Justin Trudeau signals new approach to relationship with indigenous people
Ceremony included recognition of traditional Algonquin territory and performances from indigenous children
The first sign that this government is taking a new approach to its relationship with indigenous people came when Theland Kicknosway, a 12-year-old Cree drummer, led the way into Rideau Hall today for the swearing-in of Justin Trudeau and his cabinet.
There has been indigenous participation in the past, but today's ceremony was clearly meant to symbolize a new relationship with indigenous people and the government of Canada.
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The Cree boy's song ended and was quickly followed with an acknowledgement the gathering was on traditional Algonquin territory.
The ceremony also featured giggling Inuit throat singers who stole the show and wrapped up with three Métis jiggers.
Two indigenous ministers were sworn into Trudeau's cabinet: Jody Wilson-Raybould (Kwakwaka'wakw) was named minister of justice; and Hunter Tootoo (Inuit) is the new minister of fisheries and the Canadian Coast Guard.
But perhaps the most symbolic change was the renaming of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs to Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
The new minister is longtime aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett, who held an eagle feather and a braid of sweetgrass as she was sworn in.
Hayden King, professor of Indigenous governance at Ryerson University, says the name change will be welcome in the indigenous community.
"Obviously Trudeau wants to be sensitive to indigenous people and the name change reflects a change in approach — it's adopting our language. In that sense it's hard to critique the change."
King said the term indigenous has become preferred over aboriginal.
"I think indigenous is a term that actual native people, indigenous peoples, originated themselves. It comes from us as a people, so I think that's one reason that people prefer it."
"Aboriginal is kind of a status, legal, domestication of indigenous concerns, whereas indigenous or indigeneity is kind of sovereigntist, more authentic term used by indigenous people themselves."
A video of Theland's drumming posted on Facebook quickly gained thousands of views and shares.
And many of the comments contain the word hope.
But King is not convinced the symbolism will result in the "real change" that Trudeau has promised indigenous Canadians.
"Everybody wants to be hopeful. I want to be hopeful, I want to be optimistic, but I am a student of history and my reservoir of cynicism is deep. There do seem to be some positive signs, but at the same time, we know what is going to happen."
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