, dissent, homelessness, mental health issues, addictions, and hopelessness among youth. These policies, many of which continue to find support among various levels of government, continue the oppression of colonial violence on Indigenous people and communities.

We have a chance to act now. As we celebrate Indigenous history and look to the future this month, as we try to build bridges to better understand cultures and communities that colonial forces sought to destroy, we must also seek out the seeds of community. We must work to plant the seeds we can learn from deeply rooted trees of Indigenous knowledge and practices, to learn from the experiences of communities who have healed their people for millenia, and find new seeds of community between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and organizations to heal the space between our nations, our relationships. 

From small gatherings and open-houses across the country, to learning about culture, practices and history on our own, to finding ways for our organizations to work together better, reconciliation happens in small, quiet actions we take every day, all year long. It’s also when small quiet actions come together into louder voices when change happens, too. This is a month for the quiet and the loud, for the present and the future. This is a month to find more beautiful seeds and plant them together, for ourselves, our children and the future of the land we share together.

Wishing everyone a very happy Indigenous Peoples Day and a reflective and action-oriented Indigenous History Month.


Monday, June 24, 2024