Indigenous Experiences in Canada
First, we want to take a moment to acknowledge the 1,505 + Indigenous persons (mainly children) whose remains were recently discovered across Canada.
These recent discoveries emphasize how we need to retell Canada’s history from the perspectives of the Indigenous.
When asked if any lived experiences stood out as Indigenous persona, guest speakers mentioned:
- How they were mistreated, belittled, bullied, and targeted in education systems (e.g., Catholic schools)
- Being racially profiled (e.g., followed around stores for no reason
- Being fired for standing up against racist comments
There were conversations about the pressure to assimilate to White culture:
- They mentioned how they felt their heritage (e.g., language, cultural practices) was suppressed. Being unable to look how they want to look (e.g., keeping hair long) or act in a way that was true to them was, at first, also part of avoiding further discrimination.
- They grew up Catholic (not by choice) and had to start over by erasing Catholic beliefs and rediscovering their Indigenous roots.
Continuing the conversations about the pressure to assimilate to white culture:
- One speaker mentioned how they took Indigenous Studies to learn about their culture’s history which revealed the truth about the Indigenous experience in Canada.
- In some cases, family members were not open to discussing the history due to fear and shame internalized from years of maltreatment.
In educational institutions, an attendee mentioned how White professors invalidated their Indigenous perspective when challenging racist policies and practices.
The attendee expressed how they felt disrespected and tokenized in educational institutions. Their efforts to decolonize institutions felt undermined and they felt like their colleagues didn’t want to accept this truth or see them as equals.
To deal with the effects of this racist treatment, speakers mentioned
- Taking time to process difficult emotions
- Engaging in Indigenous practices such as being in nature, attending sweats, and smudging
- They reflect on having survived genocide
- They commit to honoring their culture and continue to resist oppression
- To become better allies, use your privilege to amplify Indigenous voices
- Support Indigenous leadership
- Do your research on Indigenous history
- Attend Indigenous educational events
- Listen and don’t be defensive
- Be open to temporary discomfort as you hear stories