How Will You Celebrate Canada 150?

When deciding how you will be celebrating Canada 150, please consider how these 150 years have impacted indigenous people. Since 1867, indigenous people have gone through hardships that have led to dispossession of lands and waters, a disconnection from culture, a reduced sense of identify, and a loss of lives. 

children in kingcome dzawada'enuxw archival

When deciding how to celebrate Canada 150, please consider the indigenous children forced from the hands of their parents to attend residential schools. Residential schools left parents without children, and children without parents. It erased indigenous languages, practices, and many indigenous lives.

potlatch masks confiscated by william h halliday in 1921

Masks confiscated during potlatch ban. Photo courtesy of Simon Fraser University.

When deciding on how to celebrate Canada 150, please consider that from 1885 to 1951— 66 years— a potlatch ban was enacted that forbid indigenous nations on the Pacific coast to celebrate their culture and existence. Without the potlatch system our foundation of governance, family, communication, and nation to nation relationships eroded. The potlatch ban diminished the integrity and capacity of our societies and leadership.

When deciding how to celebrate Canada 150, please consider the ongoing battles indigenous communities fight to access clean drinking water, adequate health care, and education that includes and values traditional indigenous knowledge. Having to continually fight for these basic human rights has exhausted many indigenous communities, leaving them unable to access their territories and engage in cultural revitalization. The lack of these services has lead to a suicide crisis in many communities. Children are taking their own lives because they feel they have no other option.

When deciding on how to celebrate Canada 150, please consider the forced sterilization of indigenous women that happened in the 1970’s. The intent was to reduce the population of indigenous communities to limit government responsibility. 

When deciding how to celebrate Canada 150, please consider the appalling number of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. Systemic and overt racism, intergenerational trauma, and lack of addiction support has contributed to these numbers. This national crisis would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the outcry from indigenous communities. 

When deciding how to celebrate Canada 150, please consider the continued attempts to assimilate indigenous peoples into the Canadian mosaic, instead of honouring and providing space for our many unique cultures. This erasure of identity through policies such as the Indian Act have led to a disconnect to families, to land, and to self. The Canadian government does not want to implement United Nation’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and are currently fighting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations in court because they do not want to recognize indigenous nations.  

It is your decision on how you will celebrate 150 years since confederation of this country, all that we ask is that you consider the above as we move forward into the next 150 years. 

The following are more resources on what Canada 150 means to indigenous people and nations: