June 1 marks the first day of Indigenous History Month, a time to honour the heritage of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people; a time to appreciate the countless ways that Indigenous people have shaped this land and the invaluable contributions they continue to make. In doing so, we must also reflect on Canada’s colonial history and the decimating impact settlers have had on the Indigenous peoples.
We acknowledge and accept Canada’s oppressive relationship with Indigenous peoples. Non-Indigenous peoples in Canada live on stolen lands that were tended by First Nations and Inuit long before the first European settlers arrived. Since that first encounter, Indigenous peoples have weathered countless atrocities and fought to maintain their culture and heritage in the face of concerted and aggressive cultural genocide. The discoveries of unmarked graves at residential school sites across this land serve as a stark reminder of this struggle and its deadly consequences.
We recognize that Indigenous peoples live with intergenerational trauma and continue to face immense barriers today. But this is not just history. Survivors of the residential school system are alive today; the last residential school closed in 1997. Many Nations do not have access to clean drinking water, one of the most basic of human rights. Indigenous people are overrepresented in the justice system, and a disproportionate number of children in the child intervention system are Indigenous.
As we walk the path to meaningful reconciliation, we must hold this history and these truths in our hearts and commit to a new way forward. We must urge settlers to educate themselves about Indigenous heritage, culture, and knowledge and remove barriers that prevent an equitable and inclusive existence for all Indigenous peoples.