The federal government has released a statement recognizing June as National Indigenous History Month, acknowledging both the importance of Indigenous culture and experiences, and the horrifying mistreatment of Indigenous people throughout the colonial history of Canada.
Penned by Ministers Marc Miller, Patty Hajdu, Daniel Vandal, and Pablo Rodriguez, the statement recognizes not only the importance of this history, but the value of Indigenous-led solutions and celebrations throughout the month of June, and always. The ministers, whose portfolios all focus on Indigenous issues, views the month as an opportunity for learning.
“This month is filled with opportunities for everyone to join in Indigenous-led celebrations and activities. We encourage all Canadians to get involved and learn more about Indigenous knowledge and the unique history, cultures and experiences of First Nations, Inuit and Métis across Canada,” reads the statement.
Over the past year, a number of unmarked burial sites have been uncovered at the sites of former Canadian government-run residential schools, beginning with the discovery of 215 remains at the ??Kamloops Indian Residential School. This led to more ground-penetrating radar searches of former residential school sites across Canada, where many more remains were found.
According to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, its national death register and public-facing memorial register has recorded over 4,118 cases of children who died in the care of residential schools, which were run by the Canadian federal government and churches.
“As we reflect on the past year, we acknowledge the horrific findings made by communities across the country, the legacy of residential schools and a policy that overtly harmed families for generations. These unmarked graves and the horrible legacy they left will forever be a part of our colonial history.”
The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, also echoed these sentiments in his own statement. He highlighted the impacts of colonialism on the Indigenous population of Canada, and committed to furthering reconciliation efforts with Indigenous communities, as well as stressing the need for acknowledgment of the situation.
“Only by acknowledging the truths of the past, can we begin to dress the wounds they created, and begin the journey of healing. Right across the country, the findings of unmarked burial sites near former residential schools has confirmed what Survivors and Indigenous communities have known about for decades, providing a tragic reminder of the painful and lasting impacts of colonialism,” said Trudeau.
The federal ministers went on to continue to promote learning of the truths and history behind what they called a ‘shared land,’ and to reflect on the ways they can personally commit to reconciliation efforts within their communities, and on a Canada wide scale.
“First Nations, Inuit and Métis continue to make significant and important contributions to our collective national identity, and while National Indigenous History Month offers an opportunity to highlight those contributions, Canadians from across Canada should feel inspired to learn and participate in Indigenous traditions and customs throughout the year.”
For more information, or to access Indigenous History Month resources, visit https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1466616436543/1534874922512.