June marks National Indigenous History Month in Canada, a time when we thoughtfully celebrate the history, heritage and culture of Indigenous peoples. Our very campus was founded in partnership with the Syilx Okanagan Chiefs in whose territory the campus is situated, beginning a longstanding friendship with the Syilx Okanagan Nation that we continue to honour today.
This year, the devastating discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School is a reminder of the historic and ongoing systemic violence and injustices directed against Indigenous peoples. It is heartbreaking to think of the innocent lives that were stolen. Many of these children would now be mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and Elders, their families and communities robbed of lives they would have shared together. UBC stands with Indigenous communities seeking the truth about their missing children and calls upon all Canadians to take personal responsibility to learn about these truths. President Santa Ono and I released a Statement on the Missing Children of the Kamloops Indian Residential School that conveys our sorrow and acknowledges UBC’s role in this history.
This past cannot and will not be our future. In 2019, UBC Okanagan publicly declared five Truth and Reconciliation commitments in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Earlier this year, we presented our annual report detailing the progress we have made so far. Together with the eight goals and 43 actions defined in UBC’s Indigenous Strategic Plan, these commitments are an important part of our university’s strategic direction. I look forward to working closely with the Syilx Okanagan Nation and our campus community as we continue our journey of truth and reconciliation.
This month, let’s take this important opportunity to honour Indigenous history and celebrate the diversity of First Nations, Metis and Inuit cultures and ways of knowing. Locally, I encourage you to seek out resources to learn more about the Syilx Okanagan Nation and its member communities, as well as Indigenous community groups. I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the many achievements and incredible work of Indigenous students, faculty and staff on campus and in our community. UBC Okanagan has virtual events taking place this month, including the Indigenous Art Intensive hosted by the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, which includes panel discussions and artist talks from renowned Indigenous artists. More information on upcoming events can be found through the link below:
Together, we are all on the journey of reconciliation, and it is important that each of us takes personal responsibility to explore and honour Indigenous history. Though we cannot erase the terrible atrocities and oppression experienced by Indigenous peoples, we can remember and honour those who have been lost and ensure we are moving forward with relationships grounded in reciprocity.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal