National Indigenous Peoples Day

National Indigenous Peoples Day occurs each year on June 21st. The Indigenous people of Canada include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. Gordon Neighbourhood House is located on on the unceded, occupied, ancestral and traditional homelands of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We encourage you to check out each Nations website to learn more about their unique cultures and strong community activism work.

You can read our statement on the discovery at Kamloops HERE. You can read the statement of our governing body, the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC HERE. At the bottom of this blog post we have shared some information and resources for our Indigenous community members who have been impacted by the residential schools system and re-traumatized by the news cycle.

Keep reading for some suggestions on celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, the names of some Indigenous-owned businesses, and some information on how you can take action and join us in a push for accountability and real change.

Celebration Suggestions

Take a look at this great interactive Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) place name map. Users can scroll around and highlight local sites. Most pins on the map have the recorded pronunciation, spelling, and in some spots, photos, stories, articles, archival documents, and videos. This map aims to educate and advocate for the official reclaiming of Indigenous place names in the homelands of Squamish peoples.

Check out the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival for a marketplace, workshops, preformances, and more!

Update your Spotify playlists to include some of these talented Indigenous musicians.

Check out this comic book Dakwakada Warriors by Vancouver based artist Cole Pauls.

You and your child can celebrate together with these language resources and stories available on Indigenous Storybooks.

Indigenous-Owned Businesses In Vancouver

Spirit Bear Coffee Company

Salmon and Bannock

Iron Dog Books

Skwalwen (tour guides)

River Select (fish & seafood)

Sister Sage (wellness & self care products)

Mr. Bannock

Demand Action Now

This month we are collectively mourning the identification of the unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children at a Kamloops residential school. If you are unfamiliar with the details surrounding this story then you can read more in this Guardian article here.

In the ninety-four Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report numbers seventy-one to seventy-six outline what steps the government needs to take in addressing these missing children and burial sites. The Calls To Action point to the need for a well maintained record of the deaths that occurred at residential schools, the identification of all unmarked burial site locations, families to be informed of the burial site of their loved ones, appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers at grave sites, and reburial in home communities where requested.

These Calls To Action were published in 2015 (six years ago) and it is necessary to implement them now or Indigenous communities will continue to be further traumatized by each slow discovery.

We ask that you consider writing a letter to your local Member of Parliament to demand urgency on these Calls To Action. If you would like to come by Gordon Neighbourhood House we will provide you with a pen, paper, stamped envelope, the address of your local Member of Parliament, and the location of the nearest post box. Check out these Letter Writing Tips and Letter Template.

Orange T-shirts

Orange Shirt Day takes place each year on September 30th. This is a day for honouring residential school survivors and their families, and remembering those who did not make it home. Check out our previous blog post for more information Orange Shirt Day – Every Child Matters.

The Legacy of Hope Foundation have records of some residential school survivor stories for those who want to learn the truth of what happened at these schools.

If you would like to purchase an orange t-shirt while also supporting Indigenous artists and organisations then check out these spots:

Make Vancouver have orange shirts for sale designed by Indigenous artist KC Hall with all proceeds going to the Urban Native Youth Association.

London Drugs have orange shirts for sale online and in stores with 100% of profits from the sale of shirts to the Orange Shirt Society.

Talking To Children

Talking to children about the history and impact of residential schools in Canada is important, but can seem like a daunting task. Check out this Youtube video made by author Monique Gray Smith “Talking to Kids about Residential Schools”. In this video Monique shares tips on both talking to kids about residential schools, but also how to prepare yourself as the adult to have these conversations.

The following Youtube storybook readings can be a helpful resource for parents and caregivers who want to convey these difficult stories to children:

Social Media Accounts

There are many people using social media as a platform to share knowledge.

Further Information

Calls for Justice of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report

Help-Lines & Support Resources

Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports. The IRSSS can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Saa’ust Centre, brought to life by the Urban Indigenous Peoples’ Advisory Committee’s community, is an oasis for families and survivors affected by the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).

First Nations Health Authority provides culturally safe and trauma-informed cultural, emotional, and mental health services to Indigenous people in BC.

Kuu-Us Crisis Line Society  provides crisis services for Indigenous people across BC. Adults and Elders can call 250-723-4050 for support; youth can call 250-723-2040. A toll-free number is available at 1-800-588-8717.

At Vancouver Public Library’s Connection to Kith and Kin experts help Indigenous participants search online records for family documents. Searching can be an emotional experience. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society has provided a Resolution Health Support Worker to join the participants during their journey.

Statement: Kamloops Residential School

Our governing body the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC has shared their statement on their website HERE.

To our West End Neighbours and Colleagues:

On behalf of Gordon House, I want to acknowledge the recent discovery of a mass grave of Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

215 children were reported found. This number was an estimate. An updated, likely higher number is expected in the coming weeks. Further discoveries across Canada should be anticipated in coming weeks, months and years.

Residential schools were an assault on the most fundamental principles of humanity. They are formally considered an institution of genocide. They targeted Indigenous peoples by attempting to sever children’s connection with their communities.

And they operated before our own eyes, in plain daylight.

Why didn’t we see what was happening?

I have sought to understand Gordon House’s response to that question. The Association of Neighbourhood Houses of British Columbia – Gordon House included – is committed to supporting families and social justice. We have been in operation for over 125 years. How could an organization with those two commitments fail to notice and speak out about the operation of residential schools?

The ongoing work to answer that question has highlighted numerous indicators of colonial and racist thinking within our own history and movement. It is imperative that we uproot and eliminate any remnants of that thinking in our professional and personal practice, otherwise, we may be blind to present injustices occurring right now.

This journey is not unique to Gordon House. We must look at this together as a community. To start, Gordon House commits to:

1. Complete an audit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ 231 Calls to Justice, and create an organizational Action Plan for any relevant calls.

2. Work with Indigenous and non-Indigenous colleagues to facilitate community dialogue and learning in the West End, with focus on the following topics:

a. A deeper understanding of what it means to be on unceded Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh territory, including what responsibilities we carry while on this territory;

b. Colonialism and anti-Indigenous racism in Canada, both historically and as it manifests today, and how to actively resist those systems today;

c. Allying alongside Indigenous-led movements locally and nationally.

This is where we start, not where we end. All neighbours and colleagues are invited to participate in the conversation. Email if you’d like to get involved.

Our hearts are with survivors and intergenerational survivors of residential schools. Our commitment is to do everything now and into the future to ensure that this atrocious period of Canadian history is finally brought to a close, and that the impact of residential schools is known and never forgotten.

Siobhan Powlowski

Funding Still Available for 83 Small Projects with $500 each!

Neighbours participate in a virtual Reiki project supported with a Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grant.

Do you have an idea for a small project that will make a positive impact in our community? We have funding still available this year to support 83 more small projects with $500 each!

The Neighbourhood Small Grants (NSG) program is a grassroots initiative that helps residents of any age, experience, or background take part in building community. We provide grants up to $500 to neighbours who have small but powerful ideas that will make our community better.

The Neighbourhood Small Grant program is for everyone. We’ve funded projects led by residents as young as ten, in addition to neighbours well into their nineties. Some project Leaders have lived in our community for 30+ years, whereas others have moved here less than a year ago. We believe neighbours are the experts on their community, and we all have ideas on how we can make our community better and more resilient.

Neighbours can apply online in less than an hour, and choose how they would like to spend the funds.

Grants are awarded to projects that: connect and engage residents, share residents’ skills and knowledge within the community, build a sense of ownership and pride, and respect and celebrate diversity.

Examples of past project have included: murals, community gardens, yoga classes, film nights, virtual reiki sessions, dance classes, kids painting projects, apartment building social events… the opportunities are almost endless.

For over a decade Gordon Neighbourhood House has coordinated the program for all residents living on the Downtown Peninsula. In that time, we have supported hundreds of neighbours who have taken steps to improve our neighbourhood—people just like you.

‘The People in Your Neighbourhood’ mural coordinated by local artist Deanna Flinn and funded with a Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grant.

Changes in the Neighbourhood Small Grants Program due to COVID-19
COVID-19 has disrupted most aspects of community life, especially how we interact with one another. For that reason, we are offering two grant options in 2021.

1. Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants
A new grant stream called Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants (R-NSG) has been developed to forge connections and mitigate social isolation during the pandemic. This funding is intended for: safe, virtual, outdoor, and physically-distanced projects.  R-NSG applications are now open and will close when funding runs out.

2. Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grants
We are also offering Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grants for projects that contribute in some way to the City’s Greenest City Action Plan goals. These goals include reducing our carbon footprint, creating zero waste, improving access to nature, clean air and water, growing local food, to name a few. However, your project cannot involve greening a business.

Please contact our Coordinator if you have a specific question, need support completing the application form, require translation assistance, would like something clarified, or simply want to learn more. This is a great opportunity to get involved in your community.

Jim Balakshin, Downtown Peninsula Program Coordinator
Neighbourhood Small Grants Program
(604) 683-2554