National Indigenous Peoples Day reflects on past and ways to build a brighter future

On June 21, Express Scripts Canada held a virtual celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day. The event featured a mix of Indigenous storytelling and sharing, and demonstrated how Express Scripts Canada continues to honour its commitment to support healthy Indigenous communities and create a better future, together.

Citing the company’s Peel Region head office location, Express Scripts Canada President Dorian Lo began with a land recognition, and expressed gratitude for the opportunity “to work on this land, and by doing so, give our respect to its first inhabitants.” Dr. Lo pointedly recognized the remains of 215 Indigenous children recently discovered at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C. He noted how generations of Indigenous communities across Canada have lived with the trauma and legacy of this system, and why now, more than ever, Canadians must support the journey of reconciliation. 

One way that Express Scripts Canada demonstrates its support is through the Legacy Space in its Mississauga office lobby. Through a partnership with the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, the Legacy Space is dedicated to the advancement of education regarding Indigenous history. The first of its kind in Mississauga, the space provides opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to connect, learn and grow together on a path towards reconciliation. 

David Carriere-Acco, President and CEO of Acosys Consulting, acted as emcee for the virtual celebration. A Cree-Métis David descended from Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, and is a member of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation. He added context to the meaning of reconciliation: “It means putting things back in the right order. We started off as a nation-to-nation relationship; somehow we became wards of the state. One of the ways is through acknowledgment as Dorian did—acknowledgement not just of those who were here before, but who’s here now. We don’t own the land, we borrow it. Seek permission to borrow it.” 

He believes part of the reconciliation process also comes down to just “chatting with Indigenous people over the fence, at the water cooler, in different communities in the spirit of gathering. Just as in this virtual powwow, it’s not just Indigenous people here—we are all here together.”

The event featured an exciting recent project: an ongoing Indigenous art initiative, made possible through collaboration between Express Scripts Canada, Mississauga Arts Council and local Indigenous artists. The first of four installations, titled Native Spirits, was created by Nyle Johnston, an artist from the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation. “What this particular artwork represents is a partnership amongst all of us to be able to deliver a forum for freedom of expression, whether it be through the visual arts, storytelling or other forums of creativity,” said Christine Griffin, Senior Director, Client Services and Account Management at Express Scripts Canada. 

As elders play an invaluable role in Indigenous culture, a key part of the event showcased teachings from Elder Otsi’tsaken:ra (Charles) Patton, a respected Mohawk Faith Keeper from the Kahnawake community. He first shared in his Kanien’keha language, then translated to English. “We should always take the time to give thanks to things that give us life.” He spoke of Mother Earth as the ultimate giver of life as well as of medicines, food, trees, animals, the elements and all the things that work together to make up the cycle of life including the Creator. Reconciliation must also happen with the earth, not just among people.

A video dance presentation followed to share histories, meanings and demonstrations of several Indigenous dance styles including the women’s jingle dress dance, the grass dance, the men’s traditional, the fancy shawl dress and the hoop dance. 

The virtual powwow wrapped with a Q&A to offer another chance for Indigenous members of Express Scripts Canada to share their heritage and for attendees to ask questions. Dorian summed up the event aptly: “We were educated, challenged and celebrated, and it continues. There is so much for each of us to think about, honour, and take action on as we take steps towards reconciliation.”