National Aboriginal History Month exists under the assumption that Indigenous Peoples are a people of the past, but, despite what some people may think, we're still here.
Yesterday we shared an article called, Why We Use “Indigenous” Instead of “Aboriginal,” where we suggest that the word “Aboriginal” in National Aboriginal History Month be reconsidered. Today, we propose reimagining National Aboriginal History Month as Indigenous Peoples Making History Month. Here's why.
Our decision to reimagine National Aboriginal History Month to Indigenous Peoples Making History Month is based on the need:
To acknowledge and show respect for Indigenous peoples in Canada today who are creating history and changing the typical colonial historical narrative,
To avoid using an umbrella term - like Aboriginal - to describe a diverse group of people, and
To not only honour Indigenous Peoples of the past but also highlight what Indigenous people are doing to make history, today.
But first, let us be clear. We are in no way attempting to ignore or discredit the past of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Rather, we hope to shine a bright light on the Indigenous contributions of the past, present and future.
Indigenous Peoples are one of the youngest and most innovative groups in Canada, varying from educators to entrepreneurs to artists and writers and everything else you can imagine. However, the focus, particularly during events like Aboriginal History Month and National Aboriginal Day, is often on our colonial history. By proposing Indigenous Peoples Making History Month, we hope that Canadians will not only honour the past of Indigenous Peoples but think about and appreciate the many ways in which our people and culture are thriving in the modern world.
We believe it is important to be vigilant about celebrations like National Aboriginal History Month because, while it is important to recognize Indigenous peoples and cultures, these days - or months - often portray Indigenous Peoples as belonging to the past. Much of the literature surrounding National Aboriginal History Month focuses on Indigenous Peoples in the past, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the United Nation’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our history created who we are and, according to Senator Murray Sinclair,
It's important for us to remember. We learn from it and until people have shown that they have learned from this we will never forget, and we should never forget, even once they have learned from it, because this is a part of who we are. It's not just who we are as survivors and children of survivors, and relatives of survivors but as part of who we are as a Nation and this Nation must never forget what it once did to it's most vulnerable people.
However, focusing on the past means that rather than emphasizing the accomplishments of Indigenous peoples in Canada today, we're only looking at Canada’s colonial history.
We would like to widen the perspective and expand the typical colonial narrative during Aboriginal History Month, we will celebrate Indigenous Peoples Making History Month. Throughout June, we will release content that not only celebrates Indigenous history but honours the current advancements being made today by Indigenous People.
We’re Sitting Bull and Louis Riel. But we’re also Maatali Okalik, Ryan McMahon, and Christi Belcourt. We continue to honour and to create our history every day - as Indigenous Peoples in Canada, we’re still here and our history isn't over. We acknowledge and honour the past, but we get to be the writers of our future and the legacy we leave in history.
If you want to learn more about innovative, Indigenous Canadians making history every day through their work, follow along with Animikii’s Indigenous Innovators series to view blog posts on innovators like Justin Louis and Janet Rogers, along with a new podcast series with episodes with Michael Kusugak and Ginger Gosnell-Myers.
This article is a part of Animikii’s #MakingIndigenousHistory series. This series is a response to National Aboriginal History Month. Our goal with #MakingIndigenousHistory is to recognize important Indigenous events and leaders from our past, while also amplifying the actions and voices of Indigenous innovators today. Indigenous history didn’t start or end with Contact; we’re still here, so let’s make history.Article published June 1, 2017.