Our home on Native land

The celebration of colonization in Canada

As people across Canada mark the 144th anniversary of Confederation on July 1st, I cannot find reason to celebrate alongside them.

Every Canada Day, I reflect on the continual theft of my land and resources, on broken treaties, on the genocide of my peoples and the refusal to recognize my sovereignty. I sit and wonder if the Palestinians could celebrate the settlement of Israel. Could the Irish celebrate England; the Tibetans, China; or the North Africans, France?

It would be strange indeed to celebrate the birth of a nation that stole my land, forced hardships on my peoples and won’t recognize my place in this nation or all that my ancestors lost and sacrificed for this home on my native land.

I know that there are other Indigenous Peoples who feel the same. I know that there are others, like me, who see this as a day of conquest and not a reason for fireworks. I also know there are non-Indigenous allies who feel the same and who understand my sorrow and pain.

Canada Day brings tears to my eyes and an ache in my heart.

As Canadians celebrate Confederation, I will be commemorating the sickness, starvation and death of my ancestors, as a result of colonization and greed, to make way Canadians to have all that they have today. They were sick, starving and dying as a result of the annihilation of the Buffalo (yes, it is capitalized because they are sacred). They were sick, starving and dying because of bioterrorism in the form of smallpox-infested blankets – an act sanctioned by the British Crown that wiped out 95 per cent of the First Nation population in some areas in Canada.

As Canada celebrates this day, I reflect on estimates that during the late 15th century in Canada, the Indigenous population was estimated at two million. However, as a result of outbreaks of infectious diseases, combined with loss of territory, forced relocation and repressive policies, the Indigenous population was diminished to 10,000. This adds to the final count of 14,700,000 Indigenous Peoples wiped out in the Americas since Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of North America in 1492. These figures are denied and avoided. No one wants to acknowledge this genocide, nor do they want to admit that this genocide continues today in the form of resource extraction and downstream pollution, poverty, racism and lack of access to those things that most Canadians take for granted.

As Canada celebrates this day, I reflect on the idea that Canada would not exist if it were not for the Indigenous Peoples who fought alongside the Crown against the colonists south of the border, only to be treated worse than animals and herded into an ever-decreasing land base.

This Canada Day, I reach out to you all and appeal to your consciousness and ask you to reflect on what you are celebrating. I ask you to reflect on what this day means to Indigenous Peoples on the territory you are living on that has given you so much. I ask you to dig deep inside of yourself and think about how we can work together to rectify the colonial legacy of Canada. I ask you to walk with me and others to truly create a place that is worth celebrating. I ask you to stand up to create a Canada that acknowledges the wrongs of yesterday and today, and paves the way for dignity and respect for all peoples tomorrow and all the tomorrows that follow.

Susana Deranger is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and has been an activist and an educator involved in First Nations and human rights for a great part of her life. Susana lives in Regina, Saskatchewan and is a mother of four children and a grandmother of four grandchildren.