Toronto – May 31, 2019 – June is National Indigenous History Month. Throughout the month, we honour Indigenous culture, traditions, and contributions in society.
UFCW Canada headquarters are situated on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. According to Mississaugas of the Credit historical treaties, prior to European contact, the ancestors of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation occupied lands north of Lake Superior and the area around Georgian Bay. Following the end of the 17th century, and with the treaties between 1721-1820, the Mississaugas settled at the eastern end of Lake Ontario and western end of the lake, at the mouth of the Credit River. Today, the population of the Mississaugas of the Credit include approximately 2,500 individuals, with two-thirds of its membership living outside of New Credit.
There are more than 30 UFCW Canada local union office locations across Canada; each of them situated in Indigenous traditional territories embedded with a rich history of struggle, community and tradition. Back in 2017, we undertook a national initiative to document the traditional territory of each UFCW Canada local union office across the country. In speaking with First Nations, Friendship Centres and Band offices, we created traditional territory plaques which were gifted to all UFCW Local Union leadership, and in the presence of a traditional Elder from the community where this ceremony was held. The plaques were created from artwork done elementary students from Kitiganik, which is a reserve located about a three-hour drive from Ottawa.
This year, at UFCW Canada and throughout the country we continue to take important steps in advancing Indigenous rights advocacy within the framework laid out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the 94 Calls to Action. We all have a role when it comes to reconciliation because it belongs to all of us, Indigenous persons and non- Indigenous persons alike. We are treaty people because we are on treaty land. For this reason, we take every opportunity to open all UFCW Canada conferences with traditional land acknowledgements.
There are many steps that UFCW activists and community members can take to advance reconciliation. Later this month we look forward to the UFCW Canada National Indigenous Peoples Day Conference and Celebration. For suggestions on what you can do to advance reconciliation in your workplace, in your union or in your community, check out our resources at www.ufcw.ca/reconciliation.
In the meantime, I hope that each of us find some time throughout this month to take part in the summer solstice, a community pow wow or ceremony – all of which were prohibited by federal legislation until the 1950s. Let us continue to learn about and acknowledge the impact of colonization as a way to fuel our reconciliation efforts today and throughout the years to come.
Paul R. Meinema