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

The proposed design of the five-storey building on Front Street. (City of Penticton)
Five-storey building proposed for Penticton’s Front Street

It will be the second time the proposal will head to council

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from St. Eugene’s residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

18-year-old skier Logan Leach follows his guide, Julien Petit, down an alpine track. The Lumby athlete who is visually impaired has been named to Alpine Canada’s Ski Team ahead of the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing. (Contributed)
North Okanagan teen named to national Para-Alpine ski team

18-year-old Logan Leach officially joins Canada’s Para-Alpine roster ahead of Beijing 2022

Carina Stokes, bar manager at Enderby’s Small Axe Bistro, was recognized as one of four exceptional B.C. restaurant workers by the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (Contributed)
Okanagan bar manager recognized as ‘stand-up’ B.C. restaurant worker

Small Axe Roadhouse’s Carina Stokes one of four to receive special recognition from the BCRFA

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Most Read