This past Sunday June 21 marked National Indigenous Peoples Day here in Canada. It’s meant to be a chance to celebrate and recognize Indigenous cultures, and to remember the histories of the Indigenous Peoples. While it’s important to celebrate and acknowledge, it’s also important to reflect on the system we live in and how it treats people differently across our country. Anishinaabe Canadian journalist and author Tanya Talaga recently published a column for The Globe and Mail calling on us to stand with Indigenous People in this growing global movement against racism.
In her piece, Talaga highlights that, while the experience of Indigenous and Black people is not identical, there is serious trauma and frustration shared across these groups. The roots of these issues, she says, are in the legacy of colonialism and white privilege.
Turning to the parallels of the still-ongoing civil rights struggle in the U.S. with the cultural environment in Canada, Talaga refers to the powerful 1967 speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the idea of the “The Other America.” In it, the civil rights leader illustrated the idea of systemic racism: How some people in the U.S. experienced the country as a land of unending support, prosperity and freedom, while many others instead found themselves in poverty, struggling for a fraction of the opportunities that others have.
The key point to takeaway, writes Talaga, is that this disparity continues only because we as a society allow it. She writes:
What Dr. King’s speech says to me is that you can pass all the legislation you want to in the world – from the U.S. Civil Rights legislation in 1964 to a commitment by the Prime Minister in this country to adopt all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action or British Columbia’s passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – but it amounts to nothing unless the people of the nation get behind it.
The will of the majority must stand up and commit to equity, to giving all of our children that same, fresh start.
An award-winning journalist and author, and the First Ojibway woman to deliver the CBC Massey Lectures, Tanya Talaga is an acclaimed storyteller. Her book Seven Fallen Feathers, a national bestseller that introduced us to seven Indigenous high school students who mysteriously died in Thunder Bay, won the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize.
In her powerful keynotes, Tanya shares Indigenous stories from across Canada and the world, humanizing the legacy of residential schools and colonization and sharing her hope for a more inclusive and equitable future.