Message from President & CEO
Hello everyone. Today I write to you with a heavy heart as I reflect, like you, on the recent news about the bodies of 215 children at the site of the former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. I offer my deepest condolences to the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc community and all the First Nations who continue to experience trauma and loss due to the legacy of residential schools in Canada. I mourn for the families and communities of these 215 children and the thousands more that have yet to be found whose futures were stolen.
As the President and CEO of an organization with the vision of all children and families having the opportunity to thrive, I also wish to acknowledge the ongoing injustices and inequities faced by First Nations people, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada. Action on the 94 calls made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2015 has been inadequate. In the wake of Kamloops, there is much work to be done to heal past and current trauma resulting from the cultural genocide and colonization of Indigenous peoples in Alberta, across Canada, and the globe. There are concrete actions that we can take as individuals, non-profits, and governments to ally with Indigenous communities and organizations. We have dedicated this newsletter to highlight these actions.
In the time since the news broke, I have heard many people and organizations asking what they can do. Listening to Indigenous peoples, communities, and organizations is a vital first step that is long overdue. Their calls for action on reconciliation and demands for sovereignty and dignity are not new nor are their stories of violence, harm, pride, strength, excellence, and resilience. It is time to redouble our commitment to walk alongside these communities and build a future where all children, families, and communities in Canada have opportunities to thrive.
In this newsletter, we link to specific actions and next steps as stated by Indigenous organizations across the province and country. For example, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society in Edmonton, Alberta has created a template letter to call on your Members of Parliament to act on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. To facilitate listening and learning, we share diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis stories, art, and creations. For people in need of crisis support and healing, we also link to available resources. I hope you will join me in listening, learning, and acting alongside Indigenous peoples in Canada to address the widespread injustices of the past and present.
PolicyWise President & CEO
A vital part of being an ally is listening. There are many opportunities to listen available. They exist in the stories, art, languages, ceremonies, and experiences of First Nations people, Métis peoples, and Inuit. We bring your attention to several places to start or further your listening journey, but we encourage you to seek out and share others.
Listen to stories from residential school survivors. Watch Harold Cook’s story of struggle and healing related to the abuse he endured at Grollier Hall residential school. The CBC also has a documentary, Stolen Children, where you can hear survivors’ stories. See visual records at the Residential Schools Land Memory Atlas. Visit the Witness Blanket Project, a national monument to the legacy of the residential schools.
There are many Indigenous writers, knowledge keepers, story-tellers, and creators from across Alberta and Canada. Tanya Talaga is an Ojibwe author and truth-teller, whose work you can read or listen to on her podcast or in the Massey Lecture series. Thomas King has written several widely acclaimed novels, including the most recent Indians on Vacation. Listen to him give the Massey Lecture on The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative. Billy-Ray Belcourt is a writer and academic from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He had written numerous books of poetry, essays, and vignettes. The Comeback Podcast, focused on sharing stories of Indigenous excellence. Also, join sisters Keisha and Madison for the Indigenous Sister’s Podcast to hear their stories of being Indigenous women.
Treffery Deerfoot, Blackfoot Elder, speaker, and ceremonialist shares the connection between ceremony and land. Unreserved is an audio documentary series where Indigenous peoples tell their stories. Emily Kewageshig is an Anishinaabe artist raised in Saugeen First Nation #29. Follow Chief Lady Bird, a Chippewa/Potawatomi artist, and Abigail Echo-Hawk, a Pawnee Indigenous storyteller, spoken word artists, activist, and academic on Twitter. Jeremy Dutcher is a performer, composer, and activist and a member of the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick. Listen to Leela Gilday, a singer-songwriter from the Dene Nation.
Listening alone is not enough. We must learn and take meaningful action. The MEDIA INDIGENA podcast with Rick Harp is a roundtable focusing Indigenous issues. Learn about Indigenous Protocol Processes through the ALIGN Indigenous Thought Leader Series. Listen to the Warrior Kids podcast, which is a celebration of everything Indigenous and aimed at children and families.
Your local library is a good place to find learning resources. Edmonton Public Library, for example, has curated content and community-building and educational programs and tools, including about how to start conversations and learn about residential schools with adults and children. They host the Voice of Amiskwaciy, which is an online space for the sharing, creation, and celebration of local Indigenous culture.
The Calgary Public Library has an Indigenous Languages Resource Centre where you can find language and cultural learning opportunities including links to mobile applications to learn Treaty 7 languages, such as the Blackfoot Language of the Piikani Nation (for Apple and Android). Many universities have free online courses in Indigenous history and culture.
The University of Alberta’s Faculty of Native Studies has a course called Indigenous Canada that provides an Indigenous perspective on history and contemporary issues. The Indigenous Knowledge & Wisdom Centre has a virtual library with a collection of diverse language, culture, policy, and technology related resources.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a space for residential school survivors and their communities to share their stories and experiences. These are in the reports, which we encourage you to read. There is a child-friendly version as well. To contribute to reconciliation efforts, review the 94 calls for action (French version is here) and make a commitment to the ones that align with your personal scope of influence and professional and organizational practices.
Read the Final Report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. It includes calls for justice. Act on these calls as they align with your scope of influence and practice and advocate for governments to do the same.
Complete the letter template created by Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society and send it to your Members of Parliament to demand action on the calls described by Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Sign a petition calling for action from the Federal government. Join the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society’s I am a witness campaign.
There are many Indigenous-led organizations in Alberta and across Canada leading advocacy, healing, and providing resources to ensure thriving of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children, families, and communities. Follow them on social media, listen to their stories, support their actions, and reach out to them if you are in need of resources. Some of these organizations include: Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, Opokaa’sin Early Intervention Society, Creating Hope Society of Alberta, Miskanawah, Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association, Métis Nation of Alberta, Indigenous Child Well-being Research Network, Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, and Assembly of First Nations.
If you are a former student or have been affected by residential schools and need crisis support or counselling, the First Nations Health Authority has a 24-hour National Residential School Crisis line available in French and English at 1-866-925-4419. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society can also offer support at 1-800-721-0066.
KUU-US Crisis Line Society has a culturally safe First Nations and Indigenous specific crisis line that is available 24 hours a day. Adults/Elders: 1-800-588-8717. Youth: 250-723-2040. Or, online.
Talk 4 Healing has a culturally-grounded helpline for Indigenous women, available 24 hours per day at: 1-855-554-HEAL. Their crisis line is: 1-888-200-9997.
PolicyWise and its board acknowledge that we are located on Treaty 4, Treaty 6, and Treaty 7 territories and the traditional meeting grounds and home for many Indigenous Peoples, including Cree, Saulteaux, Niisitapi (Blackfoot), Métis, and Nakota Sioux, the Siksika, the Piikani (Peigan), the Kainai (Blood), the Tsuut’ina (Sacree), Ktunaxa, Secwépemc, Dene, Mountain Cree, and the Stoney Nakoda First Nations, including Chiniki, Bearpaw, and Wesley First Nations. It is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 and Region 4. We respect the Treaties that were made, we acknowledge the harms and mistakes of the past and we dedicate ourselves to move forward in partnership with Indigenous communities in a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.