Celebrating my heritage while finding my community at Douglas
By Aly Hillaby, Bachelor of Social Work student
June became National Aboriginal History Month in 2009, and in 2017, the name changed to National Indigenous History Month. The change is significant because the word “Indigenous” is recognized internationally in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was created in 2007 after two decades of negotiations. The UNDRIP is a comprehensive guide that sets out minimum standards required to protect the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples in terms of culture, language, health, education, employment, protection of traditional lands and their right to participate in decision-making.
Acknowledging the cultures and contributions of Indigenous Peoples
Since 1996, National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 has celebrated and acknowledged the diverse cultures and contributions of the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples in Canada. June 21 was chosen because it is around the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and a day that is important for many Indigenous peoples and communities. Across Canada, this day is celebrated with cultural performances, activities, arts and other events that recognize the contributions of Indigenous people.
With many events being held virtually this year, Douglas College students and other community members can take this opportunity to participate and increase their understanding of the diverse cultures, arts, traditions, worldviews, languages, experiences and histories of Indigenous peoples.
New ways of learning and growing
Experiencing aspects of our own and different cultures is a great way to continue to grow. Growing up, my main source of knowledge about my Indigenous roots was through the education system. I found that education about Indigenous people often paints them in one general stroke – thus losing important details about what makes each group unique.
National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day present an opportunity to learn about the history and diversity of Indigenous peoples, and to recognize the strength and resilience that generations have shown in order to uphold, pass down and reclaim cultural knowledge and traditions. Taking the initiative to learn more about different Indigenous cultures and groups may help you have a better understanding of yourself and others. My journey at Douglas College involved this type of learning and growth.
The welcoming environment of Indigenous Student Services
My experiences as an Indigenous student at Douglas have been incredible. Indigenous Student Services (ISS) feels like a community. I came across ISS when I was looking for a quiet place to study at the New Westminster Campus. Ever since then, I have stayed connected. I found a welcoming environment where I had opportunities to not only learn more about my culture, but grow as a person.
When I moved from the New Westminster Campus to the Coquitlam Campus, I was worried because I felt like I was losing a place where I belonged. Luckily, my hesitations were unfounded. I found the same type of environment at the Coquitlam Campus and got to know many more wonderful people. I felt heard and encouraged. It’s a place I go and say hi to people in between classes, check in with staff, grab myself a coffee and just unwind or talk about things going on with the people around me.
The ISS team encouraged me to participate in events that came up at the school, organized lunches and events and updated me about things going on in the community that I was interested in.
Throughout this past year, I still go to ISS to work or study because it is such a great place. I’m excited for when we can be back in person, and I can see everyone’s welcoming faces again.
If you want to learn more about Indigenous culture, art and history, here are some resources to check out: