National Indigenous Peoples Day 2020

June 21 marks National Indigenous Peoples Day! On this day, we recognize and celebrate the vibrant culture, diversity and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples across what we now call Canada. It is an opportunity to acknowledge and learn more of our true and shared histories. Today we can participate in and experience Indigenous knowledge and cultures that continue to revitalize and thrive, despite centuries of oppression.

One such history is that of The Two Row Wampum, one of the oldest treaty relationships between the Onkwehonweh (original people) of Turtle Island (North America) and European immigrants. The treaty was made in 1613 between the Dutch and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) as Dutch traders and settlers moved up the Hudson River into Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) territory. The Dutch initially proposed a patriarchal relationship with themselves as fathers and the Haudenosaunee people as children. According to Kanien’kehá:ka historian Ray Fadden, the Haudenosaunee rejected this notion and instead proposed:

“We will not be like Father and Son, but like Brothers. [Our treaties] symbolize two paths or two vessels, travelling down the same river together. One, a birchbark canoe, will be for the Indian People, their laws, their customs, and their ways. The other, a ship, will be for the white people and their laws, their customs, and their ways. We shall each travel the river together, side by side, but in our own boat. Neither of us will make compulsory laws nor interfere in the internal affairs of the other. Neither of us will try to steer the other’s vessel.” (Briarpatch Magazine, read more here)

The Haudenosaunee see the Two Row Wampum as a living treaty; a way that they have established for their people to live together in peace; that each nation will respect the ways of the other as they meet to discuss solutions to the issues that come before them. Let us be reminded of this as we celebrate on Sunday and beyond. We are fortunate to participate in and experience Indigenous cultures that continue to revitalize and thrive, despite centuries of oppression and poor relationship.

  • Take the time to learn more about the land on which we live, the agreements between settlers and Indigenous peoples that are treaties, and the history behind it all – a great timeline can be found here from Indigenous perspectives.
  • Reflect and engage with your friends and families in hard but necessary discussions about colonialism and reconciliation. Try learning activities like the Caring Society’s Finding Our Place in Reconciliation and the Government of Canada’s Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day guides – both are great for kids! Love cooking? Try some FNMI recipes together – yum!
  • Put your knowledge into action, the Next 150 Challenge offers plenty of ways to contribute to reconciliation, and we want to highlight Indigenous Reads and Buy Indigenous as ways we can all very easily support Indigenous creators and contribute to economic reconciliation:
    • Comprehensive reading lists highlighting Indigenous authors can be found here (reader reccs), here (GoC, categorized by children, young adult, poetry, and adult), here (2020 releases), and here for the Caring Society’s books for kids. Jennie highly recommends anything written by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (ex. Islands of Decolonial Love, As We Have Always Done, and The Accident of Being Lost) as well as Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq’s first novel “Split Tooth” (the audiobook includes her incredible throat songs).
    • Lists of Indigenous businesses can be found here (gift ideas that “give back”) and here (fashion, art, beauty, food, music, etc). Cheyenne also recommends Pacha Arts, a Kichwa-owned store in Toronto that supports Indigenous artists from across Turtle Island, including NRP partner communities in Northern Ontario with this T-shirt.
  • Celebrate! Indigenous Peoples Day is definitely a great time for us to learn and take action, but really those are things we can and should be doing all year round! Indigenous Peoples Day is a day of celebration, so let’s keep that in mind in all of our work and learning. Try attending some online events like the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival, or a National Indigenous Peoples Day Concert. CBC Canada has partnered with Ontario Chiefs to broadcast a virtual powwow – called “Maamawi” – across the province. The City of Toronto’s ceremony will be also online, link to be available here.

By Cheyenne and Jennie from Save the Children’s National Reconciliation Program.