National Indigenous Peoples Day opportunity for reconciliation

On June 21, our nation will be celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day and there will be several events taking place across Manitoulin observing the occasion—in fact, the month of June is Indigenous People’s Month.

There has been a lot of talk over the past several years dealing with reconciliation between the Indigenous peoples and the settlers with whom they agreed to share their traditional territories, but generally reconciliation events tend to be very short on white faces—barring a few of the usual suspects.

If we are ever to hope to engage in real reconciliation, that needs to change.

This National Indigenous Peoples Day offers up a great opportunity for non-Indigenous people to start to become part of that change. An ideal example would be Anishinaabe Giizhigad, the Indigenous Peoples Day celebration and powwow social taking place throughout the day in Wiikwemkoong.

The day will be filled with workshops on the Manitoulin treaties, land-based learning, culture and traditions of the Anishinaabe—the peoples of the Three Fires Confederacy. While Wiikwemkoong is predominantly Odawa, the Potawatomi and Ojibwe heritage is also well-represented in the community.

The close association and friendships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people on Manitoulin Island, Mnidoo Mnising, makes our communities somewhat unique in Canada, but there is still a surprising amount of misunderstanding and communication that needs to be bridged—enter reconciliation.

There are still far too many schoolchildren in Canada who know the histories of Champlain, of Wolfe and of Brock and far too few who know of the contributions made by largely unsung heroes such as the Shawnee warrior Tecumseh and the efforts of Assiginack and Pontiac. Without the sacrifices of Tecumseh and his men during the War of 1812 Battle of the Thames, we would likely see the Stars and Stripes flying over our nation. The Anishinaabek stood as our allies when these lands were at their most vulnerable during the War of 1812 and the story of how our nation repaid their support needs to be redressed. That cannot happen if Canadians do not learn the truth of our history.

There is much to be proud of and to celebrate in Canada; the Indigenous first peoples of this land stand foremost among them. Their courage, resilience survival and, yes, resurgence are virtues to be much admired.

This National Indigenous Peoples Day, those of us of settler ancestry should take the time to learn more about Canada’s host peoples. The Anishinaabe have always maintained an open door to dialogue and it is time to walk the talk through that door and take real steps toward true reconciliation.