Canada's 150th birthday is just two and a half weeks away (July 1, 2017). Turning 150 is kind of a big deal. Starting last year, the nation started to gear up for the celebration in different ways: Parks Canada announced that they were offering free admission to all Parks Canada locations in 2017, Ottawa is planning a party to "highlight Canada Day like never before", the hashtag #Canada150 started appearing on social media, we've been told to show our Canadian pride, and there are countless celebrations and promotions happening nationwide. Not everyone is celebrating though, and with good reason. There has been social media backlash, #Rethink150, #Resist150, #Fuckthe150. It's important to look at all of a country's history and to not gloss over the atrocities of the past, especially since the effects of those atrocities are still being felt today.
Over the last couple of years, you may have noticed land acknowledgments. A land acknowledgment is a formal statement that recognizes the unique and enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories, as well as an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory you reside on. Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, and Brantford are on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee peoples. Steps like these seem like a move forward, but then something arises like the recent uproar in the Canadian media about a cultural appropriation prize, and one has to wonder if we are making any actual progress.
Many museums, galleries, and magazines are taking time in 2017 to highlight the work of Indigenous artists and creators. Last month I took advantage of National Museum Day and visited A Cause For Celebration? First Things First at THE MUSEUM in Kitchener. It's a timely and important exhibit and is on view until September 4, 2017. It seeks to address the complexities and contradictions of emotions as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Upon walking into the exhibit, guests are greeted with a message from curator Virginia Eichhorn:
Here are some photos of the beautiful art on display:
What stood out to me the most was the room that chronicled the Canadian government's relationship over the years with Indigenous peoples:
I think it's great that museums, galleries, and other organizations are bringing awareness but is it enough? What happens next year? Canada 151 doesn't quite have the same celebratory ring to it. Our nation can't undo what has been done. Is this going to be an ongoing practice to foster solidarity, community, and healing, or just something that was done this year to tie in with Canada 150? It will be interesting to see how far we will have come as a nation when the next celebration milestone arrives. What will Canada look like then? How will we act? How will we celebrate 25 years from now for Canada 175, or 50 years from now with Canada 200? Only time will tell. If you've been to the exhibit, or any similar exhibits nationwide, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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Story and photos by Glodeane Brown