In honour of National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, we’re sharing some of the ways we’ve been learning about, and also educating about, Indigenous culture and history.
As part of our commitment to reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples of Canada, as well as our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, ISANS has an internal Reconciliation Working Group. This group helps and guides our organization to meet our responsibilities in the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. We work to develop relationships with Mi’kmaq and Indigenous communities, provide information and education for staff and immigrants, and undertake actions in support of reconciliation.
The TRC’s calls to action specifically highlight how important it is that we offer immigrants to Canada a more inclusive history of the diverse Indigenous peoples here. While we’re always exploring and endeavoring ways to do this, there are two in particular we’d like to share today.
We’ve been learning that land acknowledgements are so much more than formal, public recognitions that we live and work on unceded land. They’re really about speaking from the heart and thanking Indigenous peoples of Canada for the peace and friendship treaties in which we mutually agreed to live in peace and unity, and to share this land sustainably so that future generations could equitably benefit from its bounty.
For immigrants who are new here and who are also learning to speak English, understanding land acknowledgements and their significance can be challenging. To help overcome these challenges, our language instructors practice acknowledgements with students in their classrooms at varying levels of language difficulty. Here are some great examples from Canadian Language Benchmark levels 1-4:
The Sky Woman creation story
Another way we’re working to educate newcomers is by sharing the Iroquois creation story of Sky Woman. As with many stories borne from oral traditions, there are a number of versions of this tale, but they share core themes of unity with animals and nature, fertility and motherhood, and life-sustaining medicine.
For immigrants here, a creation story such as this one is a great entry point to the Indigenous cultures and history in Canada. Creation tales are archetypal and span many countries and cultures, so they’re easy to understand and relate to.
Like land acknowledgements, we share the story of Sky Woman with newcomer students at varying levels of language difficulty. Here is our version for students with a Canadian Language Benchmark level 1:
You can read the full story of Sky Woman here, as told by Oneida Indian Nation, and another version from the Canadian Museum of History, here to see how they compare.
Continue learning and educating
Our hope is that these materials will help you reflect on the way you engage with land acknowledgements and Indigenous histories in your own life, whether in private, with friends and family, at work, or at school. And if you’re an educator who teaches English as a second language, if you work in the settlement sector, or if you have opportunities to educate others, please feel free to use these graphics or take inspiration from what we've done and develop your own plain-language versions of land acknowledgements or Indigenous stories.
If you have questions about any of the materials, approaches, or information we've provided here, please contact us any time at email@example.com. We'll be more than happy to help!
For more Indigenous-related content – specifically about Mi’kmaq history and culture, with beautiful artwork from Mi’kmaq artist Chelsea Brooks – please visit our website’s Truth and Reconciliation page.
Wela'lin (thank you)!