‘Indigenous lands to Indigenous hands’

·2 min read

Friday was just another gorgeous day at Bannerman Park as dozens of friends and families gathered to relax and have fun in the sun.

If you were looking for Canada Day colours, however, you would have noticed more orange shirts peppered throughout the crowd than red.

Land Back Fest was an event organized by the Indigenous Action Collective as a followup to last year’s Cancel Canada Day protest at the Colonial Building.

While last year’s mood was one of anger and anguish, held at a time when hundreds of graves of residential school victims were being unearthed across the country, Friday’s vibe was more calm, but still firm.

“Land Back Fest is in some ways is equal, but in other ways going back to celebrating Indigenous peoples and land back movements,” said Robert Leamon, a two-spirit Mi’kmaw and one of the organizers. “We’re rejecting the narrative that we should be celebrating Canada on Canada Day, and instead looking to messages that cannot be confused.”

And that, he says, means “returning Indigenous lands to Indigenous hands.”

Friday’s gathering was more laid back than last year’s, with a short open mike and some drumming around 3 p.m. Many of those who came stuck around to chat and enjoy the fine weather.

Orange has become the colour of solidarity with Indigenous causes, and Leamon says the primary focus right now is the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Since 2015, only 11 of the 94 calls to action put forward by the commission have been enacted.

“Canada seems to think that truth and reconciliation looks like leaving many documents and recommendations and calls to action informed by Indigenous peoples … unenacted,” said Leamon.

And reconciliation means more than just changing names and titles.

“The problem is that government too often seems to want to end at those performative measures, where they’re slapping a new label or a new name or a new token on something rather than doing the more meaningful work of actually working with Indigenous peoples to implement all of the calls to action, not just the ones that suit the Canadian government first or suit the provincial governments first.”

Land back, he said, means rebalancing Canada’s relationship with First Nations and shifting away from the colonial narrative.

Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram

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