Our Home and Native Land
By Jemmy Echaquan Dubé
Multidisciplinary artist, spokesperson for the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Youth Network, and a SEEK MORE ambassador.
While a national holiday is generally a time for people to celebrate the pride they feel in their nation, many Indigenous people feel they really have nothing to celebrate whether it’s June 24 or July 1. Sure, it’s nice to be invited to the celebrations, but when the party’s over and everyone goes home, the extended hand too often disappears until next year.
It’s easy to forget to what extent the origins of the Quebec nation are inextricably linked to the First Nations and the Inuit…even when June itself is officially designated as National Indigenous History Month. To properly honour their nationhood, all people in Quebec should celebrate together all month long.
This persistent lack of concern about our national past is understandable. Recent events prove once again the lengths authorities across Canada were ready to go to erase the very essence of who we are. The bodies of 215 innocent Indigenous children discovered in May is a brutal reminder. Not to mention the 357 more bodies discovered since then. And how many others over the years have been deprived of the right to live, to be loved, and to pass on the treasures of their culture? So many shining lights extinguished forever.
What does give us hope is that voices everywhere are now being raised to tell our history and our inspiring stories from a myriad of perspectives. The voices are many. The voices are varied. The voices are proud. Never again will we be condemned to silence.
These voices follow in the footsteps of pioneers like the revered Alanis Obomsawin, who’s put our lives on screens around the world for all to see. Outstanding women like Manon Barbeau who brought her Wapikoni Mobile organization into isolated villages to give more of us the opportunity to be heard. They’re among the role models that have given us the desire to create, to tell our story, to think big, and to proudly display our colours. They’ve not only rekindled our dignity, but for many like me, an Atikamekw and an artist, they are the wind beneath our wings.
Today, many are following in their footsteps, like documentary filmmaker and sociologist Kim O’Bomsawin, who I’ve had the privilege of working with. Her films, including Quiet Killing about the scourge of femicide, or Call Me Human about the remarkable poet Josephine Bacon, present a powerful mirror of who we are.
The young director Raymond Caplin from Listuguj in the Gaspésie also comes to mind. With his first animated film Dans ton cœur picking up awards in a number of festivals, he’s one dropout who’s on the way up. He was accepted for an internship at a prestigious school in Paris and admitted to Concordia University without a high school certificate.
It’s because of artists like these and many others that I agreed to become one of the ambassadors for the SEEK MORE campaign, to promote the great wealth of works and creators from all walks of our national life, including the Indigenous. The more accessible our content is, the more sought after and enjoyed our culture will be.
From the small to the big screen, from schools to festivals, our content is reaching an ever-growing and ever-more-interested public, helping to demystify who we are, breaking down prejudices, raising awareness, and creating a real conversation from a variety of perspectives. Above all, it’s giving thousands of Indigenous Quebecers the recognition they need on screen for a more accurate and more current reflection of the Quebec we live in today.
May this real Quebec be more and more visible as we celebrate Quebec Day this year. May we see beyond the stereotypes, the symbols, and the lofty speeches. May the extended hand stay that way. May the cameras keep on rolling. May we take full advantage of this patriotic moment to begin a true dialogue of reconciliation. Because the only way we can grow as Quebecers, is by getting to know each other better.