“essential to finding our way forward”

“I come from a ‘red dirt’ poor Southern (mostly) white settler family on my father’s side who are racist towards African Americans yet romanticize their one taproot among the Creek Cherokee people of Georgia. Troubled by these contradictions growing up, and incubated in the ‘Yankee liberal’ sensibilities of my (partly) Jewish mother, I came to recognition of centuries of settler injustice towards Indigenous peoples first through the long ‘red summer’ of the Oka crisis and then through my reading and teaching of Canadian and Indigenous literatures. I was always looking for an organic way to be involved in Indigenous justice movements, yet even in this period of invitations to settlers to witness and participate by the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission website and by the Idle No More movement, I saw so many Settler people not knowing or caring that this call was even out there. The women organizing Niigaan stepped in to this gap to create wonderful opportunities, events, and spaces where Indigenous and Settler people could meet together, learn together, and eat together. I have been to three of their events from the first Niigaan day of Conversation on the way forward, to an Experiential workshop theatre (in partnership with Kairos), to a Talkshow panel with Indigenous activists, lawyers, scholars, and hiphop stars. Niigaan: In Conversation is essential to finding our way forward towards a more just future in which unlearning colonialism becomes mainstream.”

—Professor Brenda Vellino, Theatre and Redress Studies, English Department, Carleton University

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Video: Talk Show

From September 15, 2013. Seven guests discussing Indigenous-settler relations, Indigenous naming, the Nepean Redskins name, and what decolonization means. Speakers: Jennifer Adese, Alexa Lesperance, Neal Freeland, Ed Bianchi, Jean-Luc Fournier, Ian Campeau, Qajaq Robinson. Host: Darren Sutherland. Video produced by EquitableEducation.ca

Video: First Event

Most of the first Niigaan: In Conversation that was held on March 9, 2013 is now archived on our Youtube channel.

Introductions, featuring event co-organizer Linda Nothing, host Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Elder Albert Dumont, song from Elaine and Theland Kicknosway, and dancing by Tiffany Dumont.

Opening presentation from Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, with introduction by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair.

Presentation from Victoria Freeman, with additional commentary and response to audience questions from Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair.

Presentation from Claudette Commanda.

Presentation from John Read, with additional commentary and response to audience questions from Claudette Commanda and Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair.

Presentation from Andrea Landry.

Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair introducing Craig Benjamin of Amnesty International, in final panel discussing future actions, ally responsibilities, and implementation of United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Audience responses follow.

Odawa Community Talk Show

September 15, 1-5pm

University of Ottawa Alumni Hall
85 University Private

Host: Darren Sutherland

Guests: Alexa Lesperance, Jennifer Adese, Ed Bianchi, Neal Freeland, and others…

Participation by: Kairos, Ecology Ottawa, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Amnesty International, Odawa Friendship Center, Families of Sisters in Spirit, and others…

To reserve your tickets please click here.

On September 15, 2013, Niigaan: In Conversation is proud and excited to present a chance to participate in a discussion about recreating the relationship between Indigenous and Settler peoples here in the city. Meet local community organizers and visionaries, share ideas, and add your energy and passion to making Ottawa a truly indigenized and inclusive city.

Decolonization is art that changes everything we know or thought we knew about our community, our country and our world. It is the inclusion of Indigenous stories in our collective histories. It is the unlearning and relearning Canadian history. It makes us uncomfortable, and that’s okay because it means we are learning.

Decolonization challenges the foundational structure and story of Canada and the accepted narratives of who we are and recognizes the many narratives that exist and deserve equal airtime in our consciousness.

The art of decolonization leads to material changes. What we hope starts as conversation will build into relationships that build into ideas that build into action that build into houses and healthcare and child care and equal services and lands and the respect for the treaties that have built this nation. So that no more 11 year olds decide to take their own lives and parents can keep their children safely at home and students can achieve their dreams because their schools are just as good as anywhere else and communities can build sovereign healthy nations rooted in their culture.

National Petition – #HonourTheApology

Here is the petition for today. Please feel free to print it off and get your friends, collegues and family to sign it, especially if they can’t make it to the vigil today on Victoria Island.

Remember to bring copies with you; they will be prayed over and smudged by an Elder before presenting them to the Minister.

Petitions can also be mailed to:
Bernard Valcourt
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

No stamp needed.

A printable .pdf file of the petition is available here: HTA National Petition

On June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister of Canada offered an apology to survivors of the residential school system. Naming the policy a “sad chapter in our history,” he stated:

The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a government, and as a country. There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential schools system to ever again prevail. You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey.

Unfortunately, the “burden of this experience” has not yet been shared.

Whereas, while under a court order, the government of Canada has failed to produce millions of documents regarding the Indian Residential School System for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) and the TRC therefore has been unable to uncover details surrounding the treatment or students, movement and disappearance of children, and corroborate testimonies in court and recordings,

Whereas, historian Ian Mosby in July 2013 published research that First Nations communities – and specifically thousands in residential schools – were unknowing subjects in biomedical experiments in malnourishment between 1942-52, this is precisely the kindof history the TRC has been tasked to uncover. Due to the failure of the federal government, however, the question of how many more events like this took place remain,

We, the undersigned, believe that it is time to fully live up to the promises in the federal government’s apology for Indian Residential Schools. We believe it is time to accept the responsibility for our shared history and work to uncover the complete history of Canada’sresidential schools. We believe it is time for us all to face what happened during one of themost violent policies in this country’s history.

We believe it is time to take a journey of honesty together.

We demand that the federal government, without any further delay or conditions, release all documents pertaining to Indian Residential Schools to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada immediately.

We also demand that the federal government commission a national inquiry into the biomedical experiments performed by government officials on First Nations communities in order to fully inform the public on the extent on this project and investigate the legacies of its impact.

On Thursday, July 25, we join together with Canadians, newcomers, and Indigenous peoples from all walks of life in reflecting upon and taking action to respect Canada’sapology for the Indian Residential School System. We ask that the federal government ofthis country take these first steps towards reconciliation and join us.

Name             Address                                                 Phone #                                     Signature

Letter to Minister Valcourt

This official request has been sent to Minister Bernard Valcourt:

Hon. Bernard Valcourt,

Indigenous people of Turtle Island, the land called Canada, and their allies formally and respectfully request the Government of Canada, by way of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to turn over its archival records on Indian residential schools to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as per the order by Justice Stephen Goudge from the Ontario Superior Court (Fontaine v. Canada (Attorney General), 2013 ONSC 684). We further ask that you meet with the people at 1 p.m. EST on Thursday, July 25, 2013 at the Kumik, Main Lobby, Les Terrasses de la Chaudière, 10 Wellington Street, North Tower.

This meeting will coincide with a National Day of Prayer to honour the children lost to and the adult survivors of residential schools. All across Canada, people will be holding vigils within their respective communities. As local organizers, we are asking participants on this day to create personal requests to ask the Government of Canada to release these documents so that these children are honoured and their stories are heard.

Our concern is that the Federal Government is currently withholding documents pertaining to the residential schools in Canada. It is essential that these documents be released and the TRC has the ability to fulfill its mandate. In 2008 Canada apologized to residential school students—you need to honour it.

We, the organizers, are known as Niigaan: In Conversation. We are a coalition of Indigenous scholars, grassroots peoples, artists and business owners currently in Odawa on Algonquin territory. Each of us share a commitment to seeking justice on Turtle Island. The group formed as a response to the resurgence of Indigenous resistance, Idle No More and we have been hosting a series of gatherings and workshops with the aim to create a better understanding and better relations between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people within the Odawa-Gatineau area.

As part of the vigil, we will be creating a visual representation of the personal impact from the federal government’s refusal to release the documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and demand open access to the true history of the residential schools.

The letters will be smudged and prayed over by elders prior to presenting them to the government. We would like to present these letters of request to you personally following this ceremony in the spirit of goodwill and friendship.

Kiih nah dimikooh chipiinahkish kawahdaw Anishniniwug.

You are requested to come and meet with the people.

Honour The Apology