National Indigenous Peoples Day message from President Russell
Good day – ullukut.
I’m Todd Russell, President of the NunatuKavut Community Council and I represent the Inuit of NunatuKavut here in Labrador. National Indigenous Peoples Day is a day when people from all walks of life come together to reflect on the rich and diverse history and culture of all of the Indigenous peoples of Canada. For Indigenous peoples, it provides us with an opportunity to tell our truth, our story and our connection to our place. It is important to take this time to celebrate who we are, what we’re about, our resilience and the freedom that we have to be ourselves in our own place. This is so, so important. That’s really what was at the heart of the tragic experiences, of the horrific experiences, that many Indigenous peoples, young peoples, students, have faced in this country.
For generations, there were those from the outside who came to our lands, who thought that they were better, who thought that they knew the best way. And they tried to take our culture away, take away our stories, take away our voices, take away our language, really who we were. So today’s the day to affirm who we are, as Indigenous peoples. And, for us, as Inuit in this part of our own territory. The news, of course, of the 215 children found at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia has shaken us all. Devasting news. Yet it is the truth. And it hits so close to home for so many of us – a stark reminder of the horrific realities of the residential schools.
And, you know, this is a part of our story right here in Labrador. And I’m sure that there are memories being brought back for some many of our people. Stories that were tucked away for so long. And these are stories that some of our people carry out on the ice when they go hunting or when they go and harvest fish or when they go on a trip with their children. Or when they’re at the kitchen table. Because they are a part of our experience of who we are. And so it is an important part of our history and our culture. It is also so important that we continue to tell these stories. Because in the telling of them, the truth being told, this is part of the healing and reconciliation that must happen. Of course, knowing and learning, education, is a major pathway forward for healing.
At NCC, I can say that we are committed to creating space for our stories, our truths and our people to tell these stories. We launched an Ikupiatsik – a NunatuKavut Inuit Education Action Plan earlier this year. So part of this is the reclamation of our language, the telling of our stories again and again. Things that have been lost to colonization and the impacts of colonization, we can make a reality again, in our homes, in our communities, in this world.
And we are working on resources to make sure that the story of residential schools here is Labrador is recognized and honoured. And that the resiliency of our former students and their families is also recognized and honoured. Just last week, we launched a wonderful colouring book called “NunatuKavut Through the Seasons,” depicting some of our seasonal activities and the important elements of our culture and language. And today we are launching a new online tool called “Stories of NunatuKavut.” It is a beautiful collection and presentation of photos and videos that help tell our story. These resources and more are available and can be found on our website at www.nunatukavut.ca.
We invite you today and in the days ahead to learn more about the Inuit of NunatuKavut. You will find that our story is one of determination, belonging and strength, right here at home in our place, on our homeland. This is not unlike the story of so many Indigenous peoples in this country and around the world. And, in many ways, this is what this day is all about. Celebrating and sharing our unique and shared histories and culture and the great contributions of our people. Wherever you are today, I encourage you to celebrate…and reflect.
On behalf of the NunatuKavut Community Council, I wish you all a happy and enjoyable National Indigenous Peoples Day. Nakummek.