Originally published in the June 12, 2020 edition of Pikwakanagan Tibadjumowin.
Dear Members of Pikwakanagan First Nation,
This week, on June 21, Canada will celebrate National Indigenous Day. Normally celebrated by events across the country, this year will be different. We will likely see more activity on social media recognizing Indigenous people and Nations. This day also marks Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. In Ottawa, the annual pow wow is online this year and is already programming “events” and hosting a marketplace. This is an excellent example of an adaptation during these times. Check it out here.
The City of Ottawa has also issued a Proclamation for this day. I was recorded providing welcoming remarks alongside Mayor Jim Watson, Elder Irene Compton and Chief Lisa Robinson. The video will be published by the City of Ottawa on June 21. It is good to continue building on the productive and respectful relationship with the City of Ottawa that was started by our former Chief Kirby Whiteduck. Check it out here.
While this is a good day to celebrate, we should be celebrated every day as Indigenous People and Nations! This means more than Proclamations, more than events and more than words on social media. Without serious change to how Indigenous people are treated in this country, these celebrations are somewhat superficial. When BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) are no longer over-represented in prisons, no longer missing and murdered at an alarming rate, and no longer facing the epidemics of drug and alcohol addiction, only then will we truly have something to celebrate. When our communities have clean drinking water, access to nutritious food and education, then we celebrate. Until then, this day, and every day, will always be accompanied with a reminder that Canada and Canadians need to do better.
There is a lot of attention to the issues of BIPOC social justice at the moment and I urge you, your families and friends to learn about the history and the current realities so that we can chart a healthier path forward together. Some of these conversations may be difficult and even unsafe; please be kind, careful and mindful of this.
I hope you, your family and friends find ways to both celebrate and educate on June 21. It is, after all, a good day to be Indigenous!
Wendy Jocko, Chief