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National Indigenous Peoples Day

June 21 2021

National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21st is an opportunity for Indigenous Peoples to celebrate their cultures, ceremonies, languages, traditional forms of governance as well as their on-going relationships with their ancestral homelands.

It is also an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on the promises of our past and how honouring those promises can create a better future.

This year’s observance is darkened by the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the former grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in May. It is a devastating reminder of broken promises and the lives that were shattered as a result.

It is important that we not look away from the lessons of the past so they may guide us toward a future of equality and justice for all who call Canada home. That is why the Ontario College of Teachers is honoured to receive the gift of three replica Wampum Belts made by Elizabeth Doxtater, OCT, and presented by Derek Sandy who stood as witness. Both are from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.

Each replica belt represents treaty promises made between Indigenous Peoples and newcomers and their descendants.

  • The Two Row Belt outlines how we remain distinct and live side by side as equals.
  • The Dish With One Spoon Belt outlines everyone’s right to be nourished from the entities that Mother Earth carries on her body, our responsibility to not waste anything, and our obligation to protect the Earth so future generations can exercise this right.
  • The Friendship Belt is connected to the Silver Covenant Chain, and outlines as a term of this agreement: education, health, welfare of the people, and trade as a form of commerce, in exchange for living in our ancestral lands.

The belts were made as part of the College’s Restorative Journey resource that will further embed Indigenous Knowledge into our operations. They will be proudly cared for by the College and kept as constant companions to remind us of our role as a treaty partner and to help create a meaningful understanding of reconciliation.

Derek Sandy holds three replica Wampum Belts that were presented to the Ontario College of Teachers on behalf of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Doxtater, OCT)

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