June is National Indigenous History Month, and we begin this month with heavy hearts as news of the horrendous discovery of the bodies of 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia sinks in. Many of us are struggling to come to terms with the fact that this appalling tragedy happened and that there is more of our history we have yet to learn.
At the same time, we must also acknowledge the ongoing inequities – from lack of safe drinking water in First Nations communities to high rates of Indigenous children in care – that remain unaddressed. National Indigenous History Month is a time for all Canadians to reflect upon and learn the history, sacrifice, cultures, contributions, and strengths of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, however it is also a time to acknowledge, reflect and act on the struggles faced in the past and in the present day.
This news is another critical reminder that our work towards reconciliation with Indigenous communities and our Indigenous service delivery partners is something we must continue to focus on. This is a time for each of us to commit to reconciliation and healing. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to begin by reading the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and “How Did We Get Here? A Concise, Unvarnished Account of the History of the Relationship Between Indigenous Peoples and Canada”. There are also many other resources available to you from organizations including the Indigenous Residential School Survivors Society.
Sarah Cowley, Executive Director
YMCA of Owen Sound Grey Bruce