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As settlers on the lands currently referred to as North America, let’s put aside the fireworks and consider what exactly we’re supposed to be celebrating. July 1st and July 4th, 2021 arrive at a very solemn time as new mass grave sites continue to be discovered at residential schools across Canada and Native Americans grapple with unemployment, natural resources exploitation, and the inequity around access to health care in times of COVID-19. For many who understand the violence of 'Canadian' History and ‘American’ History, Canada Day and Independence Day (United States) are not celebratory or worthy of festivities. Instead, these days are a time for mourning, reflection, learning, unlearning, and reconciliation. 

There have been many calls to repurpose these days. And, to be clear, fundamentally changing the ways we observe these days is not anti-Canadian or anti-American at all. On the contrary, it’s our opportunity to close the gap between our stated values and actions. It’s an opportunity to renew our resistance against the Canadian and American government’s harm to Indigenous peoples through the prison and foster systems, lack of clean drinking water, exploitations of natural resources, and ignoring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, as examples. It’s an opportunity to make Canada and the United States places we can ALL be proud to call home.

There’s a lot to do, and it can be daunting. But the good thing is Indigenous peoples have always had the road map laid out. Let's review some critical learnings and actionable items. 

Canada’s history is far older than 154 years. 

Indigenous peoples have lived and thrived on this land for over ten thousand years. To suggest that Canada is only 154 years old is to erase the rich history of the people living on the land before us. In fact, the history of civilization on this land spans back 14,000 years.

The words “Canada” and “North America” are anglicized names for what many communities call Turtle Island.  

Settlers’ renaming of Turtle Island to North America reflects the anglicization of our country’s origins. While Indigenous communities are not all the same (their cultures, languages, and ways of life differ as much as countries), the story of Turtle Island exists in many Indigenous oral traditions. It is a creation story that tells the tale of how this land we currently inhabit came to be. 

The RCMP are known as the ‘enforcers of the colonizers’ due to their mistreatment of Indigenous peoples.

During Canada day, you may notice members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) riding on horses in your communities. Established in 1873, the RCMP was initially known as the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP). The NWMP was created to advance the agenda of the newly established Dominion of Canada. In other words, it was made to stop any opposition to its vision of a prosperous colonial state. As authors Brown and Brown wrote in An Unauthorized History of the RCMP, “It (NWMP) was designed to keep order in the North West, to control the Aboriginal and Metis populations, and to facilitate the transfer of Indigenous territory to the federal government with (in theory) minimal bloodshed.” The history of RCMP and Police in the United States has many parallels. 

Teegee, a member of the Takla Lake First Nation near Prince George, says Mounties are known in his community as nilhchuk-in, “those who take us away.” It references the Mounties’ historical role in removing Indigenous children from their homes and placing them in residential schools. The Mounted Police have a history in the enforcement of residential schoolserasure of Indigenous languages, and the Sixties Scoop. They continue to play a role in the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-spirit people, mass incarceration, and criminalization of land defenders, for example. 

Thinking critically about the RCMP and learning about their history prompts us to ask hard questions. Such as, do the systems we claim to protect and serve protect us all? Read about the history between RCMP and Indigenous peoples.

There are many terms and practices that have been normalized, but are anti-Indigenous. 

There are many words and phrases that are appropriated and erased from their origin and cultural significance to Indigenous peoples. Here are a few examples to take out of your vocabulary:

  • Avoid calling things your “spirit animal.” The use of “spirit animal” in popular culture infantilizes and patronizes a long-standing indigenous belief system. 
  • Thinking about picking up bridesmaid sashes that say “Bride Tribe?” Maybe rethink that one. Using the word “tribe” in this way trivializes Indigenous tribe affiliations. 
  • Correct people (or yourself) when using the word "powwow" to describe a meeting/gathering/discussion. Powwows are celebrations of Indigenous cultures, including dance, food, art, music, etc.
  • Instead of using the term “Indian,” use Indigenous, Native, or First Nations depending on the people you refer to, learn why this is important, and more ways you can be an ally towards the Indigenous peoples.

Here are some things we encourage you to do on July 1st and July 4th:

  1. Learn about the lands you are on, the history and culture of those people, and any inequalities or injustices that they are experiencing. 
  2. Have a conversation with a friend and acknowledge the complicated feelings around how many of us benefit from the colonial structures in Canada and its resulting opportunities - especially if you're ancestrally from a country that was colonized.
  3. Look up #MMIW (murdered and missing Indigenous women). Indigenous women are more likely to experience sexual violence than women of any other demographic.
  4. Instead of buying fireworks, consider supporting:
  5. Read the Truth and Reconciliation report from 2015. It has 94 calls to action, of which only ten have been completed. 
  6. Actively learn by following community lead newsletters.
  7. Heteronormativity and archetypal gender roles are post-colonial. Avoid enforcing your ideas of gender and sexuality onto other cultures. Start by looking up “two-spirit.”
  8. Be public about your solidarity. The more settlers who are vocal about their solidarity with Indigenous peoples, the more momentum there will be. Use #SettlersTakeAction to help start a movement.
  9. Amplify and engage with Indigenous voices on social media such as: 
  10. Advocate for the removal of statues and symbols that commemorate figures that committed significant injustice against Indigenous peoples. For example, many people advocate for removing the Sir John A Macdonald’s statue in Kingston, ON, because it glorifies a genocidal colonialist. 
  11. Wear orange or black in solidarity with the Every Child Matters campaign.
  12. Sign these petitions and learn about their impact: 
  13. Take one of these online courses:
  14. Engage with these videos:
  15. Read these books by Indigenous authors:
  16. Engage with these podcasts:

Digital Land Acknowledgement

Feminuity was founded on land that is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples and is home to many First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples.  

As a remote team, we encourage our team members, clients, and partners to reflect on colonialism’s enduring legacy and engage in reconciliation meaningfully. We encourage everyone to visit Whose Land and access the Indigenous Ally Toolkit by Dakota Swiftwolfe.

Couzyn van Heuvelen

Couzyn van Heuvelen is an Inuk sculptor originally from Iqaluit, Nunavut, but currently lives in southern Ontario. His work explores Inuit culture and identity, new and old technologies, and personal narratives. Notably, his work strays from established Inuit art-making methods by exploring a range of fabrication processes.

Connect with Couzyn
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