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Indigenous Heritage

TRIGGER WARNING: This newsletter contains mentions of child death, residential schools, genocide, and other crimes against Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

The last several weeks have been a sobering time for Canada. If you were not previously aware, a number of burial sites have been located on the grounds of what used to be residential schools-- these burial sites held the bodies of hundreds of Indigenous children who were taken from their homes and had their culture stripped from them before they died. The Arran-Elderslie Youth Council would like to acknowledge that we--and all of you-- live on stolen land-- land that truly belongs to the Indigenous peoples who have been caring for it long before us. If you were not aware, June is National Indigenous History Month, and now more than ever we must acknowledge the wrongdoings of our ancestors who stole this land from, abused, and murdered Indigenous communities in attempted genocide. The mass graves found at several residential schools across the country are a painful reminder of the crimes this country has committed and tried to hide. We encourage you to hold yourself and our government accountable, and to educate yourself on Indigenous issues. Below is a list of book recommendations recounting Canada’s lesser-known history from a number of perspectives:

“Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese is a work of historical fiction telling the story of Ojibway man Saul Indian Horse as he battles the trauma of being sent to a residential school, then struggling against aggressive racism in 1960s Canada. The moving story is a beautiful look into the lives of Indigenous people in that decade.

“Stolen Words” by Melanie Florence is a picture book detailing the generational trauma Indigenous people endure from the violence and oppression they have faced. A little girl asks her grandfather to say something in Cree, his native language, and he admits he had his language stolen from him. She sets out to help him reclaim his language and culture in this moving story.

“Sugar Falls” by David A. Robertson tells the story of Betsy, a residential school survivor who endured abuse and dehumanization at the hands of those who took her. This book is based on the true story of Betty Ross, Elder from Cross Lake First Nation.

As always, all titles are available at the Bruce County Library. To anyone who may look into these books, we implore you to research trigger warnings beforehand and practice self care. This subject is sensitive, disheartening, and makes it difficult to be proud of the country we live in-- which is no excuse to ignore or gloss over Canada’s crimes.

This Canada Day, the Arran-Elderslie Youth Council wears orange as a show of solidarity with all the Indigenous communities across the country. We wear orange as a statement to the government: reconciliation is long overdue. We encourage you to abandon your red and white this year, and to rethink the foundations of your patriotism. We as a country need to reconcile with our Indigenous communities, hold our governments accountable, and leave colonialism behind.

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