Monday, June 20

Aboriginal Awareness Day

It is Aboriginal Awareness week and June 21 is Aboriginal Awareness Day.

Today I challenge you to think about the disenfranchised people in our country, a significant number of who are of Aboriginal, Metis and Inuit decent.  I challenge you to question your attitudes, thoughts and opinions of First Nations, Metis and Inuit people and eradicate thoughts and beliefs you may hold that victim blame, insight prejudice, disseminate negative stereotypes and promote destructive myths.  Instead I encourage you to educate yourself on the growing wage gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians; learn about the horror of residential schools, the last of which closed in 1996; the ongoing struggle to identify and establish Aboriginal Treaty Rights; the loss of health and life in Alberta Native communities due to the tar-sandsabhorrent state of Canadian reservations shared recently in an Auditor General's report; the incorrect assumption that all Aboriginal people attend post-secondary education for free (called PSSSP): ongoing self-determination, education and employment barriers; the missing and murdered Native women of Canada (note the attempt at silencing of Sisters in Spirit by the current government).  It is with great admiration when I hear of and see success stories as people find the courage and determination to rise up in adversity, share their stories that speak to hundreds of years of colonialization, and watch as a few successes lead the way for others.  These include the success of the Northern diamond mines and their innovative practices; other creative business practices on the East Coast; leading conservation management; and continued development in the field of fine arts.  There is much to be proud of.

Recently with a visit to the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, PQ I took the opportunity to linger and ponder in the First People's Hall about the knowledge I have been gained over the years in University classes, conversations, presentations, etc.  The visit reminded me of how innovative, ingenious, and creative so many different First Nations people had been while living in the harsh and varied climates of Canada.  As well, I was reminded of how long their history has been compared to that of the Europeans and others on this continent.  May you take the opportunity develop thoughtful, understanding and empathetic views of those whose rights have been repeatedly and systematically violated for hundreds of years.  May you also take the opportunity to visit places that educate you in the ways of people who may be different as the richness gained in such places is immesurable.

Transformation Mask by Beau Dick.
Haidi Gwaii art by Bill Reid
Me in the Great Hall with the six house front installation.
(Another photographer in the way.)

Enjoy this day.  I shall be at the Manitoba Legislature supporting the National Day of Action for Aboriginal Rights.  What will you being doing and how will you think differently at the end of this day?

From the First People's Exhibit
Museum of Civilization

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