June is National Indigenous History Month, and the 21st was National Indigenous People’s Day. This year, we honour the 25th anniversary of celebrating the heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
This year however, we all grapple with a very serious and tragic side of our history, and the month is dedicated to the missing children, the families left behind and the survivors of residential schools – a system set up by the Canadian government and administered by churches that had the nominal objective of educating Indigenous children and indoctrinating them into Euro-Canadian and Christian ways of living. The system forcibly separated children from their families for extended periods of time and forbade them to acknowledge their Indigenous heritage and culture or to speak their own languages. Accounts of horrific abuse among survivors are being shared today, however many children (The Missing Children) didn’t return home, either because they ran away or because they died of abuse or disease.
As families inheriting this history, we have many opportunities to learn about indigenous history and culture – but speaking about this history can be very hard. Yet, it is such an important part of our history as a country, and the evidence of this harsh history are all around us. Take a look at this article by Parenting Today, for quotes about the experiences of survivors, to help your children understand what happened.
You can also honour indigenous history and culture through things like art, crafts, language, stories. Be sure to check out all of the National Indigenous Peoples Day virtual activities happening across the country through Celebrate Canada, and learn more about indigenous history by trying some of these great activities.
Also, we encourage you to watch this reading of “We are Water Protectors” with your children, written by Anishinabe/Métis author Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Tlingit and Haida artist, Michaela Goade and discuss with children the history and ongoing settler-colonialism in what is currently known as Canada.