Aaniin (pronounced ah-nee means “hello” or “welcome”)! June is National Indigenous History Month. A month meant to honour the history, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous communities. This is a time for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
The recent tragic discoveries at Marieval and Kamloops have shone yet another light on our country’s shameful and painful past and the long-term emotional and physical scars on generations of Indigenous families. But we must not look away from this painful history.
It’s time to confront this history, reconcile with it, and invest in healing. While we are saddened and angered by these horrific discoveries, we recognize that appreciation and respect for Indigenous cultures and traditions can be what opens the doors to understanding, conversation, and reconciliation.
At Habitat for Humanity Peterborough & Kawartha Region, we respectfully acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe Mississauga adjacent to Haudenosaunee Territory. We wish to recognize the long history of First Nations and Metis Peoples in Ontario and show respect to them today and every day. We offer our gratitude to our First Nations for their care for, and teachings about, our earth and our relations.
While Indigenous History Month is coming to an end, the responsibilities of allyship should be permanent.
If you are non-Indigenous, continue to utilize the many valuable resources that exist and honour the history, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous peoples every day. Learn more yourself, and start conversations with your family, friends, and community. Understanding what allyship can look like is important. Dr. Lynn Gehl’s Ally Bill of Responsibilities is a helpful resource. But you need to educate and teach yourself.
Where can you start to learn more? There are many ways to celebrate and honour the history, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous communities, including:
- Know whose land you are on. If you are non-Indigenous, you are occupying land that is being colonized. You are a settler. To have a greater understanding of the land’s original caregivers and history, visit Whose Land, an educational tool and interactive map. It is useful for understanding Indigenous treaties and communities across Canada. The website offers videos of appropriate land acknowledgments as well as some great Frequently Asked Questions.
- Learn some Indigenous language. Just as a responsible and courteous traveler learns some basic language skills before immersing oneself in a culture and place that is not familiar, so should Canadians with Indigenous languages. There is a nationwide push for Indigenous language revitalization and for some to be recognized as official languages. Learn more about how to support the revitalization with this Guide to Indigenous Languages in Canada. In the short term, you could make someone’s day by taking the time and respect to learn a few greeting and parting words.
- Celebrate Indigenous Peoples in Canada with this learning and activity guide.
- Learn some Indigenous recipes. Make delicious Bannock (fried bread) with your children or yourself.
- Make some beautiful bracelets with this Indigenous weaving technique.
- Know the protocol. Take the time before going to powwows or a ceremony to understand the protocol, through research or by kindly asking a volunteer or worker once you’ve arrived. Read A Guide to Taking Your Family to a Powwow for the First Time for some powwow protocol.
- Learn some Indigenous stories such as the Ojibway story of Turtle Island (aka North America), The Owl and the Raven: An Inuit Legend, and The Giving Tree: A Retelling of a Traditional Metis Story.
- Understand that it is not the job of Indigenous people to teach you. Metis-Irish author, Melanie Lefebrve, wrote, “If you don’t have time to educate yourself, then I can’t help you, in “It’s Not My Job to Teach You about Indigenous People” published in The Walrus. Individuals should not expect that all Indigenous people are experts on all things Indigenous, nor that they have the time or energy to teach. Google can be a great start in educating yourself.
- Support Indigenous businesses and services. There are many Indigenous businesses and services that would benefit from non-Indigenous customers, and shopping with them can be a great way to support Indigenous people. Visit the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Businesses Membership Directory to find an array of Indigenous businesses from across Canada (search by province, name, or sector).
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Call to Action Report. The TRC was a part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and had a mandate to document and prepare a comprehensive historical record on the policies and operations of the schools and produce a report that includes recommendations to the Government of Canada. The TRC completed its work in 2015.
- Read about the new National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on September 30. Survivors of residential schools and their families carry the burden of the tragedy in Kamloops and Marieval, but the deaths of residential school children impact every person on this land. The call for a National Day of Mourning was one of 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
- Learn more about the options available to support students who were physically and sexually abused in the residential school system, and consider adding your voice to calls to ensure funding is made available for them.
Through our Indigenous Housing Partnership, we’re committed to finding housing solutions that are by and for Indigenous communities and fostering equitable partnerships rooted in respect for Indigenous culture.
In Canada, Habitat for Humanity is proud to have partnered with 22 Indigenous families in 2020 through our Indigenous Housing Partnership program – building a path to safe and affordable housing for families like Sadie and her family. It’s our pleasure to share Sadie and her family’s journey towards affordable housing. Get to know their story here.
But there’s more to be done.
First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples across this country continue to face horrible housing conditions, both on and off-reserve.
1 in 5 Indigenous people lives in a dwelling that’s in need of major repairs, according to Statistics Canada. In comparison, just 6% of the non-Aboriginal population reported living in a dwelling in need of major repairs. This encompasses homes with severe mould, defective plumbing or electrical, or ones requiring structural repairs to the walls, floors, or ceilings.
We are committed to partnering with Indigenous communities to find housing solutions that are by and for Indigenous communities to help alleviate the housing crisis. Local Habitats work with Indigenous families on and off Traditional Territories as part of our Indigenous Housing Partnership, which fosters equitable partnerships rooted in respect for Indigenous culture.
Giga-waabamin menawaa (see you again).