They tried to kill us because they were scared of our collective power. Indigenous people have always known the power and the impact our intentions and actions hold. You can see this power in our ceremonies, our songs, our prayers, our many diverse teachings, our individual stories and our creation stories. We understand the intrinsic interconnectedness of all relations, recognizing that our creation stories and our individual stories are not separate but interwoven within the thread of life itself. We understand that spirit can never be exploited, taken or destroyed; our spirit can only transcend.
The spirits of thousands of Indigenous children are asking for the opportunity to do that right now – to return to source itself. Here in Canada, mass graves of Indigenous children are currently being uncovered. In Kamloops, they have found 215 Indigenous children. Followed by 104 in Brandon, Manitoba. 35 in Lestock, Saskatoon. 38 in Regina, Saskatoon. Just recently, 180 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. This number will continue to rise as more residential grounds are searched. Over 150,000 Indigenous kids went to residential school in Canada; there were more than 139 schools across the country. However, this number does not reflect “schools” run by provincial governments, those run solely by religious orders, day schools, or boarding schools in the United States. It is heartbreaking to imagine how much larger the number of schools and number of Indigenous children stolen from their families actually is. My father went to residential school, I am the first generation in my family who didn’t go. The wounds run deep within my family and within this country.
As the number of children uncovered begins to rise, we must remember that these numbers are not just statistics. These are the lives of Indigenous children – children that had their own languages, their own families, their own teachings, their own lineage, their own stories. These children’s stories were never told or expressed, and often purposely hidden. June is Indigenous History Month and a time that is meant to uplift, amplify, honour and celebrate Indigenous voices. As Canada wakes up to the truth that Indigenous people have always known and lived, we have to recognize and navigate the darkness before we can see the light. The shadow side of our country must reveal itself, and Canada must be held accountable for the crimes against humanity that Indigenous nations across the country have been repeatedly subjected to.
As this news travels across the country, many Canadians are showing their support and solidarity with Indigenous people. 215 children’s shoes were placed across the steps of Parliament buildings, vehicles lined up with orange flags and #215 painted across the windshield in orange marker, stadiums illuminating their lights and painting the sky an orange hue, hockey games taking a moment of silence to honour the lives of Indigenous children yet repeating the Canadian anthem within the same breath. The cognitive dissonance is astounding. Furthermore, some Canadians across the country are joining Indigenous communities in asking for Canada day to be “cancelled” as a symbol of reconciliation and allyship. Numerous businesses are donating to Indigenous-led organizations and charities.
While the societal collective slowly wakes up to the truth of Canada’s history, the Canadian government continues to fight Indigenous children and families in court, the missing and murdered Indigenous womens, girls and two spirit crisis continues to rise, clean drinking is still inaccessible within our own backyard, suicide remains the leading cause of death within our First Nations communities, this is all interconnected. You don’t have to look very far to see that genocide and colonization is not a thing of the past or a “dark chapter” of Canadian history, but is the foundation it has been built upon and is still here – alive and thriving.
As the lives of Indigenous children continue to be unearthed, so do the lies that this country was built upon. Many of us have questions: What can we do? Where do we go from here? There will continue to be more questions and it is time the Canadian government starts providing Canadians and Indigenous communities with answers and action. The Truth and Reconciliation Report highlights 94 Calls to Action that the government, and all Canadians, can begin to implement. Reconciliation is not just for Indigenous people – reconciliation can only be achieved when we have the support of allies and advocates who currently hold privilege and power. We all have a role to play in dismantling white supremacy and colonization, and this begins within ourselves. There is work for each of us to do and this is the only way the healing can begin.
As the truth begins to reveal itself, I invite you to get curious about the truth that is beginning to unravel within you. I invite you to welcome in the feelings of grief, sadness, overwhelm, anger – by welcoming and embracing these emotions we can begin to feel, process and transmute. Take the time to transmute the anger within your heart and the grief within your own lineage. It is through transmutation where the process of alchemy and actualization can begin. The further away we are from our own embodiment, the further we are from reclaiming our own energetic sovereignty. We cannot seek solutions and healing in the same system and consciousness that hurt us
I am “Nehiyaw” which translates into the “Four Aspects of Being”, which is the basis of the medicine wheel. It is a circle divided into four sections – four to represent the four seasons, the four directions, the four aspects of our wellbeing: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In the centre of the medicine wheel is you – your highest self. Moving outward from the centre of that circle you find your friends, your support system, your community, with the outer circle representing our connections globally (and to the universe itself). In order to create change within the world we first have to begin in the center and begin with ourselves. By looking inward and enacting change within our own paradigm, we can create a ripple effect that begins with your own life and spreads throughout humanity.
Below I have listed a few ways you can support Indigenous communities and continue on a pathway of relationship building and healing. It is no longer enough to like or share a post online. I am calling on each one of you to take action. “You only get governments to start responding and acting – and tangibly acting – when they see the voters – the elector, are upset or concerned about something. If no one emails them, if no one protests at the ledge – what’s in it for them to do these? Government needs to be pushed to do these things.” – Nahanni Fontaine (Matriarch Movement Podcast, May 11, 2021).
11 WAYS TO BEGIN:
- Forgive yourself. When we forgive ourselves it begins the healing process of forgiving our own lineage.
- Learn, follow, amplify, support and hire Indigenous voices. Seek out Indigenous authors, educators, influencers, artists, Elders and knowledge keepers. Recognize that Indigenous people are not monolithic and we all come from different teachings and nations.
- Read the 94 Calls to Action and begin implementing the Calls to Action wherever you are working. 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph and Sacred Instructions by Sherri Mitchell.
- Reparations. Donate to Indigenous-led grassroots organizations and non-profits, Indigenous land defenders, and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.
- Listen to Indigenous-led podcasts such as Matriarch Movement and All My Relations
- Write to your MLAs and MPs and put pressure on the government. Vote for someone who truly cares about Indigenous lives.
- Teach about the true history of Canada and its on-going oppressive relationship with Indigenous people.
- Demand Canada takes accountability for the crimes against humanity and genocide against Indigenous people.
- Don’t let Indigenous lives become a trend. Commit to daily actions for our collective healing.
- Begin to imagine what our future as Canadians and Indigenous people can look like. How can we work together to create a decolonial future?
- Connect to your highest self and engage in ceremony. It is through our own inner guidance and healing that we will begin to find the answers.
We are all treaty people.
Hiy hiy, thank you for sharing space virtually today. It is June 21st – National Indigenous People’s day! Make sure you celebrate Indigenous joy + healing + liberation. I invite you to follow me @shayla0h, follow, support, and donate to the Matriarch Movement non-profit @matriarch.movement – if you learned something today. (www.matriarchmovement.ca) We focus on amplifying Indigenous women’s voices (Matriarch Movement podcast on Apple and Spotify produced by the Brand is Female) and providing wellness workshops to BIPOC women across Canada (in-person + virtually).
“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” – Sitting Bull