'Anti-colonial day' march organized by Northwest B.C. matriarchs to reclaim July 1

·3 min read

Canada Day was marked by an anti-colonial march through Terrace organized by a group called Matriarchs in Training.

Nearly 40 people took part in the march which began at the eastern end of the Millennium Trail and wound through the downtown before ending at George Little Park.

Matriarchs in Training, consists of Indigenous women and at its forefront are Terrace-based grassroots activists Hilary Lightening, Erica Davis, Brigitte Watts, Mique’l Dangeli, former Terrace councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller who quit city council in February claiming systemic racism, Gladys Radek who is a leading local advocate in the cause of missing and murdered Indigenous females and Arlene Roberts, a leading member of the Kitsumkalum First Nation.

In the wake of unmarked graves of children being discovered at sites of former residential school sites across Canada, the group said that they did not want to celebrate “154 years of colonial genocide” on July 1.

Even as polarized discussions to cancel or hold Canada Day swept across B.C. with multiple municipalities opting to cancel celebrations, the group said it does not to contribute to the divisive politics by “drawing a line in the sand.”

Instead, the group wants to “raise awareness to make people understand where Indigenous people are coming from,” said Lightening.

She said there is still visible violence and racism directed toward the Indigenous community.

“We want to remind Terrace that the community has its own colonial history and they need to open their eyes and atone for it,” said Lightening.

Ahead of the Matriarchs’ march, Lightening said in a speech that although “settlers” may think events at residential schools happened a long time ago, they remain in the collective memories of Indigenous peoples and are part of the inter-generational trauma inflicted on them. Below is an excerpt from Lightening’s speech at the event:

“We have no cause to celebrate when we are mourning over the children who are now being unearthed, over 1,500 and counting. We cannot celebrate when our children are snatched in what has been coined the millennium scoop and the government spends millions of your tax dollars fighting children and families in court.

We cannot celebrate when our kin are going missing and being murdered, over represented in the prison system or criminalized for protecting our lands. We cannot celebrate when old growth forest, ancient eco systems are being plowed over for the illusion of temporary wealth, our traplines demolished for pipelines, our water poisoned by industrial waste. How can we celebrate when 61 reserves are facing a water crisis in one of the most developed countries in the world?

It is 2021 and it has been 154 years of colonial oppression and there seems to be no end in sight. Sure there have been commissions and inquiries and all kinds of resolutions and promises but we have yet to see them in action. I was asked what our call to action was and my response was the same as those that have already been spoken. We have been studied to death, there have been commissions and inquiries that cost millions where we told the government what needs to happen and politicians still have the nerve to ask what we need?

We told them already – 94 calls to action from Truth and Reconciliation, 231 calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls … We need action now, that is why we are here to occupy space and reclaim this day.”

While the City of Terrace does not have Canada Day celebrations, the Heritage Park Museum does hold an annual Canada Day event and this year dubbed the gathering ‘Terrace Community Day.’

Heritage Park collaborated with Skeena Diversity Society to put on the event, and encouraged those that attended to wear orange in a show of support for Indigenous community members. Museum proceeds were donated to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Terrace Standard

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