June 21st has long been my favourite day of the year by far.
For starters, it’s the longest day of the year, and the official start to summer, which of course must be celebrated when you live through the some of the most frigid winters in the country.
June 21st also happens to be the day in 2003 that I married my husband in a beautiful ceremony in the South of France, another annual cause for celebration.
In more recent years however, June 21st has given me something else to celebrate: National Indigenous Peoples Day, a day dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations people, Inuit and Métis across Canada.
Prior to joining Boreala Management, I had worked with several indigenous organizations, but always from a distance and never in-depth. When I joined the team at Boreala in January 2018, the firm was already working closely with several First Nations clients, and I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to jump into projects. It was here that I started my journey of curiosity and learning just how much there is to celebrate when it comes to the contributions of indigenous peoples.
As a Brit who has lived and worked internationally since graduating university in 2000, I have always had an immense curiosity for different cultures and ways of working. However, having grown up in England and then moving around to different places in Europe until I turned 30 and moved to Canada, I was incredibly ignorant to the realities faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada, and I had so much to learn!
Since becoming owners of the company in 2019, myself and my 2 amazing business partners (Katharine and Tanya), have focused our work primarily on working with Indigenous clients to support them in building stronger organizations.
For the 3 Boreala Partners, our work in support of indigenous organizations and the difference these organizations make to the lives of the community members they serve, has been thoroughly educational and rewarding. We have each developed a passion for our work in indigenous communities and are driven by how we can add value and make a difference through our collaborations with indigenous organizations that serve these communities be it in education, health, local government or economic development.
We have immersed ourselves and our team in learning and educating ourselves about the different cultures, challenges and opportunities faced by our clients.
We have consistently questioned our ways of working, considering how we could better adapt how we work to fully meet our clients whilst building organizational capacity along the way. We consider ourselves privileged to work with many First Nations communities and organizations, from coast to coast. Over the years have extended our relationships to support Inuit and Mètis organizations also.
What I have learned so far is that Indigenous peoples are incredibly resilient, funny, patient, caring, and kind.
As consultants, we are hired for the knowledge that we can bring and pass on to our clients. But I know that I have learned more from my clients, and developed perspectives I had never imagined over the last 5 years.
As we take the time to celebrate the brilliance, vibrancy, and outstanding contributions of indigenous nations across Canada, here are some of the things I am personally grateful to have come to appreciate thanks to the relationships that I have been lucky to build with my indigenous clients, peers, and friends:
The western world view isn’t always all that! The indigenous world view of looking through the lens of community, communal values, interconnectedness, and collective well-being, provides a sense of purpose and perspective so much more rewarding than an individualistic drive for material gain that so often fuels our western value system.
Time really can be fluid. Sometimes it’s better to slow down, but we’ll get there in the end (as a punctual, ‘type A’ somewhat controlling Brit, this is still a work in progress for me 😉)
We should all care as much about what our elders have to say! Indigenous elders’ wisdom and guidance is celebrated as a foundation for cultural preservation and community cohesion. As I observe the respect that is bestowed upon indigenous elders and the care that is taken for the elderly in the community, it makes me sad as I think about how for many western cultures (including my own) this wisdom and guidance is not revered in the same way.
We should try treating our land and nature in the same way as our indigenous neighbours. Witnessing the respect and reciprocal relationship that indigenous peoples have with the land has really opened my eyes. I don’t even eat meat as I don’t want to see any animal killed, but I have total appreciation for the way that traditional indigenous practices are carried out in harmony with nature.
When is comes to celebrating Indigenous music and art, I couldn’t possibly cover all that there is to celebrate. However, here are a few of the things that I have discovered that I especially love:
Beautiful First Nations handcrafted clothes and jewelry. Check out the amazing work of the amazing Cree artisans in Eeyou Ischee here.
Inuit throat singing. The first time I got to see Inuit throat singing, my mind was absolutely blown. I had never heard anything like this before. If you have not discovered this Inuit tradition, you should absolutely check it out. Here’s short video of some very talented throat singers from Nunavik
Metis Red River Jig: This is an awesome example of the blending of cultures. Think mix of Irish river dance, Scottish highland fling with some jive and First Nations dance. If you don’t know, you should know.
We are literally surrounded by cultural diversity and vibrancy in Canada, and personally I think this should be celebrated every day. We should all be striving for a future where the voices and contributions of Indigenous nations are respected and valued the way they always should have been. I can’t wait to continue this learning journey, and encourage everyone, Canadian – or wherever you are from to go learn something you didn’t know or experience something new thanks to the wonderful contributions of the Indigenous nations in Canada.