Land acknowledgement: I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the qiqéyt (Qayqayt) People.
Note: It is important to know that I am a white, undergraduate student studying social sciences. I am writing this from a privileged social and racial position, while doing my best to listen, learn, adapt and grow. I believe that it is important to have these difficult conversations and risk being wrong than to remain in silence, and for this reason, I am actively engaging in anti-racism and hope to inspire you to do the same!
We all know the sounds of life in Downtown New Westminster: the river rushing by, the traffic on Columbia Street, the chatter of our tight-knit community. We pride ourselves on this closeness, but how close are we when Indigenous voices remain unheard? In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, the BIA is exploring ways to learn about the relevance and continuity of Indigenous culture while combating racism in our community!
Canada carries a history of colonial oppression, which continues to invisibilize the needs of Indigenous people. It is this invisibility that perpetuates limited opportunities for Indigenous populations, including safety, education, access to health care and social resources. To repair damages done to these communities, it is our duty to actively engage with Indigenous realities so we can deconstruct the racism that continually oppresses the people that make up the very foundational fabric of our society.
How can we do this? It starts with learning and is followed by action.
- Put down your fear and learn with an open mind. Try playing this game created by Wisdom of the Elders to learn more! It teaches about survivance (survival + resistance).
- Ask questions to the right people. It is not the job of Indigenous people to answer your questions about Indigenous culture. It is your job to go forth in search of ways you can positively engage with supporting the diversity of New West! Check out local Qayqayt chief Rhonda Larrabee’s story here. Visit the Salmon Arrows mural by Stō:lo/St’át'imc/Nlaka'pamus artist Ronnie Dean Harris, representing salmon migration patterns and the sponsor’s commitment to reconciliation!
- Get involved. Start conversations with your friends, your kids, your students – here’s how. New West’s own Savage Society is hosting Taran Kootenhayoo’s educational comedy “White Noise,” as well as a virtual hand-game tournament to bring the community together to practice tradition, learn and have fun.
- Think in the present tense. Indigenous communities exist and continue to grow despite their invisibilisation in a Canadian colonial society. Remember that Indigenous existence is not history, but a present day experience of oppression and identity, which is why we practice survivance.
How can you help grow appreciation and support for Indigenous communities in your household, neighbourhood and community? Take action towards anti-racism and unity by approaching it as a working movement requiring continuous patience, understanding and growth – both within yourself and within your community. Indigenous peoples are an important part of New West communities. Let’s do our part to recognize their contributions, make their voices heard and change the narrative from oppression to empowerment.
Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!
- Ava Creasy