My first thoughts on celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation were not happy ones: my ancestors were ten years into life under the Indian Act, living throughout this valley with only 10% of their people left, watching their bountiful resources being devastated by more and more settlers, and still pleading for a place where they might feel protected in the land they knew. When it did come in 1875, the deal included adopting a new religion, and abandoning what was left of our own civilization.
But then, I thought about where we are today. First and foremost, we are still here; we survived. And now, there is renewed hope: Canada has revamped the Indigenous portfolio, endorsed the reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools, adopted the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and created a national public inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women.
I have been involved in this movement for most of my life, and I was happy to get others involved in reviving our Culture and Traditions by forming The Circle of Turtle Lodge in 1999. Since then, we have offered many seminars and workshops and ceremonies to educate our own people and the public about Indigenous civilization.
Starting in 2017, we will work to connect Indigenous people from across the Valley who wish to explore our Cultural distinctiveness and proclaim their own Cultural Identity. To start we will reach out to as many Indigenous communities in the area as we can find to offer group sessions on local reconciliation issues. Then we will offer centralized workshops focusing on Cultural Identity, which will include relevant Teachings from Elders and Traditional Ceremonies to enhance each participant’s own cultural experience and establish an understanding of the foundations of Indigenous civilization: our world view; our creation story; our ways of being. The time is right for us to find our way to our rightful place in Canada.