Today, June 21, is the summer solstice and the 25th National Indigenous Peoples Day, a day for all Canadians on Turtle Island to recognize and celebrate the culture, heritage, and contributions of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples just as Indigenous Peoples have for generations.
Here in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people, members of the team at Coady Institute are gathering today to acknowledge and honour Indigenous ancestors, Mother Earth, and all our relations to the water, land, and air.
We know there is much work to be done in repairing relationships with those directly targeted by historical and ongoing violence. Indigenous communities across Turtle Island continue to experience intergenerational trauma from these experiences at the hands of those in power. The extent of this violence and oppression is still being revealed and will continue to impact generations of Indigenous Peoples. We must respect the healing journeys many are on and constructively support them in ways that go beyond words and rhetoric.
This year National Indigenous Peoples Day arrives as we are all still mourning. We share in the grief of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation where 215 children were uncovered in a mass grave on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School and the Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation as they currently work to identify 104 potential graves at the site of the former Brandon Indian Residential School. We join the call for documentation and records to be fully revealed and shared with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, not just for these schools but for all former residential schools across the country.
At Coady Institute, we join in the call for all levels of government and Canadian citizens to honour and act on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report and 94 calls-to-action. We also urge again that the recommendations from the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls be addressed. The recent passing of Bill C-15 is a step in that direction. Bill C-15 aligns Canadian law with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This includes Indigenous Peoples rights to self-determination, language, culture, and the need for free, prior, and informed consent on anything infringing on their lands or rights. As National Chief Perry Bellegarde says, “UNDRIP will help right the injustices of past, and ensure that Indigenous Peoples have a bright and prosperous future in Canada.”
For 62 years Coady has been educating leaders who are creating economic and social change. Our work now reflects current realities while recognizing our shared history. Some of the most important learning we ourselves have had and work we have done has been with Indigenous leaders through our Indigenous Women in Community Leadership program over the past decade. It continues now through our Circle of Abundance – Amplifying Indigenous Women’s Leadership initiative.
Indigenous women are leading the Circle of Abundance and are expanding Coady’s offerings of Indigenous leadership programs across the country, for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, both in their community as well as on-campus programs at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. We are supporting the incubation of new Indigenous-led and Indigenous-run women’s initiatives. We are honoured to work with the Indigenous women staff, Elders, mentors, and alumnae who lead this work and guide us patiently each day.
Today we pause what we are doing to celebrate the culture, heritage, and contributions of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples from coast to coast to coast. The rest of the year we all need to be working hard to build new relationships with our Indigenous brothers and sisters and decolonize our institutions so that together we truly can achieve a “full and abundant life FOR ALL”.