This Year’s Celebration a Mix of Triumph and Tragedy – Grand Chief Daniels
ANISHINAABE AND DAKOTA TERRITORY, MB — The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) is marking this year’s Indigenous History Month with a mix of celebration and sadness.
“We have so many reasons to rejoice as First Nation people,” stated SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels. “However, the jarring discovery of the bodies of 215 of our children at the Kamloops Residential School site also serves as a stark reminder that there is still so much to do. While I will take the time to celebrate the accomplishments and strides we have made, I will also pause to denounce the genocidal wrongs inflicted on our people by colonial rule, and in particular, the Indian Residential School system.”
Every June, all Canadians are invited to celebrate National Indigenous History Month to honour the history, heritage, and diversity of First Nation, Inuit and Metis peoples in Canada. It is also an opportunity to recognize the strength of present-day Indigenous communities and their peoples.
Throughout the month of June, SCO will be acknowledging a number of its citizens who are making a positive impact in social, political, economic, and spiritual circles, including former three term National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine.
Dr. Phil Fontaine, who hails from Sagkeeng First Nation, is a survivor of residential school abuse, and was one of the first to come forward publically to share his experiences. This in turn allowed others to come forward. His determination and persistence led to the historic Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which included the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Dr. Fontaine negotiated the largest settlement in Canadian history – for the largest human rights violation in Canadian history.
“From the time I spent in residential school until today, I have always felt compelled to dedicate my life to the advancement of First Nation peoples,” stated Fontaine. “Given the tragic circumstances of last week, I am even more inspired to continue that work.”
SCO is also featuring the incredible work of retired Senator and Former Chair of the TRC, Murray Sinclair. Mr. Sinclair’s work with the TRC is particularly poignant given the events of last week.
“I think that every one of us has the obligation to be a history maker, and to do what we can to change the course of events around us,” said Senator Sinclair. “I often get the question, from people at events where I’m speaking about the TRC, and say, this is a huge problem, and it’s so overwhelming, and what can I do about it? And my response is, everybody can do something. That was always my belief that everybody can do something, and I always believed that I could do something.”
One of SCO’s trailblazing citizens, Margaret Swan from Lake Manitoba, is also a featured profile. She was the first-ever female Grand Chief of SCO, the first-ever female Grand Chief in what is now Manitoba, and is the Acting Director of SCO’s Child and Family Services program. Margaret also played a pivotal role with the national Indian Day Schools Class Action Lawsuit, where she was a representative plaintiff.
“I believe one of the biggest things we can do as First Nation people, is to really connect with who we are, which includes spirituality,” Swan said. “Believe in yourself and do whatever it is you feel you need to do, and do it from the heart. Always keep in connection with Creator and that higher power, whatever that is to you. Pray for guidance, do it daily, and you will be guided, and you will be very successful just doing that. This is peace.”
However, despite the celebratory nature of Indigenous History Month, SCO will remain mindful of the generations of families who continue to live with their own trauma brought on by the residential school system, and the fresh wounds that have surfaced with the confirmation of the innocent lives lost at the Kamloops facility.
“My hope for this month and every month following is that we continue to chart a path of positive healing and growth, while never forgetting the genocidal wrongs that continue to impact us to this very day,” concluded Grand Chief Daniels. “I truly wish that we can all take this time to share and learn from First Nation stories, traditions, and cultures in new ways that keep us together and connected.”
SCO is showcasing profiles of First Nation History Makers from southern First Nations. It will be updated throughout the month as SCO citizens and followers on social media share their heroes and history makers.
The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 First Nations and more than 80,000 citizens in what is now called southern Manitoba. SCO is an independent political organization that protects, preserves, promotes, and enhances First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the Treaty-making process.
For Media Inquiries:
Vic Savino, Communications Officer, Southern Chiefs’ Organization
(204) 881-4512 | Email: Media@scoinc.mb.ca