The growing number of children being found in unmarked graves at Indian Residential Schools across the country is a tragic example of racism against Indigenous people in present-day Canada, not a reminder of Canada’s history.
Residential schools were an act of genocide and they existed here in Nova Scotia. Over 1,000 children are estimated to have been placed in the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School between 1930 and 1967.
As settlers in Mi’kma’ki and Unama’ki, we have benefited from colonization. Reconciliation is our responsibility – but it can be hard to know where to start. If you are feeling sickened, sad and unsure what to do next, try using those feelings to fuel action. Here are some ways to become a better ally to Indigenous people.
Donating to charitable organizations that support residential school survivors and their families is one way to make a difference. Consider making a donation to the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society, Legacy of Hope Foundation or the Orange Shirt Society.
Read about Canada’s Indian Residential Schools
Read novels and non-fiction accounts of Indigenous people’s treatment at residential schools to understand the experience on a personal level.
- Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, death and hard truths in a northern city, by Tanya Talaga
- All Our Relations by Tanya Talaga
- The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew
- 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph
- Indian School Road by Chris Benjamin
- Out of the Depths by Isabelle Knockwood
- Birdie by Tracey Lindberg
- Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese
- Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
- Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
It’s important to share information about Canada’s colonial history with people of all ages. If you have younger children in your family, consider reading and talking about one or more of these books.
- I Am Not a Number by Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, Illustrated by Gillian Newland
- The Secret Path by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire
Heed the call
Read and understand the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, then take action to implement the calls to action in your everyday life. Consider enrolling in “Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education,” a six-week massive open online course from the University of British Columbia.
Write, email or phone the senators who represent Nova Scotia and ask them to support Bill C-5 – A National Day for Truth and Reconciliation when the Bill comes to Senate for discussion. Ask your MLA to designate the day as a general holiday under the Labour Act.
Look around you
The Mi’kmaq have lived in Mi’kma’ki and Unama’ki, what we now call Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, for more than 13,000 years. Learn about the communities whose land you live on. Visit local Indigenous cultural heritage sites to learn about their traditions and culture. Support the work of Indigenous artists and business owners. Follow Indigenous writers, thinkers, and academics on your social media platforms.
You can also raise your level of awareness by digging deeper into the concept of allyship. The Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network has developed an Indigenous Ally Toolkit that includes an overview of terminology, proper protocols, and a helpful list of dos and don’ts.
Becoming a better ally to Indigenous people is not accomplished overnight. It is impossible to undo the generations of damage caused by residential schools just by reading a few books and making a single donation, but it’s a start.
We are all Treaty people.
Many ideas shared in this blog are courtesy of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs. Follow them on Facebook to learn more about how you can support Indigenous people.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and their families. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line at 1-866-925-4419.
#215children #EveryChildMatters #NationalIndigenousHistoryMonth