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Indigenous History Month 2022

Exploring the Legacy of National Indigenous History Month in Canada

June is National Indigenous History Month. Why is Indigenous History Month important for fostering reconciliation across Canada? It reminds us of the honour, resilience, and history of Indigenous peoples. Well if you happen to read any of the comments on ANY news articles pertaining to any Indigenous issues, what you will find is at least 60-70% of all comments are blatantly racist, ignoring the resilience and the struggles faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada. And every racist comment {and I'm not going to mince words here} stems from ignorance.

The fact is the general public has never been taught the true history of Indigenous people, and learning takes time, willingness and commitment.

As a culturally conscious business, we strive to educate when and where we can, and so, I'd like to share a bit about the effects of colonization from my village Skidegate, Haida Gwaii.

Skidegate Village Haida Gwaii

You are probably wondering what happened to the village in this 11-year period, where totem poles were cut down and shipped to museums all over the world. Where traditional long houses were leveled and European style houses were introduced. Small pox was not the only devastating effect that colonization brought to our people. In 1886, the Canadian Government imposed a potlatch ban, a ban of all Indian ceremonies and cultural practices under the Indian Act. This meant not only were our First Nation people forced to stop practicing our ceremonies - it effectively shut down our traditional economy. Seldom are Canadians taught about the intricacies of the Potlatch ceremonies, crucial to First Nation cultures across Canada, that took place up and down the west coast. They were the entire foundation of our reciprocal economy and countless aspects of our culture were deeply intertwined into these ceremonies.

Recognizing National Indigenous History Month

As a tribe, our strongest connection to our culture has been through our art. Haida art, a pinnacle of First Nation culture, is known and revered globally as one of the highest, most refined artworks on the planet - a true source of pride. But we are still fighting our way back from government and church imposed genocide. We are actively working towards revitalizing parts of culture that were stripped from us - by Canadian laws.

And this is why, on June 25th 2022 - my brother Jesse and I will be hosting our first Clan feast in over 150 years, close to National Indigenous Peoples Day, to honour the resilience of our ancestors. Our Clan, Laana Tsaadas, barely survived the earliest waves of smallpox in the mid 1700’s. And hung on by a thread since then. As the eldest grandchildren of the Matriarch of our Clan, the responsibility lies with us to uphold our Clan in this way, especially during National Indigenous History Month.

The best part about this - is that after many years in the planning - Andy Everson and I will be revitalizing traditional marriage. While Kwakwaka'wakw people never stopped holding traditional marriages, they practice a condensed version of the old ways, that would have been marked by two separate occasions: Kadzitla is the paying of the bride price , or “wedding ceremony” followed by Uxt̕ła̱’akw : “first repayment of the bride price” when dowry is given in the way of songs, dances and cultural property from the bride’s family to the groom’s family. This was one of the ways marriage made unions richer by endowing cultural property.

At every potlatch the host family/clan displays a dance-screen, typically painted on canvas, to depict their family crests and/or origin stories. We wanted to share the design that my brother Jesse made for our Clan, as our first official dance screen to be used at our Clan Feast on June 25.

Dogfish Dance Screen by Jesse Brillon

 

Our goal as an Indigenous owned business is to spread awareness, so people across Canada have the opportunity to learn about the unique cultures, achievements and resilience of all Indigenous peoples and communities. Make sure to read part 2 of our blog: Indigenous History Month 2022 Part 2.

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