Sunday is National Indigenous People's Day

National Indigenous People’s Day is coming up on Sunday, June 21 and it is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate Indigenous people, art, and culture as well as reflect on the work needed to embrace decolonizing practices in the land we call Canada.  June is also Indigenous History Month. Over the course of the month, we have shared some resources highlighting Indigenous authors, artists, and events and there are more at the bottom of this article.Today we celebrate Indigenous folks, their many accomplishments, and roles as storytellers and land protectors.

Living in British Columbia means that we live on the land of many different First Nations, much of unceded, and 38 Métis Charter Communities. Our Provincial Office is located on the traditional and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Peoples, and we appreciate the beauty of the land they have cultivated for thousands of years. As a provincial organization we work in and deliver services to many communities that are on predominantly unceded traditional territories; we are also in 32 of 38 Métis Chartered Communities. 

As a sexual and reproductive health organization, we recognize that there is a role for us to play moving forward; listening to the words of Indigenous folx, and committing to the actionable items in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We are invested in working in respectful partnership with First Nations Health Authority and Métis Nation BC to provide access, care, and services from an anti-oppression and anti-racist framework. Sexual and reproductive health have been used against Indigenous womxn as part of colonialism; restricting rights, limiting access, and forced sterilization are some of the many ways choice has been taken from Indigenous womxn. 

We thought we would take this opportunity to highlight a partnership Options’ recently formed with the team at Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC). MNBC was established in 1996 and continues to evolve today as an accountable governance structure, working on behalf of the 89,405 Métis people in BC (2016 Census) including over 20,500 provincial registered Métis Citizens. In BC, there are currently thirty-eight (38) Métis Chartered Communities with registered community members, in seven regions throughout BC. The provincial Board of Directors of MNBC, along with the Métis Women of BC (MW-BC) and the Métis Youth of BC (MY-BC) are elected by Métis Citizens through provincial mail-in elections.

In November 2016 MNBC signed a historic bilateral agreement with the Provincial Government. The Métis Nation Relationship Accord II (MNRA II) provides the framework for the Province of BC and for MNBC to strengthen existing relationships, including those formed by the Tripartite Self-Government Negotiations (TSN) Process. The Accord also provides support to move forward collaboratively to close the gap in the quality of life of Métis Citizens in relation to Non-Aboriginal residents of BC. The MNRA II highlights Health as one of the nine priorities. This historic agreement is in part due to the Daniels Decision at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Options and MNBC were brought together by data within the most recent McCreary Centre Society Métis Youth report which collates information from the 2018 Adolescent Health Survey. Of the 38,000 youth that responded to the survey approximately 3% identified as Métis and this reflected 32% of Indigenous youth. When reviewing the sexual health stats for Métis youth it was this finding that sparked the dialogue between our two organizations: 
‘When asked specifically about measures they took to prevent pregnancy, there was a decrease in the percentage of Métis youth who used a condom (from 65% in 2013 to 55%, among those who ever had intercourse), and an increase in those using withdrawal as their only contraceptive method (from 5% to 9%) or as one of the methods they used (from 31% to 46%).

Options’ is working on communications that embrace and reflect Metis youth with images and colours that connect to their Métis roots. Loosely coined the ‘Let’s get Riel about safer sex’ campaign the two teams are developing posters, social media ads, and condom packaging with the goal of shifting these numbers in a different direction. We are grateful for the opportunity and embrace the learning from it.

We hope you join us in recognizing and celebrating Indigenous peoples today and every day.

Looking for ways to support your own learning? Here are some resources for National Indigenous People's Day and National Indigenous History Month:
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