I know this is perhaps the most cliche symbol I could choose, but I honestly feel that this is the image I have the strongest connection with. I remember long cross country drives across Canada as a child, seeing impromptu Inukshuks along the highway, wondering what they were. As I grew up I discovered their origin, and what they meant. More recently I have used the story “Hide and Sneak” by Michael Kusugak with my classes, the Inukshuk plays an important role, and I like to use this as an introduction to Inuit culture.
The Metis sash is a symbol of the Metis people. Originally used by Voyageurs working in the fur trade, it was incorporated by their Metis children. Far beyond being a belt to hold jackets closed, it had many uses, including a towline for their canoes, a trumpline to hold extra items in their packs, an impromptu sewing kit, and even a washcloth and towel. As a person who loves being outdoors, hiking, fishing, canoeing, etc… I am always impressed with the ingenuity behind this simple, colorful item, and know all too well the value of having one item that can be used for multiple reasons. While I would not presume to wear one as that feels like cultural appropriation to me, I do enjoy both the practical uses and beautiful symbolism of this item.
Chanie Wenjack was an Anishinaabe First Nations child who became the face of the Residential School system after his tragic death in 1966 while attempting to return to his home. I have selected this image because in many ways hearing his story is what led me to want to change my understanding of the history of Canada, and attempt to decolonize myself. I have always been politically left-leaning and open-minded, but I had not been educated or educated myself on the full details of the overwhelming effects of colonization. When “The Secret Path” was released in 2016, my children started asking questions. I worked with them to discover the answers, and I was not prepared for the answers we found. There were a lot of serious conversations around the dinner table, and a lot of harsh and painful truths were discussed, but the discussions were necessary. So my relationship to this image is I had to talk to my children, who were about the same age as Wenjack when he died, about the horrible truth about colonization and its effects on generations of Indigenous people. But what heartened me was that both of my children wanted to learn more about how they could decolonize themselves, by allies and help to make a positive change. !