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Statement from AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

Statement: Canada 150 / Canada Day

The 150th anniversary of Confederation raises a wide range of emotion among First Nations. As the First Peoples of this land, we have raised our families and practiced our way of life here for thousands of years. We were and are nations, with our own unique laws, languages, lands, governance and spirituality.

In the earliest days, we welcomed the new arrivals to this land and showed them how to survive and thrive in our territories. The relationship was one of partnership, sharing, mutual respect and mutual recognition of one another as peoples belonging to strong nations.

For First Nations, the past century and a half has been marked by a tragic and avoidable shift in our relationship from partnership to colonialism. This led to the devastation of our people by the Residential Schools system, the oppression of the Indian Act, the injustices of the Sixties Scoop and the many harms that we are still working to address today.

And yet, despite decades of human rights abuses, First Nations have persevered. Our cultures and ceremonies persist. Our languages are still spoken. Our young ones are embracing our traditions and discovering renewed pride in being First Nations. Yes, there is much work to do, but our continued presence in this, our homeland, is a testament to the resilience and strength of our peoples, our cultures, our nations and our spirit.

Some First Nations will participate in Canada 150 events. Not all will choose to participate. However, we are a part of this country’s history; the past, the present and the future. First Nations are an enduring presence in this land and have been since time immemorial. We honour those who want to mark this anniversary, just as we respect those who choose not to participate. We are here. We always have been, and we always will be.

 

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