The importance of Indigenous history month

News Unsettled Opinions

We need to spread awareness, not accept Canada’s false history 

News Unsettled Native Students Union column
Graphic provided by the Native Students Union.

Readers should be advised that the following opinion article discusses residential schools, death, abuse, and genocide.

Every year, people on Turtle Island celebrate Indigenous History Month in June, with National Indigenous Peoples Day falling on June 21. It is always important to spread awareness during this month. This year especially, with a disturbing discovery at the end of May 2021.

On May 28, there was a discovery of the remains of 215 children. This discovery occurred at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, ran from 1890-1969 under the Catholic Church, and until 1978 under the federal government. The Kamloops residential school, like all the others, was a place where Indigenous children were abused, malnourished, and neglected.

There are still those in Canada who know little to nothing about the history of genocide in Canada, especially regarding residential schools. A study done in 2018 showed that 45 per cent of Canadians never learned about residential schools growing up.

This is no accident. For decades, the Catholic Church and the federal government have refused to release their records from residential schools. Meaning until the TRC brought survivors’ stories into the spotlight, there was not accessible information about residential schools outside of Indigenous communities.

So many Canadians grew up constantly being fed a completely altered, white-washed history of this land. An example of this white-washed history relating to the Kamloops residential school comes from two posts by UVic in 2018.

The posts celebrate the Catholic organization the ‘Sisters of St. Ann’ and their contributions to the history of B.C. Within the article UVic praises the organization for their “quality education and healthcare,” and former UVic President Jamie Cassels claims that UVic is, “privileged to further their mission to educate young people.”

What is not mentioned in either of these posts, is that this organization was one of multiple that helped run residential schools, including the one in Kamloops, for the Catholic Church. The same organization that was involved in the murder of at least 215 children, was still receiving praise for their role in Indigenous education three years ago.

Residential schools are not the only part of Canada’s history that has been hidden away. There are many more examples. Like the fact that British officers purposefully sent smallpox blankets to Indigenous communities, but historians to this day urge the public to turn a blind eye to this biological warfare, rather than truly acknowledging the maliciousness of the act.

This is why Indigenous History Month is so important. To spread awareness of the true atrocities committed by organizations like the Catholic Church and the federal government. To cast aside the sanitary, nothing-but-positive history that is so often celebrated. There is positive Indigenous history to focus on, but when that is all people are exposed to it creates a completely altered truth about the history of Canada.

This altered truth is the reason that the discovery of 215 children is completely unfathomable to some. It is also the reason that there is such a disconnect to the past, and a lack of understanding of how many in Canada today are contributing to ongoing colonialism and ongoing genocide.

This Indigenous History Month, and all after, read a book by an Indigenous author, unlearn what you have and learn the true history of Canada. When you have done this work yourself, help others along in this journey. That is the only way that we can truly set the future apart from history.

National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419