June is a time which marks many campaigns, celebrations, and awareness movements that are important to the work of JHS Pacific, and the incredible people that make up our organization. These include (but are certainly not limited to) National Indigenous History Month, Pride Month, AccessAbility Week (May 30 – June 5) Juneteenth (June 19), World Refugee Day (June 20), and National Indigenous Persons Day (June 21).
We are celebrating and honouring these important campaigns with our service users, staff, Board, and others within the JHS community in a range of ways. Here on our blog, we’re sharing a three-part series commemorating National Indigenous History month. Check back every Monday in June to celebrate Indigenous History Month, learn more about culturally appropriate services and initiatives JHS is carrying out to better serve Indigenous people, and one special post about one of the incredible Elders playing a leading role in our community.
Indigenous Peoples are the original people of this land, and have stewarded the land since time immemorial. One of the oldest sites of human occupation in the Americas is right here in British Columbia, with ancestors of the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, BC, dating back to 14,000 BPE (before the Present Era). Despite, and in many ways because of, their long-standing history and essential role in the vitality of this land, Indigenous Peoples have been systematically and repeatedly discriminated against, had harm and violence inflicted upon them, and been victims of cultural genocide.
National Indigenous History Month celebrates the history, heritage, and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada. While there is so much to celebrate, it cannot be seen as solely a time to celebrate, but also a time to reflect, to remember, and to renew or further ignite our drive to do better by Indigenous Peoples.
This year in particular, with the harrowing news about the remains of 215 school children found in an unmarked grave at the former Kamloops Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc, is grieving a devastating loss; one which is part of a long and ongoing legacy of colonialism. So while this is a time of celebration, it is also a time to reflect and take action on the very present and lasting impacts of cultural genocide.
National Indigenous History Month calls on all of us – as individuals, as staff working with Indigenous people, as an organization, and as a community – to actively work towards reconciliation.
At our Vancouver Community Services Office, which serves as a drop-in centre for vulnerable individuals in the community, our team has created a visual installation to remember the lives lost, and the continued need to work towards reconciliation. On the windows hang orange coloured handprints, which any member of our community is welcome to sign or decorate to commemorate the 215 children whose bodies were found, and the many others who did not return home from residential schools.
Our drop-in centre also has a range of Indigenous resources and service listings available for residential school survivors, those who are affected, and others who may benefit from cultural supports at this time.