We’ve been here since time began, my mother told me. The waterfalls that we call home, that’s where the people came from — that’s where they began. It’s where we began.
In every direction from my homeland, there is memory spanning thousands of years. Passed down from generation to generation, passed down through blood and bone, are the memories of my ancestors and theirs before them. My memories, too, will become part of the land.
I use the word memories because what we have is more than story, and is deeper and richer than history. If I were to say story, you might not believe what I’m saying is real. But when I say memory, you’ll understand that it’s real, and you’ll understand that it’s precious.
My connection to my land spans beyond memory. Since time began, my ancestors have been living here, and dying here — the very earth is filled with their bones. Their bodies nourish the forests that grow now, their every physical remain has become part of the land that nourishes and provides for me. Of course the land has spirit, of course it has memories. Of course it’s a link between me and my ancestors. Of course I feel a responsibility to protect it and keep it sacred.
This July, I did not celebrate Canada 152. The occupation of our sovereign nations is not legitimized by the amount of time has passed. Canada remains a false country, because this is unceded Indigenous land, and because we are unceded Indigenous peoples. Anyways, 152 years seems hardly boastworthy, in comparison to the tens of thousands of years in which my nation has thrived. We long predated Canada, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll also outlast Canada.
What I would like to celebrate is the resilience of Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. I’m constantly inspired by the brilliance, intelligence, and generosity I witness from my friends and loved ones. I’m especially proud of the youth within my nation — talented, beautiful, and limitless.
We are the land we’re from. In my mom, I see the river: perseverant, strong, and free. She makes her own path, and she does it within her own time. When my little brother smiles, it’s like breaking dawn, setting everything aglow. My uncles, aunties, and cousins, all of them share character with our homelands. I don’t know how to see this land as a resource to be exploited. I don’t know how to blind myself to the relationship Indigenous peoples have with our lands, relationships that can’t be replicated by colonizers or by illegitimate nation-states such as Canada.
I had to go through your education systems, governments, and so-called jurisdictions. I had to learn your language, I had to read your books, I had to listen to what you called truth. Settlers don’t get to complain about Indigenous peoples asserting sovereignty over the lands we never surrendered, and if they don’t like that, then they can leave.
We have every right to be here. We have every right to speak and be listened to. We have every right to defend our safety, to protect our waters, to safekeep our lands. We have every right to our culture, to our bones, to our languages — all things which have been stolen and placed in your museums. We have the right to reclaim everything that has been taken. When we say that we don’t belong to your country, we mean it.
And when I say I’ll outlast your country, I mean that, too.