'To call myself Canadian would speak to the success of residential schools'
"I would not identify as Indigenous Canadian or Canadian," says Mylan Tootoosis, a PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan in the Department of Indigenous Studies.
'If you look through the TRC Report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, the goal of residential school was to make Indigenous bodies acceptable to colonialism and colonization. The goal was to make Canadians.
"So, for me personally, to call myself Canadian would speak to the success of residential school."
Instead, Tootoosis identifies as Nêhiyawpwat (Plains Cree-Nakota) from Poundmaker Cree Nation, in Treaty Six Territory.
He chooses to use the term Nêhiyawpwat because it is rooted "within our language that tie[s] me to a landscape and a people that have been here forever."
But also because Tootoosis says that growing up in rural Saskatchewan, racism is still visible to this day, where he's experienced being 'othered.'
"These are my homelands. This is my holy land to be on the prairie and live here. This is where my sense of belonging truly is. However, when we're looking at the structures and the systems of colonialism and colonization, they are very offensive and aggressive in terms of who they want me to be...So, me choosing to stand in the truth of my Indigenous identity, my inherent rights as an Indigenous person on this landscape, is the truth that I choose to live by."