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Letter: National Day of Truth and Reconciliation: What's next?

Indigenous leader asks, what next?
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Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau RE: September 30th Statutory Holiday

Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

With the recent announcement of making September 30th the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a federally recognized holiday leads us to wonder how Indigenous Peoples living in Canada will be honoured on this day going forward.

Hundreds of thousands of children over hundreds of years were forced to endure horrors no child ever should. What will your government do now that the truth about the fate of our children at residential schools has come to light?

It was only this year that Canadians began to learn or acknowledge the thousands of children who were left in mass, unmarked graves on ‘school’ grounds - families never notified. Indigenous Peoples are exhausted and grieving - we need to do our own healing this year and for many years to come.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit need to take this day to be with our people. We cannot bear the weight of our trauma while also carrying the brunt of educating and opening our wounds with non-Indigenous people who are calling us in droves. While this learning and awareness is what we want and expect, it cannot be up to Indigenous Peoples to do all the work. September 30th is not a day off for non-Indigenous people, it is a day to work towards learning the truth so we can reconcile. It is a day to listen to those willing to speak, learn from the many resources available and advocate for policies and laws that could end the oppression of Indigenous Peoples living in Canada.

Will the federal government take accountability for its horrific, violent and predatory history with Indigenous Peoples? There needs to be a National Day of Remembrance, much like for our veterans: a national event in partnership with Indigenous Peoples, where all can pay their respects. This would help limit each individual, business, or school reaching out to every Indigenous person to help them ‘do something.’

This cannot be the future of this day - awareness will come at a cost to our people. While these institutions were eradicated in 1996, the legacy lives on through several racist systems that continue to oppress Indigenous Peoples. This oppression is felt through poor funding to schools on-reserve, a lack of clean water, overrepresentation in prisons and as victims of violence, purposeful misrepresentation in the media, a lack of representation in every industry and at every level of government, the foster care system, lack of quality care for mental and medical healthcare, among many others.

Your government has been voted back in with yet another promise of reconciliation and we want to see real movement. Truth and Reconciliation is about going back to the beginning - we start with the Treaties. 

What will your government do to take ownership of the policies and laws that uphold the racist systems still in place today, of the systems that warranted the declaration of this day in the first place?

Chief Tony Alexis

Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation