Submitted by Anika Wallace
To start, it is important to acknowledge that we live and work on the occupied and unceded land of the Saik’uz First Nation. I am thankful to Saik’uz for allowing us to be here and to start on the journey of becoming better allies during this very hard, but hopefully pivotal point in Canadian history. It is a harsh water to tread, but we all need to come together, do the work, and not ignore what is right in front of us. I want everyone to feel at home and comfortable in this country someday, don’t you?
This all couldn’t have been said any better than through the words of Chief Priscilla Mueller of Saik’uz First Nation. She said, “Non-Indigenous Canadians, this is your chance to begin building a better future for all of us. Learn. Share. Teach. Love. Reconcile. Moments like this have come before, moments where Canada has been given the chance to say ‘no’ to continued discrimination and harm towards Indigenous people, only to be ignored. Do not ignore this one. Be with us. Support us. Build Canada into a place that is safe and a home for all of us. … There may be a future where every Indigenous person can celebrate the country in which we live with as much excitement as other Canadians. But it will take work. From Indigenous communities, from non-indigenous Canadians, from the Canadian government. We are resilient. We are strong. We are proud to be who we are and even hundreds of years of persecution cannot change this. We will persevere with or without help. But until we come together, we will always live in a fractured country”.
This is not a time for me, a settler in Canada, to tell my story, or to tell theirs. We all need to be here to listen, learn, respect and most importantly uplift Indigenous voices. That being said I find it is a part of my duty to make space for dialogue and for people of the Indigenous community to share their stories and promote the centring of Indigenous voices.
The evening of July 1, was set in place to mourn, reflect, and create art to place in businesses around town to create visible awareness and encourage people to continue to educate themselves and become better allies moving forward together.
Chief Mueller said, “this is a deeply painful time for many Indigenous Peoples in this community. … We cannot lift our voices in joy to celebrate Canada Day. We choose instead to raise awareness of this pain, to be with communities, Elders, and residential school survivors in their grief, and to pray for change. … This Canada Day, wear orange to spread awareness about the history of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples who live here, wear orange to commemorate our loss and honour our strength. And, on July 2nd, 2021, do not forget what you have learned the day previous. We will still be here”.
I think the evening went well. In the future, I would love to see more people come together to create events that provide, with hopes, safe and inclusive spaces where we can all come together because it was so very heartening to see all those in the community who came out to join us.
A very big thank you to Maureen Thomas, Jackie Thomas, and Jasmine Thomas who came and shared with us their talents of drumming, singing and sharing stories of enlightenment.
In keeping with Chief Mueller’s words, I ask that everyone who attended and everyone in the community listen to the Indigenous voices around them, educate themselves, and help us become a better, kinder, inclusive Canada that we can all believe in.