True North Aid is one of several Canadian charities and organizations that are committed to serving northern Indigenous communities in Canada. Although Canada is a very prosperous nation, sadly, over 60% of children living in northern Indigenous communities live below the poverty line and almost 20% do not have access to clean drinking water. Housing shortages continue to plague many northern communities leaving families in difficult situations and access to education continues to be a challenge for many First Nations youth.
The issues facing Indigenous communities in Canada are complex and the result of many things that have transpired over the past 150 years. True North Aid believes that the right to self-governance and self-determination are key to closing the poverty gap as young people are inspired and empowered to pursue their dreams and build their own communities. We provide practical humanitarian assistance through initiatives established on eight foundational stones of support. These include water, food, shelter, health, education, reconciliation, self-determination and hope. Our priority is to help ensure the dignity and health of Indigenous people through our actions. These initiatives are in partnership with individuals and organizations who are committed to making a difference. Through networking and relationships, we identify members of Indigenous communities we can come alongside to serve and support. Together we can make a difference.
For those us who want to help Indigenous communities in Canada we invite you to CONTACT US, and we can help provide direction. There are also many other places to begin listed below. Indigenous Communities in Canada, (First Nations, Metis & Intuit) want the right to self-determination and self-governance, better education for their children, improved drinking water and an overall improvement of the standard of living in their communities.
Reducing poverty in northern communities is a collective effort and we should all be seeking understanding and celebrate our cultural differences and then together we can move forward. We can only build a better Canada, TOGETHER!
So, Where do we begin?
There are many Canadian charities and organizations serving and supporting northern Indigenous communities and True North Aid is one of them. Consider supporting our work and/or the work of others through financial partnership. Our work is expensive as we serve hard to reach northern remote communities.
Listen to Indigenous Canadians and be educated on their culture and history. There are many different cultures and traditions represented amongst our First Nations, Metis and Inuit Communities with a variety of perspectives and yet they all have this in common: An abusive history of mistreatment, oppression and inequality towards their people. A history that continues to this day and found in many forms including the way we ignore their needs and their right to self govern and live as a prosperous and thriving people.
We cannot ask them to forgive until we have listened to the whole story, to understand them, their way of life, culture and traditions and their history, good and bad. The message is clear that we must engage in thoughtful, honourable dialogue if together we will improve their quality of life in Canada. See article engagement with first nations
Although we have made some progress in recent years with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with increased awareness of the plight of northern peoples and other problems, there is still a very long way to go. We could learn so much from the ways of First Nations’ people, to teach us better how to steward the land we live on, our water, rivers and habitat and how to honour and respect a culture and a people different from our own.
True North Aid can use your help. Volunteering with charities and organizations like ours will help offset the many costs that can be better used for the acquisition and transportation of humanitarian aid. Consider helping us with content for our websites, fundraising or being a part of a True North Aid fundraising event!
Attend a First Nations traditional event like a Pow-wow
Pow wows include traditional costumes, drumming, singing, and a dance competition and there are many held across Canada like the Six Nations Champion of Champions Pow Wow in Brantford, with over 400 participants annually and attended by more than 20,000 people. There is also the largest pow-wow in Canada the, Manito Ahbee Festival in Winnipeg. Not every pow-wow is open to non-natives, so be sure you are welcome before planning to attend.
Attending pow-wows and traditional native events are practical ways to meet with and talk to Indigenous Canadians, to make friends and learn about their culture, way of life and concerns. Connect with a local college/university and search for local native associations in your area. Check out CBC’s Maggie Moose’s tips for attending a pow-wow.
Attend a Kairos Blanket Exercise
The KAIROS Blanket Exercise program is a unique, participatory history lesson – developed in collaboration with Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and educators – that fosters truth, understanding, respect and reconciliation among Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. Our Indigenous Medical Alliance Team hosted this event in 2018 in Kingston and it was well received.
Check out KAIROS’ website and the great work that they do, including their blanket exercises at www.kairosblanketexercise.org
Read Indigenous Literature
There is a great list of Indigenous authors. Reading Indigenous authors will provide you with a different perspective and books written by non-indigenous authors. We heartily recommend that every Canadian reader of any seriousness take the time to read Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, Kiss of the Fur Queen by Thomson Highway and The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King or 21 Things You May Not Have Known About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph.
Other great authors are Lee Maracle, Eden Robinson, Thomas King, Tanya Talaga, and so many others.
Love reading? Here are some starting points:
14 Aboriginal women writers you should read
Amazon.ca’s Best Sellers in Native Canadian Literature
Watch and Learn from Indigenous Film and Television
Established in 1992, APTN airs and produces programs made by and for, Indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States. You can watch the news, and find out what makes news in their communities, from their perspective. Watch shows like Cashing In, to see their stories on screen. APTN’s First Contact reality show is also a great way to learn about the beautiful and diverse culture and teachings of Indigenous through the experiences of the participants on the show. Watch these episodes on demand at https://aptn.ca/firstcontact/video/season-1/
CBC also has some great series on their CBC GEM website that tells Indigenous stories and features many documentaries about life in northern communities. Check those out HERE.
In recent years, many great films have been released depicting life in northern Canada and the residential school system. Watch “Indian Horse” on Crave, or catch a community screening or purchase “The Grizzlies” on DVD/Blu-Ray.
Listen to indigenous music
Live music is the best, and if you have ever heard a First Nations drum circle, it is astonishingly unique. If you see it in person (at a pow wow, for example) you will see how it is created, the arrangements of the singers and how the voices unite, rising and falling and rising again, as they drum together.
Aside from that, there is a wealth of recorded Indigenous music in all styles, from the folk of Susan Aglukark and Tanya Tagaq, to rock like Hawk and Eagle or hip hop like A Tribe Called Red, to classics like Buffy Sainte Marie. There is something for everyone and if you find the right music it will deepen the connection you will feel with our Indigenous people. Check out the indigenous music awards to find out what’s current.