Speeches, talks and panels educate students and community members on Indigenous issues in a journey toward truth and reconciliation.
In December of 2016, the United Nations declared 2019 the Year of Indigenous Languages as a next step toward truth and reconciliation globally. Throughout the school year, Mount Allison has been planning and partaking in events that shine a light on Indigenous culture and take steps toward cultural diversity. One such event took place last Wednesday in Tweedie Hall.
The Day of Indigenous Learning and Languages was an all-day affair, with the opening prayer and welcome beginning at 9:30 a.m. The day then quickly transitioned into a panel discussion on the importance of Indigenous self-identification on a university campus. The panel was made up of Elder Noel Milliea, Knowledge Keeper Paulina Meader, and Mt. A students Kiara Bubar, Bryenton Innes and Raven Stephens Elwell.
The panel was asked to define what self-identification meant to them and how can it be measured. Innes kicked off the discussion with his perspective on how self-identification comes from within. “It is our own responsibility to respect and acknowledge our own identities,” he said.
Throughout the responses it was said more than once that there is a fear in the Indigenous community that comes with expressing an identity. A fear of prejudice and racism still looms over the members of Indigenous communities, which is why events like this one are so vital within universities.
The day continued with keynote speaker Dr. Cindy Blackstock. Her talk was titled #IsitGenocide? and featured detailed arguments on how the persecution of Indigenous people globally is in fact similar to many historical genocides. She separated her talk into 10 categories, each defining a stage of genocide: classification, symbolization, discrimination, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, persecution, extermination and denial. She gave real examples of each category from Indigenous history. This further proved that the atrocities committed toward Indigenous people were in fact genocide.
After lunch, speaker Denise Pictou Maloney gave an educational talk about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and LGBT2Q+, as well as the importance of creating awareness and change around both of these groups separately and together.
There was then another brief panel discussing the importance of Indigenous language courses in post-secondary institutions. The discussion was centred around how teaching Indigenous culture and language in school can be an important step in the process of decolonization in Canada.
The day concluded with another talk from Dr. Cindy Blackstock. She spoke about Jordan’s Principle, which ensures that First Nations children have equitable access to all public services. She also spoke about what Canada’s next steps should be in honouring and protecting Indigenous children with the appropriate government funded resources. “We need to do better because we know better,” said Blackstock.
The Indigenous Day of Learning and Language is one of the many events at Mt. A centred around Indigenous learning. Educating ourselves on Indigenous issues and cultures is an integral part of inhabiting this land as settlers. These events don’t only benefit the people they are celebrating; they benefit everyone who is ready and willing to learn.