Confusion around Indigenous funding cuts, advocate says

Aylan Couchie is circulating a petition to save the Indigenous Culture Fund.

Aylan Couchie trying to save language, culture as cutbacks rattle Indigenous community

Artist and writer Aylan Couchie says there is some confusion about what the Indigenous Culture Fund supports. (Aylan Couchie)

Aylan Couchie is circulating a petition to save the Indigenous Culture Fund.

The artist and writer from the Nipissing First Nation, said the PC government cut the $5 million fund almost in half and froze the rest last fall.

The fund had been established as a directive of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Couchie had planned to apply for money to create a digital archive of stories and history from knowledge keepers in her community.

"I was thinking about every time we lose an elder, we lose a whole swath of knowledge," Couchie said.

The goal of the project was to provide a step toward reconciliation by funding the revitalization of Indigenous culture and language.

But Couchie said there may be some confusion around what the program actually funds.

"Our biggest challenge right now is that people think it's about the arts, but it's not," Couchie said. "That's simply because unfortunately the people who are being the loudest about it are artists."

Couchie joined a protest against the cuts at Queen's Park Tuesday, where she circulated a petition calling on the Ford government to reverse those cuts.

Sol Mamakwa, MPP for Kiiwetinoong, was one of the people supporting the petition.

He said the cuts are the latest in the erosion of other steps to reconciliation, including cuts to Indigenous curriculum in schools, and the recent elimination of the Children's advocate.

"We are hearing many other things that will be cut in the future," Mamakwa said. "The government is on track to take opportunities for healing and growth away from Indigenous people."