Regina group has Aboriginal History Month declared by federal government
By Samantha Maciag, Leader-Post June 12, 2009
REGINA — After two years of hard work, a small group of Regina residents are being credited for helping turn an important provincial event into a national one.
The Regina Aboriginal Professionals Association (RAPA) has been the driving force behind Saskatchewan Aboriginal History Month since June 2007.
Last week, a motion in the House of Commons from Jean Crowder, New Democrat Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan in B.C., received unanimous consent, declaring June as National Aboriginal History Month.
“I think there’s a lot of credit to (RAPA) for their persistence, because they got the ball rolling,” Crowder said in an interview.
Marjorie Lavallee, president of RAPA, said the group’s intention was to have this kind of national impact, but admitted that they didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.
“I think it was because of the concerted effort of our executive, that we were speaking to a lot of people about it and asking in all sincerity that it should be recognized, that we should have something for all of Canada because there is a serious omission of the history within the history of aboriginal people,” she said.
National Aboriginal History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the rich history, culture, and contributions of aboriginal people to Canada, Crowder said, and also to educate non-aboriginal Canadians. Lavallee agrees.
“I think to honour and acknowledge aboriginal people is very important,” she said. “Even our lost ancestors, our ancestors that have gone past, our elders — they are the doctors and the philosophers and we don’t give recognition to those (people) in the history books.”
In 2007, RAPA called on the federal government to get involved. Crowder was immediately on board but failed to pass a similar motion the same year.
“You have to get all-party consent to have a motion like this passed in the House, and I didn’t get it two years ago,” she said.
Afterward she worked behind the scenes, talking with critics and the parliamentary secretary, who worked with their respective parties. Eventually they were able to get all-party agreement to pass the motion.
“I think it’s been a maturation in Parliament … I just think there’s enough members around that have figured out that they can accomplish things by working together,” she said.
“It’s a statement in principle,” she said. “This is actually how Black History Month started — there was a statement in principle in Parliament, and then over a number of years there’s been more profile, more interest, some money … So that’s what I’m hoping to set in motion with this.”
***I was one of the original members of RAPA to help work on this endeavor