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National Indigenous History Month – Nathan Martin shares his complex feelings towards this month of significance

June 22, 2021

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“…Indigenous History Month for me is about respect, education, acknowledgement and a hope that it represents commitment from EVERYONE (myself included) to learn more.”

National Indigenous History Month is a time for learning about, appreciating and acknowledging the distinct heritage, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. This year in particular, National Indigenous History Month provides a time to reflect upon the history and strength of Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island.

Nathan Martin is a Métis individual who is a member of the Rogers Indigenous Collaboration (IC) Community Engagement Team, a team that consists of Indigenous and allied individuals who are passionate about establishing genuine partnerships and relationships with Indigenous communities and individuals across the country to help make more possible. From helping to bridge the digital divide to making connections for youth and education services, this team leverages all potential aspects of connectivity for communities that have lacked it for so many years. 

Nathan shared his thoughts on what National Indigenous History Month means to him and the different emotions that this month brings.

What does National Indigenous History Month mean to you? 

National Indigenous History Month triggers many different emotions for me. As a Metis person, I feel a sense of pride and appreciation for a culture and tradition; a time to celebrate & respect family roots and values; an opportunity to pause and absorb stories through the many fantastic Indigenous writers, directors, performers and storytellers across the country and worldwide.  A chance to attend festivals and events, both in person and virtually. 

From a ‘Canadian celebratory perspective’, I have much more sombre outlook given the challenges that our brothers & sisters and their communities face today knowing full-well how those challenges have come to be.  Either way, Indigenous History Month for me is about respect, education, acknowledgement and a hope that it represents commitment from EVERYONE (myself included) to learn more.

Is there someone from the Indigenous Community, past or present, that inspires you? 

My grandfather has always been an inspiring figure for me.  He was born and raised the second oldest of 18 children in southern Manitoba and joined the military at a very young age, which has taken him all over the country and the world. The consequence for serving his country however, is negligence and loss of traditional culture and traditions in addition to establishing a separate family tree outside of our traditional territory.  I have made a personal commitment to honour his sacrifice and take chances, learn more and do better in connecting with my roots – all while trying to serve the country in my own way as part of this national Indigenous Collaboration Team.

What words of inspiration would you say to young Indigenous children of today?

Stop, look and listen.  What’s left of a generation trying to speak to us is dwindling. There are so many competing priorities these days (perceived and actual) but you must dedicate time and effort to reclamation. For Metis youth, it can be something as simple as learning how to bead, picking up a fiddle, learning to cook with a parent/grandparent, and learning a few words in Michif while you do. But you have to make the time. There are plenty of resources out there but always check the source. Better yet, leverage the experience of those who come before you.  Indigenous youth population is increasing at 4 times the rate of non-Indigenous youth in Canada and has the opportunity to become our biggest influencers, innovators and preservationists moving forward.  But knowledge is key and can come in many forms.

What words of inspiration would you say to allies of the Indigenous community?

  1. To those with privilege, equality will always appear as oppression. Keep that in mind.
  2. You can never have enough allies. (thank you)
  3. There is no such thing as a dumb question – so ask. Continue to learn. Continue to explore. But continue to respect.
  4. ‘We’ cannot alter the past, but we can influence the future – however, it will take all of us working in tandem to do so.
  5. Show your true alliance and call out hate where you see it. It’s the only way to combat racism.
  6. Unfortunately/Fortunately, votes drive decisions and policy.  Continue to support and influence those in decision making positions at all levels who support Indigenous reconciliation.

What does the IC Community Engagement Team mean to you, both professionally and personally?

The Team is a breath of fresh air.  First and foremost, my colleagues are driven, diverse and professional which makes logging on everyday exciting.  As I continue on my own personal reclamation journey, it’s a learning opportunity each and every day. As a proud graduate of Trent University’s Indigenous and Canadian Studies programs, this a rare opportunity to directly combine education and experience to shape corporate policy and practice. Having spent the last 15 years in Stakeholder/Government Relations & Economic Development both federally and provincially, this is an opportunity to help ensure that we ‘get it right’ when making first impressions and building long-lasting, prosperous partnerships with Indigenous Communities for generations to come.