Today is National Indigenous People’s Day in Canada!
Today is a celebration of the cultures, traditions, languages, and peoples that have lived on Turtle Island since time immemorial. It falls in June, Indigenous History Month, and I feel that this year’s Day falling on the Summer Solstice is probably particularly auspicious, as Indigenous people’s tell time from nature, seasons and daylight, rather than following the Roman calendar that Western society follows.
Indigenous peoples is a group term used to refer to the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples of Turtle Island. If you know specifically which group a person or group specifically belong to, for example, I live on the ancestral territory of Lac Seul First Nations, it is best to refer to them specifically as First Nations, Inuit, or Métis. However, if you don’t know, or you are referring to a combination, Indigenous is the most technically correct. However, if you do not know how to refer to someone, ask them. If you don’t know how to pronounce their name, ask them. And then listen to their answer and if you have to ask them to help them with pronouncing their name properly please do so.
It is also incredibly important to acknowledge Métis as their own Nation. I think this is important to discuss as creole, mestizo, and other mixed groups of settlers and Indigenous people exist, but in many cases they have not formed their own societies, cultures, and traditions the way the Métis have. Side note: the Creole language and people are an important part of Gulf Coast, and particularly Lousiana Delta society and culture, however creole or criollo was the French/Spanish word used to describe a person of European and African descent, so there may be people who could be (likely derogatively) described as creole or criollo who are not Creole people.
As part of Indigenous People’s Day I wanted to learn and share about the people who’s land I reside on. As I mentioned above I live on the territory of Lac Seul First Nation, on Treaty #3.
Lac Seul includes three communities: Frenchman’s Head, Kejick Bay, and Whitefish Bay. Now, the people of Lac Seul speak Ojibwe, Oji-Cree, and English. In Anishinaabemowin the community is called Obishikokaang.
Their first recorded contact with settlers was in 1791, and the infamous Hudson’s Bay Company set up the first year-round trading post in Lac Seul in 1803, rebuilding a more permanent post in 1815. In 1873, members of Lac Seul First Nation signed on to Treaty 3 with many other Nations in what is now known is Northwestern Ontario in exchange for land set aside for them as a reserve and many promised Treaty rights.
In 1929, the Pelican Lake Indian Residential School (also known as Pelican Falls) opened and many, if not all of the children in Lac Seul First Nation would have been forced to attend as day or “boarding” students, however students from all over Treaty 3 and Treaty 9 were sent to this school. As with all residential “schools” former students have come forward with stories of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse. Five students are known to have “disappeared” from the school, recently some construction was being done on the former site and as a condition of that construction the grounds had to be searched for their remains. Three of their bodies were found, two students still remain lost to their families. In 1946, the Anglican Church did a review of the conditions of all it’s schools in 1946 and it was recommended that Pelican Lake be closed, the Bishop lobbied for it to remain open. It remained open until 1969.
One staffer of the school has been criminally charged with his actions at the school in the 1960s, Garnet Angeconeb, lead the charge in 1996 that resulted in his conviction for 19 charges of indecent assault. He plead out and only got four years.
While the residential school was closed in 1969, it was used as a boarding facility for Lac Seul First Nation students attending the public high school. In 1978, the residential school was torn down and the modern high school resides that site.
In the 1930s a dam was built near Ear Falls, Ontario, which flooded significant portions of the Lac Seul First Nation Reserve, forcing many families off their homes and causing them to relocate. It forced the separation of Kejick Bay as the flood separated the community in two, creating an island that is now Kejick Bay and creating Whitefish Bay. In 2019, the nation took their compensation case to the Canadian Supreme Court. The dam was built and 20% of the Nation’s reserve land was flooded as a result without their consultation, consent, or compensation. Now, eminent domain is a thing in Canada but if your house is going to have a highway built over it or a dam is going to flood you out, but you will get bought out by the government. They did not do that for these people. ALSO, the whole point of the Treaties and Reserves are that the reserve land is supposed to belong to the Indigenous group who we settlers stole Turtle Island from. They lost homes, wild rice plots, and gravesites to the dam. The Canadian Supreme Court awarded the Nation a $30 million settlement, they were petitioning for $500 million. Also, despite being home to a huge dam producing huge amounts of hydroelectricity, they didn’t get power for years after.
A new water treatment plant opened in February 2020. This ended a 17(!) year water advisory in Kejick Bay. That means that Kejick Bay has been in a water advisory from 2003, I was 9 years old when it started and 26 when it was ended.
Lac Seul First Nation is a thriving community that has survived many hits, including a terrible COVID outbreak earlier this year. Some of the most talented and accomplished (in entirely the Western sense of the word) are from Lac Seul. Contact with settlers has been nothing but hardship, trauma, and abuse for them but they continue to resist and thrive despite that.
Looking for something COVID safe to do this Indigenous People’s Day?
You can listen to Melody McKiver, Lac Seul musician and composer’s original compositions here.
If you want to shop, check out CheekBone Beauty (which is just starting to be stocked at Sephora, the first Indigenous brand ever!), Hazelwood Shop (for vintage clothing, beauty, and accessories), or SḴWÁLWEN BOTANICALS.
If there are any corrections or suggestions for Indigenous-owned businesses, music, or movies that you would suggest please share them in the comments.
Have a great week, and google whose land you are on this week!
Lac Seul First Nation: https://lacseulfn.org/news/
Pelican Falls Indian Residential School: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelican_Lake_Indian_Residential_School
$30 million dollar settlement: https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/lac-seul-supreme-court-dam-flooding-1.5535391
Water Treatment Plant ends 17-year drinking water ban: https://esemag.com/water/lac-seul-first-nation-opens-water-treatment-plant/