Have the ‘hard conversations’ about Indigenous history: Simon

Governor General’s National Indigenous Peoples Day message urges Canadians to enjoy the day, while reflecting on the history

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon looks out over the bay in Kangiqsuallujjuaq during her May 10 visit to the community. On Tuesday, Simon urged Canadians to have a “reflective” National Indigenous Peoples Day. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Nunatsiaq News

Governor General Mary Simon marked National Indigenous Peoples Day with a message to Canadians to have a “wonderful and reflective” day, but to not shy away from “hard conversations” on the road to reconciliation.

“During the last year, I have delighted in visiting Indigenous people where they live and work — where culture is thriving and where their contributions to every part of our society is celebrated,” Simon said in a statement Tuesday.

This is the first National Indigenous Peoples Day for Simon since she became Canada’s first Indigenous governor general in July 2021.

“As an Inuk woman, I am proud that Indigenous peoples are telling their stories. Our collective history cannot be told without Indigenous voices, and it cannot be told without some hard conversations,” she said, reflecting on the hundreds of unmarked graves that have been located at former residential schools across the country.

“Through the pain, I have seen Canadians from coast to coast to coast open their hearts and minds because they want to be part of reconciliation and the healing process,” she said.

“We all approach reconciliation from different perspectives, and its definition is fluid depending on who you ask. It is important, though, that we make a commitment to continuous and open dialogue, and that we make room for everyone’s point of view.”

A spokesperson for the governor general’s office said in an email to Nunatsiaq News that Simon will attend the opening day of the Summer Solstice festival in Ottawa to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also issued a statement, calling for Canadians to learn more about Inuit, First Nations and Métis cultures and histories.

“On this day, and throughout National Indigenous History Month, we recognize the significant contributions of Indigenous Peoples in shaping our country into what it is today and moving toward a brighter and stronger Canada as shared partners,” he said.

“Being the longest day of the year, it is also the day that has the most light. As we continue to shine light on the hard truths of the past, let us also shine a light of hope for the future.”

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Oliphant on

    At least one hard conversation that needs to be had about Inuit history is how little most Inuit seem to know about their history, and how that lack of knowledge provides opportunity for opportunists (both the unwitting and intentional) to manipulate public perceptions around issues of their choosing.

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    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      Funny, this came up recently on the issue of traditional tattoos being banned for “close to a century” or something to that effect, which there is no evidence for at all, yet it is spoken as fact by a member of the arts community, probably for its emotive power and utility as a bond for collective identity.

      There are other similar examples, but I won’t go on for the sake of brevity. Still, I am discouraged at the absence of public discussion and acknowledgement around historical narrative.

      My take from all this is that Nunavut needs a new class of historians, philosophers and intellectuals. We need competing views and people brave enough to challenge, if not gore our sacred cows.

      To date we have largely ceded this role to artists that misinform us by leaning heavily on their creative ‘license’.

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  2. Posted by Passed down on

    Not sure if you realize this or not, but most of Inuit history is passed down from generation to generation. Most of the ‘evidence’ will not be there.

    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      What would you have us do with interpretations of the past that lack evidence?

      There is a fair amount of written Inuit history; Oral histories, archeological histories, the records of anthropologists and explorers who recoded Inuit life and stories in the 20th century

      To reflect on the point, it seems the most relevant question here is what ‘banned’ means?

      To achieve this, did the state exercise coercive force?

      Or was banning the preference of priests who wielded all the social power Inuit had given them?

  3. Posted by S on

    Spar us the rhetoric, Mar; it’s completely unfitting from a government appointee

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  4. Posted by Consider on

    Be careful of those who claim to want a ‘conversation,’ many just want to deliver a moral lecture.

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