Indigenous stories spotlighted in CBC Edmonton's Indigenous Peoples Day broadcast

·3 min read
Devin Buffalo, a member of Samson Cree Nation in Alberta, played hockey at Dartmouth College. He now mentors young Indigenous athletes. (Dartmouth College Varsity Athletics - image credit)
Devin Buffalo, a member of Samson Cree Nation in Alberta, played hockey at Dartmouth College. He now mentors young Indigenous athletes. (Dartmouth College Varsity Athletics - image credit)

CBC Edmonton's afternoon radio show, Radio Active, marked National Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday with a full lineup of Indigenous stories and songs.

Host Rod Kurtz spoke with guests about a variety of topics, from arts and entertainment to allyship and advancing reconciliation.

Multiple guests spoke about the importance of shattering stereotypes and inspiring the next generation of Indigenous kids.

"It's a proud day and every day we should be proud," said former professional goaltender Devin Buffalo of the Samson Cree First Nation.

Buffalo, who is set to start law school this fall at the University of Alberta, launched Waniska Athletics last year to mentor Indigenous athletes.

Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta
Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta

Seeing other Indigenous people succeed professionally inspired Justice Cheryl Arcand-Kootenay, who was recently appointed a justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta.

In 1976, when Arcand-Kootenay was in junior high, Willie Littlechild became the first person from an Alberta Treaty First Nation to earn a law degree from the University of Alberta. He was called to the Alberta bar the next year.

Arcand-Kootenay, who is Cree and a member of the Kipohtakaw First Nation, also took note when Métis architect Douglas Cardinal designed St. Albert Place.

"After I saw what Willie Littlechild and Douglas Cardinal had accomplished, I thought, 'that's what I want to do,'" she said.

A lawyer for 25 years, Arcand-Kootenay became a provincial court judge in 2018.

Jeffery Chalifoux, the executive director of the Edmonton 2 Spirit Society, and Lana Whiskeyjack, an artist and assistant professor at the University of Alberta, both spoke about the intersection of gender and Indigeneity.

Through work with the Edmonton 2 Spirit Society, Chalifoux said he tries to raise awareness about the long history of two-spirit people in Indigenous communities.

"There's so much to try and find of our traditions that were nearly lost," said Chalifoux, a member of the Métis Nation.

When teaching U of A students, Lana Whiskeyjack, a nêhiyaw (Cree) woman from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, helps break down stereotypes of Indigenous women and girls, who are often portrayed as victims of violence.

In both her artistic work and her teaching, she said, grappling with trauma is important, but so is telling stories about resilient women.

Whiskeyjack said the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. has sparked challenging conversations among Canadians.

"It's necessary to hear those hard truths in order to start questioning these systems that have disconnected us," she said.

Several guests questioned whether Canada Day should be celebrated at a time when many Canadians are taking a critical look at the country's past.

Stephanie Harpe, a member of the Fort McKay First Nation and a residential school survivor, encourages non-Indigenous people to observe a moment of silence at 2:15 p.m. on Canada Day, wear orange and advocate for Indigenous peoples.

Erin Huppie, who is Cree-French from the Métis Nation, is using the occasion as an opportunity to honour the lives of the children whose remains were recently found.

Huppie is one of the organizers of a convoy of hundreds of vehicles scheduled to travel on July 1 from the River Cree Resort and Casino on Enoch Cree Nation to Bear Park on Ermineskin Cree Nation.

Survivors will be sharing stories and dancers will perform at the event, she said.

"We really want to take the focus off Canada because there's not a lot to be proud of this year," she said.

"Getting back to our roots is what's going to help our people."

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