'We are not relics of the past': Canada needs more than just National Indigenous Peoples Day to achieve true reconciliation

·6 min read
'We are not relics of the past': Canada needs more than just National Indigenous Peoples Day to achieve true reconciliation

June 21, 2021 — Today, we mark National Indigenous Peoples Day, honouring the very positive and profound impact of Indigenous communities and culture in Canada. With a heavy heart, we pay tribute to the countless Indigenous lives lost through Canada’s residential school system, to missing and murdered Indigenous women and men, and to the resilience required to survive the traumas of colonization on identity, land and culture. 

Today, we have altered the Yahoo logo on our Homepage to commemorate Canada's Indigenous roots with a medicine wheel, an emblem of North American Indigenous cultural values, traditions and spirituality. The medicine wheel's four quadrants are a symbol of wholeness, connectedness and strength. It reminds us that we must reckon with our past to achieve true reconciliation. — Yahoo Canada Editors

Get to know what National Indigenous Peoples Day means to individuals with Indigenous heritage in Canada and what they hope to see for true reconciliation: 

Wab Kinew

Wab Kinew is the Leader of the Manitoba NDP. He is also a bestselling author, award-winning musician, and former journalist.
Wab Kinew is the Leader of the Manitoba NDP. He is also a bestselling author, award-winning musician, and former journalist.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is a time to reflect on the important contributions Indigenous peoples have made in shaping our country and the places we live. This year, with the heartbreaking news from Tk'emlups te Secwepemc, it is also a time to commemorate the children lost to Residential Schools and recommit to the work of reconciliation. I would like governments, businesses, public institutions and Canadians to commit to the implementation of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the Calls to Justice of the National Inquiry, including searching all the sites of former Residential Schools for other unmarked burials.Wab Kinew, NDP leader in Manitoba

Riley Yesno

Riley Yesno is a queer Anishinaabe writer, researcher, and public speaker from Eabametoong First Nation.
Riley Yesno is a queer Anishinaabe writer, researcher, and public speaker from Eabametoong First Nation.

For me, days of recognition mostly provide an opportunity to take stock of the brilliance of our communities. The joy, pleasure, and transformative futures we are always building. I center our love. For true reconciliation I would like to see Canada stop pretending like they don’t know what they need to do to fix the harm we face. There are dozens of reports with hundreds of recommendations showing the way forward— we just need the will to pursue it. #LANDBACK!Riley Yesno, Anishinaabe writer

Elmer St. Pierre

Elmer St. Pierre is The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Chief.
Elmer St. Pierre is The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Chief.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is a day for our communities across the country to celebrate, and we do so in many different ways. I celebrate by attending pow wow’s with my family and community. We drum, sing, dance, enjoy traditional food and visiting crafters. What Canada can improve: The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples full and equitable participation in the implementation process of Bill C-15, Canada’s Act to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The federal government needs to act on the CAP-Daniels v. Canada Supreme Court decision to ensure the rights, interests and needs of CAP’s communities are met. The greatest opportunity for change in the history of Métis and Non-Status Indians is right in front of us, and we can’t miss it.Elmer St. Pierre, National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Sol Mamakwa

Sol Mamakwa is an MPP for the NDP representing Kiiwetinoong.
Sol Mamakwa is an MPP for the NDP representing Kiiwetinoong.

National Indigenous Peoples Day is a time of love, joy and reflection. We love our families and communities and if we have a day to celebrate each other - that’s beautiful. But I believe we are more than just a day or month marked on the calendar. Our existence is our resistance to ongoing colonial oppression and continued injustices. I have no doubt we shall rise above and shine. I know this because we are all STILL here, we are reclaiming and with each generation, we get stronger. There can be no Reconciliation in this country without truth. Canada is still listening and learning the truth. And that starts by honouring our treaties. The treaties that built this country are the laws of the land but Canada has continually ignored them, carrying on as if they meant nothing. But they mean everything. Canada constantly breaks its own laws and treats us like we are second class citizens. We are not. We will not rest until Canada honours the treaties.Sol Mamakwa, NDP MPP representing Kiiwetinoong

Chanin Lee

Chanin Lee is an actress from Toronto.
Chanin Lee is an actress from Toronto.

The month feels like a time to especially celebrate my culture and who I am. I remember my roots and my ancestors before me. Personally, I think it gives visibility for non-Natives to have a chance to learn about Indigenous history, and that we’re still here and flourishing against everything we’ve been through. Everyday is Indigenous Peoples Day for me and still being here as a proud mixed Anishnaabe woman feels like a triumph. I think the only way for true reconciliation would be “land back” since that's far fetched, at the least, we need to allow Indigenous people to be the stewards of the land and to be supported and aided by the government and rest of population. I'd like to see non-Indigenous people learning a non-biased history of our peoples. I’d like to see more Indigenous people being given access to land-based traditions and teachings. I’d like to see clean water on all reserves. I’d like to see an understanding from non-Indigenous people of the effects of residential schools, the '60s scoop and how many if not all of our people are dealing with intergenerational trauma.Chanin Lee, Toronto actress

Wade Grant

Wade Grant is an advocate for reconciliation and a member of a Musqueam Indian Band.
Wade Grant is an advocate for reconciliation and a member of a Musqueam Indian Band.

National Indigenous Day was recognized in this country as a moment for people like myself and my children to be seen. It was a day to actually lift up communities that were left behind, communities that were ignored, communities that were discriminated against, the first peoples of this country that did so much to build up this country, prior to Confederation and since Confederation, to finally be recognized that we are still here. We are not relics of the past. True reconciliation needs to happen at a grassroots level where people can have conversations, coffee table talk, family get togethers, and bringing groups together.Wade Grant, advocate for reconciliation, member of a Musqueam Indian Band

Join an activity across Canada using this interactive map to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Consider donating to Indigenous communities across Canada to support the journey to reconciliation.

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