Saturday, July 4, 2020

Reflections on National Aboriginal Peoples Day

Today (June 21st) Canada celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day. As Chris and I look back over our years in Canada, having moved here from the UK, we are grateful for the many First Nations friends who come to mind, who took time to share their stories, educate us and challenge us.

Many years ago, Arnold Crowchild, from the Tsuu’tina Nation in Alberta gave Chris a miniature stone tomahawk and with a smile said, “This is to knock some sense into the British”. It hangs on the wall near our front door. Later his brother, Chief Gordon Crowchild signed a letter sponsoring our immigration application to live in Canada, on behalf of Initiatives of Change. Alvin Manitopyes invited our family to visit his family on the Poundmaker Reserve in Saskatchewan during our early years in Regina.

A Metis friend told us not to use the word “our” when talking of the First Nations. “We don’t belong to you”, she gently told us. Elder Simon Baker invited us to the Squamish Nation reserve in North Vancouver to plan for The Healing Tides of Change international conference, to be held on the UBC campus. As part of his welcome to the 300 plus participants, everyone was welcomed to the Long House for a salmon BBQ and to meet people from the reserve.

We attended two sessions during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in Victoria and Vancouver. The heartbreaking stories from men and women taken from their families as young children and put into Residential Schools was hard to hear. But we were present to bear silent witness as Non-Aboriginal Canadians. We are grateful for the mentoring and friendship of two wonderful Elders, George and Ruth Cook, from the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw Nation, now living in Victoria.

We feel privileged that so many shared something of their lives and gave us some understanding of their journey and the history with Canadians. The work of healing and reconciliation is ongoing, and we want to continue to be part of this in whatever way that we can.

Anne Hartnell