By Abeer Yusuf
As a recent settler on unceded Indigenous lands of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, I find it to be my personal duty and commitment to learn more about the Indigenous communities, peoples, their ways of being both past and present.
As we acknowledge and celebrate National Indigenous Peoples’ Day (June 21), it’s important for LEVEL to also reflect on the work we do, where we do it, who we do the work with, and how we ground racial equity work in decolonial ways of knowing and being. The recently published final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has been important learning and witnessing for our team, and we hope to incorporate as much of its calls and recommendations as they align with our work. In particular I want to mention the call to all Canadians to “create time and space for relationships based on respect as human beings, supporting and embracing differences with kindness, love and respect. Learn about Indigenous principles of relationship specific to those Nations or communities in your local area and work, and put them into practice in all of your relationships with Indigenous peoples.”
In the spirit of this call, we acknowledge that every one of us has a role to play, and a relationship to build in so many different aspects. Below I’ve compiled a small list of things to do, eat and play with as you observe this day – in hopes that we all continue to build relationships with the stewards of the land.
EAT: Salmon and Bannock, 1128 W Broadway #7, Vancouver. Inez and Remi Cook make some of the most amazing fresh and wonderful Indigenous fare you can get in the city – and have a staff of folks who come from varied First Nations across these lands.
PLAY: Michelle Nahanee’s game, Sínulkhay and Ladders to learn more about how you as an individual or as an organization can work towards decolonizing practices. You should also follow them on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about tangible actions. Bonus note: Michelle Nahanee also served as a faculty member for our Youth Policy Program.
READ: The final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, available here. Bearing witness and reading the 231 calls to action is the first step in working towards systemic change – so please make sure you take active time from your day to read and educate yourself about what needs to change. The National Observer’s Indigenous issues coverage, titled First Nations Forward is another great resource to learn more about the pluralistic nature of Indigenous matters across the land.
VISIT: Your local B.C. Aboriginal Friendship centre, which can be found here. These are spaces meant to foster vitality, connection, and friendships – and can serve as a great starting point to get to know Indigenous folks in your local community. If you’re looking for plans for today (June 21), head over to the Chan Centre for the Performance Arts to see Youth Policy program participant Jamie-Lee Wesley in action, performing a piece at 730pm for the BC Congress and Commissioning 2019 (or catch the livestream here).
WATCH: The NFB has a great repository of Indigenous short films they’ve produced – available to view for free here. One particular movie, rather experience you have to have, is Lisa Jackson’s Biidaaban – available to view at select spaces. This virtual reality (VR) film takes you through a completely surreal, beautiful and Indigenous landspace of what Toronto could potentially look like in the future.
SHOP: at places that don’t rip Indigenous art and artists. The Discourse embarked on an intensive investigation to ascertain how many souvenir stores sell ‘Indigenous’ art; they compiled a list of their investigation, including how they factored in what was authentic, and supported Indigenous artists. They also published a handy guide to know how to buy authentic Indigenous art. Also, here are some beautiful earrings, just because.
To a non-Indigenous reader, I hope that you take time today to reflect on what it means to be on the lands of the First Nations, Metis and Inuit. Many of us acknowledge the lands we work on, but how many of us stop and consider what that land means to us, and what it means to the Indigenous peoples? This land is abundant and has given many of us refuge, opportunities and a place to call ‘home’. Let’s not forget how this land came to open space for all of us – and the violent, colonial history that continues underpins that space. Let us reflect and commit to being the best stewards to this land as possible – working with Indigenous peoples for a better, brighter tomorrow. The work we do at LEVEL is informed by the lived experiences of those who go through incredible turmoil and difficulty, which begets us to sit up, notice and do something in the way we actively design our societies, our workplaces and communities to make them truly work for everyone, specially those most marginalized and impacted by decisions of policies and laws.