“The execution of Indians ought to convince the Red Man that the White Man governs.” – a quote from the first Prime Minister of Canada in 1855.
The atrocities committed by residential schools may not have begun with our first Prime Minister, but they certainly didn’t end with him. From 1831 to 1996 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were taken from their families and forced to attend Residential Schools. These schools were overcrowded, underfunded and delivered substandard education; children were hurt and staff were never held accountable for how they treated these children.
On June 21 of this year we shared a blog post with you in honour of National Indigenous People’s Day. At the time we were mourning the two mass grave sites at former residential schools that had been discovered a few weeks earlier. Since then, many additional sites have been uncovered, bringing the total number of discovered gravesites since May to over 1,300.
You’ve probably already read all these facts and stats before, but we must repeat them and we must never forget them. As Canadians we have so much work still ahead of us on truth, reconciliation and healing.
Today marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, previously observed as Orange Shirt Day. This morning our team virtually gathered to pause, reflect and mourn. We invite you to participate in the brief exercise we did together as a team, and we encourage you to continue to seek out further educational opportunities.
We begin with a land acknowledgement. Land acknowledgements are a simple way to recognize and express gratitude for the historic Indigenous land we are on. While this is a fundamental step towards reconciliation, it’s important to understand why we say them. We must take the time and effort to educate ourselves on the generational trauma inflicted upon Indigenous peoples and the lasting effect colonization has had on the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
Together we watched this video from CBC where Chief Robert Joseph, a residential school survivor, shares his experience and the importance of truth and reconciliation in Canada.
Following the video we read the poem, “The Sun Will Rise” by Crystal A.J. Smith, from the poetry book Tea and Bannock Stories: First Nations Community of Poetic Voices. We encourage you to read the full compilation.
In the spirit of continued education and appreciation we also encourage you to listen to a new song honouring Truth and Reconciliation by our very own Thabo Chinake, one of our Business Development Managers. In this song Chinake, who performs under his stage name of KTheChosen, examines the impacts of colonialism using the metaphor of a children’s playground. The song features a verse from Blackfoot artist, TRIBETheArtist, with singing and hand drumming from Cree artist, Chantal Stormsong Chagnon.
In the spirit of reconciliation and gratitude, we at BOWEN Group acknowledge that we live, work and play on the traditional territories of the Tsuut’ina, the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, and the Métis Nation (Region 3). We acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples who have lived in and cared for these lands for generations and are grateful for the traditional Knowledge Keepers and Elders who continue to educate us and for those who have gone before us. We make this acknowledgement as an act of reconciliation and gratitude to those whose territory we take up space in.
For continuous learning on Indigenous history and how you can make a difference please check out the following additional resources:
- Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business
- The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Reports
- Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
- 2021 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan: Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People
- Indigenous Awareness Canada – Online Training Courses
- Indigenous Canada – University of Alberta MOOC
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action