On June 21st, the first day of summer, citizens of BC were urged by their Premier John Horgan to modestly celebrate National Aboriginal Day. It was a quiet reminder that the arrival of the summer solstice had been a day of celebration for several thousand years and that ancestors of those first inhabitants of the vast Canadian wilderness were still around.
The celebrations would be modest this year because Canada, like the rest of the world, appeared to be coming to the end of a science fiction-style plague that had killed millions worldwide before it could now, nervously, claim to be under control.
It remains a hesitant claim but the first day of summer was a good time in 1996 for then Governor General of Canada Romeo LeBlanc to proclaim that henceforth the first day of summer would be a special day. As the sun rose on the longest day of the year, “the cultural richness of contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people” would be remembered.
It took 21 years for our national government to embrace the concept of recognition but it did in 2017 with a Prime Minister’s announcement –
National Aboriginal Day would become National Indigenous People’s Day.
And, nobody seemed to think it a little unusual that Canada would now have two “National” days – the first to honour the original first citizens of what was then an extremely wild land; the second revered as Canada Day, July 1, to honour the success of white settlers from France and England and later the world, as they conquered the residents by arrogantly outnumbering them.
Then, not content with taking possession of the land and relegating the original occupants to confined zones called reservations, the government decided to re-educate generations of native children. For assistance in the giant brain-washing scheme, they enlisted the aid of Christian religious leaders, with disastrous results.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was eventually established to check out some ugly stories emanating from the residential schools involving physical and sexual abuse of male and female children. The findings continued to provide shock waves as unbelievable horrors of residential schools were exposed.
A few days ago, two Roman Catholic Churches located on Okanagan reserves were destroyed by fire. It is possible that by the time you read this, the perpetrators will have been arrested and brought to justice. Anger against the church for evils wrought by priests and nuns may be understandable, but revenge can never be acceptable.
I have mentioned before the repeated hope of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that truth would lead to trust and trust would lead to desired reconciliation.
Maybe a sensible next step would be one more name change for a national holiday inclusive of Indigenous and Settler. I’ll leave renaming to sharper minds, but it is important that all talks are dominated by truth and trust, shared and held inviolate.
I modestly suggest, as a “thought starter”: Reconciliation Day acknowledging Indigenous tribes, their language and beliefs while honouring the generations of white settlers who have shaped modern Canada.
National Indigenous Peoples day (June 21) and Canada Day (July 1), re-titled Reconciliation Day – could become a day remembered each year as the day Canada began a long overdue search for redemption for terrors inflicted in the name of God.