IndigNation by Bev Cardinal
aen naan paasii (the year past)! In June 2019 we carried on as if we were untouchable, and back then, we were! This time last year we were getting ready for some well-deserved summer fun, kicked off by Indigenous Peoples’ History Month and National Indigenous Peoples’ Day. There were also actual graduations, real vacations from work and school, visits to our home communities and to the rez for powwows, bannock burgers and snaggin’, and simply enjoying all the wonderful celebrations and events across the province. Not top mention the great Saskatchewan outdoors!
But now an invisible intruder named COVID-19 has swept in and we’re not quite sure what our summer will look like.
Let’s try to figure it out.
We’ve learned many things over the past 153 years of colonization, one of which is crystal clear: NEVER ask the colonial office in Ottawa (i.e. Indigenous Services Canada) for answers to our problems! That’s why now, more than ever, Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers and Old Ones across the country are being consulted about the ceremonies and celebrations that normally take place during this time of year.
And just as non-Indigenous communities are not monolithic, neither are our Indigenous communities, clans and peoples.
There’s been different advice depending on what is being asked and what is being considered. For example, here in Saskatchewan there have been sacred sundance ceremonies (in spite of RCMP attempts to stop them). Powwows, though, are a different story. On May 26 the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) announced its annual Spirit of Our Nations powwow has been cancelled. As a result, many Saskatchewan First Nation communities may follow suit for the safety and health of their people. Instead, the FSIN and individual First Nations are putting enormous effort and resources toward frontline COVID-19 suppression, as well as supporting the #ProtectOurElders initiative.
Similarly, the Métis Nation Saskatchewan (MN-S) and its regional offices are providing supports and services to their members across the province, with emphasis on Old Ones in urban and rural centres.
As always, Indigenous people are resourceful and can come up with practical solutions for celebrations no matter what pandemical nonsense there is! Yes, in-person cultural gatherings are being cancelled this summer but there are sooo many creative options to celebrate all things First Nation and Métis. Here are a few to check out.
Métis Nation Saskatchewan hosts a weekly online Virtual Kitchen Party every Saturday night! Roll up the carpet and get your toes tappin’ to some great music and dance at metisnationsk.com!
I’m not sure about Saskatoon programs but since the Internet is everywhere, I’ll let you Saskatonians in on this one: the Regina Public Library and City of Regina are hosting an array of online programs throughout June to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ History Month. Puppet comedy shows, live author readings, bannock-making demos, storytelling, jigging and fiddling and more can all be found at reginalibrary.ca.
CBC Gem is free, and accessible to anyone with access to WiFi. There’s a lot available on this little ‘gem’ when you search “Indigenous” but I’ll give a shout-out to the Urban.Indigenous.Proud — five National Film Board of Canada and Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres shorts about, well, urban Indigenous culture.
Jwaen (June) is a time for renewal, celebration and personal rejuvenation. Don’t let the wonders of this beautiful month slip by just because of a global pandemic! We will all get through this. We will all be together again. We will dance in victory once this sickness passes, and it will be pure joy (la zhway)!
maskawâtisik kahkiyaw! (“Stay well, everyone!”)