In an effort to highlight Indigenous issues and encourage the reconciliation process, Jillian Harris handed her blog over to Indigenous influencer, APTN personality and yoga instructor Shayla Stonechild on July 1.
Shayla is Cree and lives in Vancouver, which is also the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people. She co-hosts APTN's Red Earth Uncovered with Tom Jackson of North of 60 fame. The program examines archaeological discoveries and uses them as a lens for Indigenous histories in this country. Shayla also runs the Matriarch Movement, which helps Indigenous women by using meditation, yoga and medicine.
In introducing Shayla, Jillian pointed out most of us look forward to Canada Day as a day off. That July 1 falls early in the summer means lots of us look at it as an opportunity to have a barbecue, relax around a pool or go to the beach. But not all of us experience the day the same, and the anniversary of Confederation can be a difficult day for the Indigenous peoples of these lands, she pointed out.
"In trying to be more inclusive and diverse I think it's really important to research and learn why we celebrate certain holidays," she wrote. (The italics are her own.) "As Canadians, it's important that when we are celebrating our country's roots that we are also celebrating the land we are on and the people that were here before us."
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In her essay on Jillian's blog, Shayla encouraged people to spend July 1 taking the time to "educate [themselves] on our history as a country and the relationship between Canada and the Indigenous people." She also asked readers to think about what reconciliation means to them, what they're doing to advance it and ways they can get involved.
"Reclaiming our roots requires an uncovering of the darker truths that we have been suppressing – personally and collectively," she wrote, pointing out that anti-Black racism and the ongoing systemic inequalities Indigenous peoples face in Canada are connected. "An acceptance and acknowledgement of our shadow side as a country – which has been woven with patriarchy, white supremacy and genocide against Indigenous People. Canada has been here for 153 years; Indigenous people have been here since time immemorial."
She went on to say what Canada Day means to her as an Indigenous person. Unlike many Canadians, she wrote that her relationship with July 1 is difficult because it brings up "broken promises" regarding treaties, residential schools, genocide, "the unearthing of our Mother [Ear and the ongoing murders of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.
"We must become aware of our own biases and the ways we have been harmed or have caused one another harm," she continued. "When you begin to view racism as a virus and white supremacy, the patriarchy and genocide as the symptoms, you begin to have a more objective view, which creates more understanding for one another's experience. You begin to uncover the root of the problem. You realize that there can be two different versions of truths and several realities going on; depending on one's own intention, perception and belief system."
Shayla said there is a "shift" starting to happen in Canadian society, which we can see with the Black Lives Matter protests and that it's important to lean in to the uncomfortable feelings that come up during this time instead of running away from them.
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"We cannot heal the darker aspects of our humanity before we discover these aspects that may have been perpetuated or activated within ourselves," she continued. "When we can look past the polarity of us vs. them and witness someone else's suffering as a part of our own – this will allow us to also see another's life as one of our own. We must grieve the loss of our own humanity and reclaim what it means to be human. This does not mean spiritually bypassing it or pretending that one another's experiences or feelings are not valid or do not exist."
Shayla also included some reading material on Indigenous history, along with links to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report on residential schools and its calls to action for reconciliation and the final report of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She encouraged readers to donate to Indigenous organizations to help further reconciliation.
"It is an invitation for deep listening, learning and unlearning. It requires a turning towards everything that we have been desperately trying to run away from. An acceptance of it all – the grief, the sadness, the confusion, the guilt, the shame. It is through an acceptance where we can begin to process our emotions, reflect on our past, rewire within the present and then come together to reunite. The same energy it takes for destruction is the same energy it takes to birth creation. To breathe a new way of being, a new way of seeing and a new way of living. We are our own medicine, however, we are also each other's medicine. We must reclaim our humanity and our relationship to one another and the world around us. This is not a moment in history, this is a movement. How do you want to be remembered?"