Op-ed: Celebrating, or not, Canada's 150th
- John Lagimodiere | June 29, 2017
June! Love it! School is starting to wind down, fishing and camping trips are on the increase and we now get to celebrate many things like elections that are over and the ever-popular graduations.
The University of Saskatchewan recently combined a couple of those elements acknowledging Earl Cook when they awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws at the U of S Spring Convocation. How fitting.
Earl was a prominent student advocate for the creation of the Department of Indigenous Studies, which was founded in 1983 at the U of S. Cook was also a passionate proponent for the establishment of the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research, which opened in 1980. Cook went on to serve as an instructor and administrator in a number of northern education and training programs, including NORTEP.
Earl was recently acclaimed in the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan as Regional Representative in Northern Region 1 and joins the Provincial Métis Council as a strong voice. It turns out Earl was even political back in his University days.
“My fondest memory is being part of a Métis local on campus that lobbied for the establishment of a Native Studies department,” he said on his time in school. “Also, meeting top-notch professors who became lifelong friends, and remain so to this day.”
The recent MN-S election was well run and apparently well-behaved. The forums were respectful affairs with interested community members and passionate candidates. New President Glen McCallum has been around a long time in leadership and in the field of addictions and he promises an era of accountability and progress. And with fine folk like Dr. Earl Cook still on the team, could this be the dawn of a new era for the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan? I can certainly celebrate that.
I know for sure on June 21, I will be heading down to Victoria Park in Saskatoon to participate in the Rock Your Roots celebration of culture and reconciliation (check out our photo gallery here!). Last year 3,000 people jammed the riverbank to walk together and celebrate our own unique cultures. This year it coincides with National Aboriginal Day celebrations immediately after so expect a good day of healthy activity, culture and bannock and soup for the community.
According to Facebook though, I should not be celebrating on July 1st when communities across our Nation host picnics and firework displays to herald Canada’s 150th birthday. There is a lot of judging over celebrating. People say with 150 years of colonialism and brutal government policies that have left us on the margins of our own Nation, there is nothing to celebrate. I get that. Impossible not to shudder and be ashamed and angry about it.
But man, at international events when a Canadian athlete or team wins a medal and they play our anthem or better yet at Rider games when we are honouring our veterans on the field and after we sing O Canada the fighter jets blow by overhead, I can’t help but swell up with pride. Once at a Rider game, during the anthem, three geese flew around the corner and across the front of the upper deck. It could only have been more Canadian if someone threw a beaver at them. It made me misty.
Canada is a part of me and I am a part of Canada. Can’t help it. Don’t know any other place or way. Canadians have done amazing things to impact the world including fighting above our weight in multiple wars, creation of peacekeeping and inventing medicines that have saved millions. And we are so nice!
I love Tim Hortons, the CFL, hockey, fishing, wrecking my propeller on a rock on Head Lake, Winnipeg (jk), winter, my family, Back to Batoche, elephant ears, my Métis roots, farming and many other things that my fellow Canadian friends appreciate, Indigenous or not.
That being said, for the last seven years I have spent July 1st with the family at the lake. We have friends over and a fire then we go down to the beach and fight mosquitoes and watch fireworks at dusk. Come home, have more fire, then make smores and go to bed. Probably do the same this year. Pretty pleasant Canadian stuff.
So, whatever it is you do in June on National Aboriginal Day, or at your nephew’s grad or even at Canada Day celebrations, enjoy yourself, or don’t. Your choice. I’m eating smores.