First Nations people call for continued support from Canadians after new holiday

·3 min read
Thousands of people marched through downtown Winnipeg on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Thursday. (Gary Solilak/CBC - image credit)
Thousands of people marched through downtown Winnipeg on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Thursday. (Gary Solilak/CBC - image credit)

First Nations people are calling on Canadians for continued support for causes ranging from education to helping homeless people, as they reflect on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

"[There needs to be] continued support of the survivors. It's going to be needed as more schools are searched," said Cecil James, an advocate from Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation in Manitoba.

On Thursday, James participated in a march through downtown Winnipeg.

"I went out to support the residential school survivors that would be in attendance and I walked in memory of my mom and dad, aunts and uncles," said James.

He said it was the largest march that he's ever been a part of.

Gina French
Gina French

"I felt a strong sense of pride," he said.

"There was a lot of Indigenous people there. A lot of residential school survivors… and then we see a lot of non-Indigenous people that joined us. It's good. It's good. But I mean, that's a start."

Get educated

Lowa Beebe lives in Calgary and works as a radio host and cultural competency consultant. She said she didn't learn about residential schools until the late 1990s, even though her father and four grandparents attended the institutions.

On Thursday, she spent the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in her home community, the Piikani Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy, teaching young people about the legacies of residential schools.

"We talked about our history and we really wanted to [instill] a sense of pride in who they are and what their history actually is. And then also not to hide the truth and realities of it," she said.

Bree Barrientos
Bree Barrientos

"It was really nice to actually spend time with them in a positive way... and to actually educate and engage our youth. So that was really nice to see the next generation learning that different history than what I learned in our schools in Canada."

Through her work as a consultant, she said she has seen an increasing number of non-Indigenous Canadians becoming educated on First Nations history and would like to see institutions work on implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action.

"When Canadians learn of our true history and the things that our government did and are still doing, they definitely are, and conduct themselves in a different way," said Beebe.

"And that is where Canada is going to change for the next generations, where there actually will be some equality, there will be opportunity, there will be a different Canada for our youth."

Make financial contributions

Courtney Skye said that it was cool to see people from different backgrounds wearing orange shirts in Toronto.

Skye, who is Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River territory, spent the afternoon with friends at the Land Back Unity Jam concert, held at Dufferin Grove Park.

She said the park has been home to homeless encampments and that many of the people who are living in similar encampments in Toronto are First Nations people affected by residential schools.

Desmond Cole
Desmond Cole

"There are all these different points across the country where Native people are trying to continue to survive the impacts of genocide," said Skye.

She would like to see more Canadians making financial contributions to Indigenous fundraising efforts.

"If you see people that live on the streets, just give them cash and let them do what they want. Let them have a little bit of autonomy in their lives when they have lost so much of it."

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