Centering Hope, Action and Change for National Indigenous History Month at the Innovation Hub

Written by Terri-Lynn Langdon, Editor and Writer

Magnifying glass with a heart in the middle. Looking for hope and loveJune is National Indigenous History Month and The Innovation Hub wishes to celebrate this month and Day  (June 21st) by celebrating the lives of Indigenous communities and acknowledging the richness and diversity of Indigenous knowledge, histories, and world views.1

In recent years, our work with Indigenous Student Services (also known as First Nations House) has focused on engaging with spaces, services, and needs for Indigenous students on campus. Through these projects, we collaborated these spaces from 2018-2019 to foster spheres of community on campus. The Innovation Hub then explored the core needs of services that are needed on campus for Indigenous students to feel supported and engaged throughout their respective studies. It’s through these integral community partnerships and our design thinking processes and resources that we continually work to address realities that Indigenous lives, spaces, and communities face in a Canadian context (and beyond).

We first want to acknowledge that the systemic colonial settler histories – which seek to erase the histories of Indigenous peoples – are unjust. We also recognize that Indigenous lives in Canada have been discriminated against in the child welfare system, health care, in residential schools and the current education system. Indigenous people have been denied their languages and cultures for centuries all of which was sanctioned under law. The injustices of the past and the current disregard for Indigenous lives in Canadian policy must be dismantled to support bright futures for all. As we also continue to engage in anti-racism efforts and practices, acknowledging these facets of Canadian systems can help us locate how to make a difference in our areas in higher education and other sectors. This is a time to be a part of true changes and shifts in how we all work, play, and thrive in our communities.

Materials and Opportunities for Engaged Learning:

So, in light of these real complexities in our respective communities and histories, how can we inspire action and change? In this post, hope matters. With some events and materials provided by our team, through hope we aim to connect and engage with a scope of individuals and spaces on campus.

University of Toronto Community Materials and Opportunities

These opportunities include spaces at the University of Toronto, as well as important resources and calls to action. We would like to thank the Department of Student Life for continuing to share these important resources.

The First Nations House Facebook page

This Facebook page offers opportunities and current events to help connect Indigenous students. On July 7th there will be a Virtual Indigenous Graduate Ceremony. This is a tri-campus effort which will bring together graduates to celebrate their academic success and next steps, along with many other resources including the Indigenous Graduate Writing Group, social sessions, beading workshops, and more!

The Indigenous Digital Artistic Hub

 This is a workshop series featuring Indigenous artistic activators & space makers. Events run until July 2020.

The Indigenous Studies Research Guide

 This is a starting point to find research in Indigenous Studies – and is especially designed to assist students from the Centre for Indigenous Studies

The Indigenous Language Exhibit at Hart House

This experience features audio recordings and was a collaboration between Hart House and Ciimaan/Kahuwe’yá/Qajaq Indigenous Language Initiative at the Centre for Indigenous Studies

'Bundles' of Indigenous Knowledge

 By Dr. Kahente Horn-Miller – this online space offers lessons from indigenous experts accompanied by audio or video from knowledge keepers. It is available online and can be used by professors to incorporate in their own classes.

Whose Land Is It Anyway? A Manual for Decolonization

The Federation of Postsecondary Educators of BC has partnered with Nuxalk Radio to bring Indigenous perspectives on decolonization to a broader audience. This includes a free e-book and audio book where Indigenous authors and academics can read their contributions.

First Nations and Indigenous Communities Responding to the Pandemic

The Yellow Head Report explains how First Nations are responding to the pandemic. The institute developed an information and resources page. This article from Professor Pamela Palmater at Ryerson talks about how COVID-19 is affecting indigenous women.

The Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action Booklet

There are many resources, calls to action, and implementations for change that we invite readers to read, consider, and critically engage with.

Additional Materials

Looking to engage in deeper dialogues and histories to celebrate this important month? Below, we provide some additional materials recommended by our team – which have grounded us in our work, and are continuing to teach us the important of hope, education, and connecting with others.

Lee Maracle (2019). Hope Matters

A beautiful book by prolific Indigenous writer Lee Maracle and her adult daughters Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter. It focuses on the movement in time from a colonial history to reconciliation and the future through a collaboration of poetry. As students and staff at the University of Toronto we hope that Indigenous people can be free from racist oppressive systems in Canada within our lifetimes. 

Jesse Thistle (2019). My Story of Being Metis, Homeless and Finding My Way

Jessie Thistle is a talented storyteller and his memoir is a testament to that. This text reads like a novel and stories a family break-down, Intergenerational trauma, mental health and additions issues, homelessness and the rise to academic success as an instructor at York University. 

Tanya Talaga (2018). All of Our Relations, Finding The Path Forward

In this thought-provoking book, journalist, Tanya Talaga explores the alarming rise of youth suicide in Indigenous communities in Canada and beyond. She details the lives of Indigenous including the violent separation of Peoples from the land, the separation of families, and the separation of individuals from traditional ways of life which has created intergenerational traumas. Talaga reminds us that, Indigenous Peoples also share a history of resilience, resistance and a long history of civil rights activism, All Our Relations is a powerful book which seeks justice, and a better, more equitable world for all Indigenous communities. 

Tanya Talaga (2017). Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City

This is an investigative account of 7 Indigenous high school-aged youths whose lives who died in and around the Thunder Bay area away from their families and communities in order to get a High School education. 

Thomas King (2013). The Inconvenient Indian: A curious Account of Native People in North America

Thomas King said that he wrote this book for generations of the future. This book examines the shaping of Indigenous culture by mainstream media as well as relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous people from the 15 centuries onwards using both, personal accounts, interviews with fellow activists and historical research. 

Christopher Alcantara (2013). Negotiating the Deal: Comprehensive Land Claims Agreements in Canada

This book provides the first comprehensive research of the factors that explain both complete and incomplete treaty negotiations between Aboriginal groups and the federal, provincial, and territorial governments of Canada. Since 1973, groups that have never signed treaties with the Crown have been invited to negotiate what the government calls “comprehensive land claims agreements, which are also referred to as modern treaties. These treaties formalize the jurisdiction, ownership, and title over selected lands to Indigenous people. Despite their importance, not all groups have completed such agreements – a situation that is troubling not only for governments but for Indigenous communities as well. 

Yale D. Belanger, Editor (2008). Aboriginal Self-Government in Canada

This volume examines the historical development and public acceptance of the concept of Aboriginal self-government. Various self-government arrangements already in existence are examined including the establishment of Nunavut, the James Bay Agreement, and the Treaty Land Entitlement settlement. 

Chelsea Vowel (2016). Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Metis and Inuit Issues in Canada

As a legal scholar and Indigenous activist, Vowel uses a collection of 31 essays to examine Indigenous experiences through five categories: Terminology of Relationships; Culture and Identity; Myth-Busting; State Violence and Land, Learning, Law and Treaties. 

Kim Anderson, Maria Campbell and Christi Belcourt & contributors (2018). Keetsahnak / Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Sisters

This piece addresses and shares the tensions between personal, political, and public action. Contributors look at the roots of violence and how it diminishes life for all. Together, through all of their voices and collective knowledge, the authors create a model for anti-violence work from an Indigenous perspective. Ultimately, they make scape to also acknowledge topics such as the destruction wrought by colonial violence, lateral violence, challenges in working with “tradition,” and problematic notions involved in “helping.” Keetsahnak brings the stories of resilience, resistance, and activism, to life and gives a voice to powerful testimonies that allow for the creation of knowledge. 

As communities’ and students of the University of Toronto, we must seek an understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing and connect with opportunities on campus (and beyond) to learn through practice and engagement. In this post, we aim for readers to consider these calls for real change.  From continued reform and implementation of recommendations from The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit (MMIWG2S)2, and many other dialogues, we aim for these resources to support our community members in our collective learning. Hope is significant but not without putting our energy into learning and acting with hope. With our bodies and with our hearts, we stand in solidarity so that Indigenous communities can thrive as members of the University of Toronto community and in all other facets of living vibrant lives.

1 A note about pan-Indigenous terminology

 It’s important to acknowledge that terms such as Indigenous are often used in a pan-Indigenous context. This means that they can be used to generalize Indigenous nations, communities, or spaces. Terms like these are powerful to unite individuals in fighting for Indigenous rights and acknowledgment, but it’s also important for non-Indigenous folx to understand that there are spiritual, linguistic, historical and contemporary differences between Nations and one should know the names of Nations that they referencing or engaging with before using these terms. This practice of defaulting to pan-Indigenous terminology is problematic and can misappropriate other Nation’s ways of knowing. It is imperative that non-Indigenous folx take the time in grounding themselves in the Nations or communities they are referencing. 

2 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit (MMIWG2S)

 When we use this acronym, we are addressing a national, growing movement based on a national inquiry for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit lives across ‘North America’. Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people have traditionally been revered as life-givers and caregivers. All too many continue to become the victims of colonial violence. This movement continues to carve out much-needed space for Indigenous and ally communities to also “address issues such as sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, bullying and harassment, suicide, and self-harm.” This violence is interconnected and can have equally devastating effects. Please visit the provided link for more information, or the many other spaces that are working together to protect and empower these sacred lives

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