WFN Chief Christopher Derickson. (Contributed)

WFN Chief Christopher Derickson. (Contributed)

Derickson: Dark history or present reality

Westbank First Nation Chief Christopher Derickson on Kamloops Residential School discovery

Since the news broke about the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops Residential School, I have been bombarded by texts and phone calls. Friends, colleagues, and political leaders have been asking, “How are you and your community doing? How can we support you?”

How am I? I’m angry, indignant and perplexed as to why a country like ours, a modern-day free, liberal and democratic society, tolerates the ongoing atrocious treatment of Indigenous peoples. I’m also surprised that this news came as a shock.

How is my community doing? We are heavy with grief, anger, rage, resentment and indignation. We are trying to find a way to reconcile our existence as syilx people within a country that continues to ignore us. We are trying to find a way to heal, but the tether of historic unaddressed atrocities continues to haunt us.

So let me ask, how are you? How did you feel when you heard the news, what went through your mind? Do you, like our prime minister, believe that the discovery of 215 dead Indigenous children is “a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history?” Or have you finally come to realize that this is the present situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada? Are you finally waking up to realize that our free and democratic country still has racist legislation, policies and political actors who continue to add pages to this “dark chapter,” unwilling to turn the page?

From what I can tell, Canadians are trying to find ways to move on from this dark chapter. I’ve been told that “how to be an Indigenous ally” is trending on the socials. But for how long? How long will this headline last? CBC’s The National did a segment on the ‘story’ and will likely do a few more. After all, they are our publicly funded broadcaster and have a civic duty to do so. But, how long will this story last? How long will it take for the media and Canadians to predictably move on to a new headline?

Residential schools are just one section of this chapter. Other sections we continue to write include the preventable deaths of Indigenous people in hospitals, child care and RCMP custody. Let’s not forget the sections on the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women, deplorable incarceration rates, unlivable conditions on reserves, underfunded educational systems, and the ongoing and continued alienation of our traditional lands. I could go on. But I think you get the point. Most media outlets and Canadians give these egregious stories a few seconds of attention and move on. Meanwhile, my people continue to live with the daily reality of ‘Canada’s Apartheid’ (lapsuslima.com/canadas-apartheid/). Go read it. This is not history. It is our collective present-day reality.

We have known about the unreported graves. They have been documented in the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report and Calls to Action. Maybe it’s time you read it (trc.ca). My people, the syilx/Okanagan People, have known about these things for years. They pervade and still haunt my community every day. I feel for the survivors. They heard about this the same way we all did – through a press release. That moment, on May 28, will forever be etched in the collective memory of this country. I hope that the survivors and their families find a way through this. I hope we, Canadians, find a way through this.

Or will we fall back into apathy and wait until the next news cycle and big headline to get another moment of public angst, hoping that one day things will change? I’m not an expert in social movements or mass societal change, but I’m pretty sure there is a better way.

So what can we do?

Let’s start with simply being human. Start with empathy. Take a moment to reflect on our present-day realities. Take a moment to remember the 215 children that never made it home. Allow yourself to feel what we feel– anger, indignation and a deep, uncommunicable, empty sadness. Then, when you are ready, let’s turn the page. It’s time to heal. It’s time to change Canada.

This is our moment. It’s time to write a new chapter, nay, a whole new volume entitled Truth and Reconciliation. This is our country; we as individual Canadians hold the collective pen, and have at our doorstep the opportunity to write a new narrative for future Canadians and Indigenous peoples.

We must also demand accountability and reparations. We must also face the uncomfortable truths that have enabled centuries of genocide. In this new chapter, the humane treatment of Indigenous peoples is no longer a partisan issue. The mistreatment of Indigenous people is no longer an issue for debate. It is an issue we need to address. It’s time for governments, institutions, corporations and individuals to act on the 94 Calls to Action from the TRC.

I believe that we can and must do better. We must build a better Canada, one that makes room for Indigenous peoples to be Indigenous. We don’t want or need your permission to be Cree or syilx. You just need to finally acknowledge that we are here, and we are not going to retreat into assimilation. We are going to take our rightful place in a diverse and rich Canada full of Indigenous languages, cultures, customs, traditions and ways of being. A Canada that simply and honourably accepts that long before contact, we were here. We will always be here.

Christopher Derickson is currently serving as y̓il̓mixʷm for Westbank First Nation, one of the 17 communities affected by the discovery of 215 children buried in unmarked graves.

To view WFN Council’s official statement and available support service information, please visit wfn.ca/news/kamloopsresidentialschoolfindings.htm


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Indigenousresidential schools

Just Posted

Jaimee Peters photo of a Willow Midwives helping with a birth. Willow closed its doors March 31 because of a shortage of midwives. (Contributed)
South Okanagan’s only midwifery to re-open this summer

Willow Community Midwives was forced to close because of a shortage of midwives

This parking on the east side of Martin Street will be removed permanently Monday morning (June 21, 2021) to put in the Lake to Lake bike lane. (City of Penticton)
Parking removed permanently to make way for bike lane in downtown Penticton

Work begins Monday morning to replace parking spots with bike lane on Martin Street

Gord Portman getting ready for the Father’s Day dunk tank fundraiser for Discovery House. So far Portman has raised $3,000. (Facebook)
Penticton man takes the plunge for recovery house that helped save his life

Gord Portman said Discovery House and Pathways have been everything in his 1 year sobriety

Summerland cidery Millionaires' Row is hosting a Father's Day car and art show. (Facebook)
Vintage cars, art and cider for Father’s Day

Summerland’s Millionaires’ Row Cider Co. is hosting the car and art show

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Most Read