For this National Indigenous Peoples Day, I sat down with Natasha Redwood-Scribe and Adrian Baptiste to discuss its importance and how it helps reclaim lost space and identity for Indigenous people in Canada.
Celebrated on June 21, Adrian, who identifies as Wet’suwet’en, shares with me the significance of National Indigenous Peoples Day is that it “gives a platform to get together and celebrate our heritage and traditions with like-minded individuals.”
While being a day of inclusivity, it is also a time for “education for those who don’t identify as [Indigenous],” Adrian says.
Which I, myself, who does not carry Indigenous ancestry would like to acknowledge, that although grateful that both Natasha and Adrian shared their own, individual, and personal insights (that came from their own specific indigenous identities) with me; I acknowledge there are many more indigenous voices out there: representing and teaching unique aspects and perspectives about their own specific backgrounds. These are just two voices of a diverse collection of Indigenous groups that make up the history and cultural landscape of Canada.
I want to acknowledge I do not have an Indigenous ancestry and that I am grateful for both Natasha and Adrian’s openness and graciousness with sharing their personal and unique insights and experiences. I also recognize these are just two voices within the diverse communities of Indigenous peoples that make up the history and cultural landscape of Canada.
What National Indigenous Peoples Day provides to many within the Indigenous community and outside of it is an opportunity for learning. Natasha, of Ojibwe descent, shares that although she takes the time to actively listen and gain information from her father and grandmother, she still feels frustrated by the scarcity of available information on Indigenous history and present representation, both for her and future generations.
National holidays like these enable elders, community leaders and artists an opportunity to promote their often-overlooked history, artforms and cultural customs. These holidays come with the hope of making further resources connected to achieving further visibility and understanding, more readily available to future generations.
Although it is a day to celebrate Indigenous culture, traditions and artforms, it is likewise a day to acknowledge Canada’s tragic history of genocide, resettlement, and the lasting impact of residential schools—all a systemic effort by settlers and our Canadian government—in a long history of active erasure of the first peoples of Canada.
It is an uncomfortable history to trudge up, but one that demands awareness and active reconciliation, no matter “how much people get sick of hearing it, it is important to know,” Natasha says. “We are here! And we are not really going anywhere!”
June 21 is a day of assurance and celebration that Indigenous stories and people have not been forgotten. It is prevalent through written and oral storytelling, as well as in Natasha’s ideal choice of self-expression: art.
For those of Indigenous backgrounds, a day like this is a time to celebrate their ongoing resilience and honour their ancestors. For those who do not identify as Indigenous, National Indigenous Peoples Day is an opportunity to learn about the history of the stolen land we live on and appreciate art and traditions of Indigenous people more openly throughout Canada.
Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) Emergency Crisis line available 24/7 for free counselling support.