May 5th was “Red Dress Day.” The Red Dress Project was an art installation by Metis Artist Jaime Black, which she created to bring attention to the (still very real) crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. This crisis continues, and it is important for us as a nation to remember this cannot just be about honouring those missing one day a year; changes and progress need to be made to prevent and stop these crimes from continuing in the future.
In Canada, June is National Indigenous History Month. This is a good time to start learning more about our history beyond what was written in old text books, or from outdated information of the past. Canada is rich in First Nations history, and it is vital we start listening and learning directly from those communities. How? Google is a good start, information is at our finger tips these days (I am also sharing links below). However, you might prefer to get out of the house and visit galleries or sacred sites in your area. I have been fortunate to explore the Whetung Gallery, Petroglyphs Provincial Park, and am looking forward to visiting the Alderville Oak Sivana when it opens. When possible, attend talks or lectures given by First Nations Peoples, or read their books, learn their stories and perspectives. Have compassion.
Last year, in celebration of many talented First Nations artists, I shared a variety of profiles on Instagram (Christi Belcourt, Kent Monkman, Freddy Taylor, Maxine Noel, Rick Beaver, Jennifer Trefiak, Jessie Bachanan, Michael Robinson, David Beaucage Johnson, Annie Pootoogook, and the Whetung Gallery). As you know I am very passionate about supporting the arts.
During that month of June (2021) there was also devastating news released, that 215 unmarked graves were discovered at a previous indian residential school in British Columbia. Since then more of these schools across the country have been investigated, and the number of children’s unmarked graves continues to climb (closer to 2000 currently, and will likely be many more). Want to learn more? I recommend these articles and websites:
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- How Thousands of Indigenous Children Disappeared in Canada
- How can we help?
- Indian Residential School Survivors Society (crisis line included)
This devastating news brought a wave of (temporary?) action across the country – now that these truths were being uncovered people were finally standing with First Nations demanding accountability from the government. Locally we collected letters from our community to send to parliament (Marc Miller, the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada). The binder I sent had 36 letters, most of them calling on the Government of Canada to follow through on the 94 Calls To Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The binder was sent, and received, but had no direct response from the honourable Marc Miller, or anyone from parliament.
As we approach June 2022, I feel like June 2021 was a life time ago. Like all of this happened so long ago, and still no changes seem to be made. Very little progress, no more news updates on the investigations, and the anger and motivation of people has subsided as we all returned to the groove of our daily lives…
For me, this is ongoing learning. It’s not about one day, or one month, or the next event. But I do appreciate these things, as a reminder to honour those before us, and to do what I can to help make a better future for everyone. Life long learning, listening, sharing, and growing. Remember, we are all treaty people.