Celebrating Indigenous History Month

éy swayel (good day in Halq'eméylem, the Indigenous language of some parts of BC’s south coast).
Each June is National Indigenous History month, a time to learn and recognize the rich heritages, stories and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada. 

As health care and social service professionals, HSA members work in a system that has historically discriminated against Indigenous peoples. It is important for us all to be mindful of past harms, and to guard against negative stereotyping and profiling of Indigenous patients and clients.
The highlight of this month is National Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which was declared in 1996 and is celebrated each year on June 21, a date chosen to coincide with the summer solstice and the start of berry-picking and fishing season for some Indigenous nations. If you’re able, we encourage you to celebrate this day, either online with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network or at an event in your community.

HSA members covered by the Health Science Professionals, Community Health, Community Social Service, and Nurses’ collective agreements can be proud of the newly-negotiated language in your collective agreements that addresses Indigenous-specific racism. Depending on your specific agreement, you may now have ceremonial, cultural, spiritual and bereavement leave for Indigenous peoples, and language to support the recruitment and retention of Indigenous workers.
We recognize these are a few steps, of many, towards actioning the changes needed to actualize the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and the calls to action from In Plain Sight, Reclaiming Power and Place, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 

The following are some learning resources you may wish to review or share with your friends and colleagues:

Learn our history: Each spring, we welcome many recent graduates into our membership. If you are a new grad, or if you haven’t yet found the time, we encourage you to take time to read the full In Plan Sight report to learn about the history of Indigenous-specific racism in BC’s health care system.

Understand the history of Indian hospitalsThis video describes the basic history of Indian Hospitals in Canada and specifically in Alberta. Warning: It includes descriptions of the many forms of abuse and inhumane treatment patients experienced.

Watch a ​Cultural Safety and Humility Action Webinar. These webinars were held to encourage participation, learning, self-reflection and positive change among BC's healthcare professionals. 

First Nations, Second-Class Care (White Coat, Black Art, CBC Radio): A look at why First Nations patients sometimes receive second-class health care in Canada.  

Reflect on Indigenous Resilience in this TedTalk. Lisa Bovin (Deninu K’ue First Nation in Northwest Territories), a visual storyteller and bioethicist, reflects on her personal cultural displacement and the impact of residential schools and foster care. Her vibrant images embody resilience and portray a hopeful possibility for health care in which Indigenous and bio scientific models come together to create a new circle of healing.