In recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day, this weeks #TeachingsTuesday was shared by Len Pierre of Katzie. Thank you Len for your unceasing generosity -- sharing your wisdom and offering teachings, helping us to learn and do better. Huy ch q'u Siem.
"June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day here in colonial Canada. One of the things I teach in our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens, is the 1884 Potlatch Ban. This was amended into the racist Indian Act, Canadian Legislation that still exists today. The ban made it illegal for Indigenous peoples to gather in ceremonial dance, celebration, ceremony, marriage, funerals, and any kind of social gathering. Yes, we know a thing or two about 'social gathering restrictions' way before the global COVID-19 pandemic. This ban was in effect for well over 50 years in Canada. Because cultural identity and practices are our gifts given to us by the Creator, our own ancient cultural laws supersede that of the novel colonial state, and our practices are forced to go underground."
Len goes on to share, "an example of an "underground potlatch took place at Christmas in 1921 in Alert Bay. ‘Namgis Chief Dan Cranmer held a six day potlatch to celebrate a wedding. The potlatch was held on Village Island in an effort to keep the activities out from under the nose of the Indian Agents and missionaries. Unfortunately, the celebration was detected, and under the Potlatch Law, 45 people were arrested and charged; 22 were jailed. Their crimes? Giving speeches, dancing, gift giving. An additional injustice was the loss of hundreds of priceless ceremonial items such as masks and regalia which were confiscated, and over time, dispersed throughout the world through collectors and museums" (Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. 2012). This historical event is significant today because despite the relentless Canadian laws implemented over a century of time, we are thriving! Year after year, law after law, legislation was implemented to eradicate Indigenous peoples language and culture. But because of organized Indigenous resistance, resurgence, and resilience we are in a beautiful era of an Indigenous Renaissance; in both contemporary and traditional art, storytelling, politics, law-making, education-building, justice-doing, and environmental justice. This is worth noting because, as we acknowledge today, the National Indigenous Peoples Day. You will never appreciate Indigenous knowledge and culture when it is shared with you so freely, generously, and graciously by our Elders and Knowledge Keepers - You will never appreciate it to the fullest extent, if you do not know what it had to go through, what we had to go through, to be here today, to share it with you today. It is a testament to our own intergenerational-grace. That is the beauty of Indigenous knowledge, values, and culture during this month."
What are you doing to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples Day? I invite you to seek out events happening in your region and pay respect to the Indigenous Peoples on whose land you call home.