BCITFSA Board Member Zaa Joseph, who’s been at BCIT for 14 years, reflects on National Indigenous Peoples Day, his ancestry, and family who reside here in Vancouver and up in the Middle River, BC.
I value being able to see National Indigenous Peoples Day through the eyes of my daughter. She is of mixed descent, Dakelh and Norwegian. She is getting to know herself as an Indigenous person—a status First Nation female-identifying girl.
This day means that her and I can learn more about who we are as Indigenous people, including the horrible history of residential schools. She has visited our Tl’azt’en Nation community many times, knows a lot of her family, and is becoming confident in sharing this knowledge in her high school classes. National Indigenous Peoples Day recognizes the strengths and gifts of Indigenous youth, encouraging them to express these openly and freely. In Canada, this has not always been the case.
I am the son of a residential school survivor. My father had our traditional knowledge removed from him, forcibly by Canada’s Indian Agents. It is no surprise that he did not freely share our Dakelh language. Why would he with schools disallowing our language ? As we move forward, I have the image of my late father and my daughter walking freely in mother nature, each having to face challenges and racism in their way, yet with the strength of our community to push forward.
Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships at BCIT have great resources to learn more about Indigenous histories and ways to get involved, so faculty and staff can equip our youth and students in our classrooms with Canada’s actual history in order to walk side by side with First Nations, Metis and Inuit people.
Zaa Joseph, BCITFSA Board Member