Canadian Geographic - - YOUR SOCIETY - —Alexan­dra Pope

As a child in a res­i­den­tial school, Com­mis­sioner of Nu­navut Nel­lie Kusugak never heard her lan­guage spo­ken, nor could she find her birth­place of Arviat marked on maps of Canada. “It made you won­der: do we even mat­ter?” she said. Now, thanks to the Indige­nous Peo­ples At­las of Canada, Inuit, Métis and First Na­tions peo­ple have a new op­por­tu­nity to see them­selves on the map of Canada, and Cana­di­ans have the chance to learn how Indige­nous Peo­ples gave shape and mean­ing to this land for thou­sands of years be­fore Euro­pean con­tact. Kusugak was one of 200 peo­ple who gath­ered at 50 Sus­sex in Ot­tawa on Na­tional Indige­nous Peo­ples Day (June 21) to cel­e­brate the com­ple­tion of this ground­break­ing ed­u­ca­tional re­source, pro­duced by the RCGS with the sup­port of Her­itage Canada and in part­ner­ship with the Na­tional Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, the Assem­bly of First Na­tions, the Métis Na­tional Coun­cil, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Ind­spire. “We’ve come a long way,” Kusugak said. “We have so many op­por­tu­ni­ties as Indige­nous Peo­ples to­day that I did not have.” That op­ti­mism was echoed by the other project part­ners, in­clud­ing Natan Obed, pres­i­dent of ITK, and Oliver Boulette on be­half of the Métis Na­tional Coun­cil, who spoke sur­rounded by a panoramic view of the Ot­tawa River on the tra­di­tional un­ceded ter­ri­tory of the Al­go­nquin peo­ple. John Geiger, the CEO of the RCGS, thanked the project’s con­trib­u­tors, say­ing that their ef­forts cre­ated a re­source that is an ex­am­ple to the world. “This at­las will help en­sure that Indige­nous voices in ev­ery part of this coun­try and through­out the world are heard and un­der­stood,” he said. Mélanie Joly, [now the for­mer] min­is­ter of Cana­dian her­itage, said that when the IPAC project was an­nounced one year be­fore to the day, it sig­nalled the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s readi­ness to turn apol­ogy into ac­tion and re­new its re­la­tion­ship with Indige­nous Peo­ples in Canada. “This gives a right­ful place to the sto­ries and per­spec­tives of the peo­ples who have cared for and helped shape this land.” Ry Mo­ran, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ( TOP), con­cluded the evening by en­cour­ag­ing those gath­ered to think about how they will con­tinue to sup­port Indige­nous Peo­ples and rein­vest in cul­tural preser­va­tion: “Let’s cel­e­brate the Canada we’re go­ing to build. We haven’t got­ten there yet, but we are try­ing, and we are go­ing to make this coun­try bet­ter.”

‘We have so many op­por­tu­ni­ties as Indige­nous Peo­ples to­day that I did not have.’

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