RAPA – National Aboriginal History Month Press

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


7 thoughts on “RAPA – National Aboriginal History Month Press

  1. I have to admit when I heard this news last week – I was very proud that something I was a part of and believed in – garnered a national Canadian meaning…sends a warm feeling to my belly.

  2. Congrats Jason. I must admit you are the first “First nations” individual I have had meaningful conversations with. Me and the wife hope to get out your way in the near future to meet in person. 🙂

  3. That’s awesome. I pray that the momentum continues and that June will continue to be recognized as National Aboriginal History month each and every year. Kudos to RAPA and to you for your part in it.

  4. I think, as of now I am completely indifferent to this amount of “official” recognition. I can take it or leave it to be brutally honest. For instance, If ‘National Aboriginal Month’ manages to actually help young Aboriginal people discover something about themselves, their immense history (most of which has been bastardized and forever changed, thank capitalism), and then leads them into lifestyle choices that are positive then I would be all for it. But if this “month” is just a token gesture to garner some political support and much needed votes then I will remain indifferent (yes, the NDP plays that game too). We must bear in mind that the Aboriginal populations (primarily in the Prairies) are the fastest growing and youngest population in all of Canada and this has struck a chord with our politicians and their parties.

    In more brutal honesty, I would rather see a celebration based on pertinent statistical data that demonstrates significant employment increases, educational attainment levels being raised (particularly in post-secondary), and health standards in Aboriginal communities being addressed. Call me old fashioned, but a nice day in the park, then watching ‘North of 60’ all month long, and finally listening to boring-out of touch-corrupted-uneducated FSIN chiefs talk all day does not really cut if for me anymore. I just hope that something politically relevant comes out of this campaign.

    Having an Honours degree in PSCI, doing a Master’s degree directly based on Aboriginal political issues, and knowing the problems first hand I can safely say that I remain firmly skeptical.

    But is this a step forward? Perhaps. But I do not know and the numbers are not yet in for me to state that ‘we have overcome.’

  5. I agree – it’s a step forward – looking for more national recognition and respect for our cultural contribution to the very fabric of what makes Canada a fine country. You have to remember some 40 years back we couldn’t even dream of a day where our cultural festivities were being celebrated like they are today – we had family in jails called Residential schools being forced out of their own skins.

    So for me, it’s a push in the direction I want to see my community and my country go in – about damn time we got some respect. All week I seen Aboriginal programs on SCN – including pieces on Winston Wutenee and Buffy St. Marie…and I like that young kids get to see some role models on that boob tube instead of the same old sitcom garbage.

    The idea is the beginning of a movement in the right direction – yes we need better employment and moving out of the poorer aspects of society – but I aint foolish enough to believe it don’t take 2 cultures to make that dance work.

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