At the age of only one, Inez Cook, born in Bella Coola and a member of the Nuxálk Nation, was taken from her family and community. Inez is a survivor of the Sixties Scoop, a period in Canadian history from the 1950s to the 80s where thousands of Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and placed with non-Indigenous families.
As the host of the Women’s LEAD segment of The Wealth Exchange Podcast, I recently spoke with Inez, where she shared her story and her process of reconnecting with her community and culture. Known for her strength, determination and commitment to community, Inez is now an Indigenous leader, author, and owner of award-winning Salmon n’ Bannock, Vancouver’s only Indigenous restaurant.
For Inez, sharing her story plays an integral role in educating others and, more importantly, is part of her healing process. “Growing up in my [adopted] family, I felt like I grew up without culture,” she shared, “only as an adult am I able to recognize how difficult it is to reconnect with my heritage.”
While Inez is close to her adopted family and feels fortunate that she was one of the lucky ones to be placed in a loving family, she is deeply connected to her culture and has embarked on a journey to rediscover the culture she was born into.
On our recent podcast episode, Inez recounts her experience finding her long-lost family, attending her first potlatch, and rebuilding her identity as she integrates both the culture she was raised with and the culture she was born into. Here are five takeaways on how others can be allies in supporting Indigenous peoples and communities:
- Be informed. Seek out books, documentaries, interviews, conversations, and research from Indigenous authors, storytellers, and leaders, like Inez. While we acknowledge the importance of these shared stories and lived experiences, the onus is not on Indigenous people to educate. We have provided a list of resources at the bottom of this article to help you in your journey of learning and understanding.
- Speak with your community and challenge positions that perpetuate stereotypes. Ensure what you say is truthful and empowering. Small steps include speaking up when harmful words are spoken, having challenging yet informative discussions with your non-Indigenous friends, or researching the origins of terms you may be using every day, such as “hold down the fort” and “pow wow.”
- Understand privilege. It goes beyond acknowledging white privilege, it is using unseen, unconscious advantages to make a conscious decision to listen, learn and speak up for others. Especially those who do not bear the same privilege.
- We cannot have reconciliation until we have the truth. Only with truth, learning and understanding can there be ‘reconcili-ACTION’.
- Be proud of who you are. Everybody is unique, and that is the foundation on which the world and life are built. Embrace your personal traditions and cultures, and respect those of others.
Reconnection with her community and her heritage has been the foundation for Inez in her adulthood. Through this pursuit, she has successfully introduced Vancouver – and people from around the world – to the foods traditionally hunted, harvested, and eaten by Indigenous people on this land. Her passion for food has enabled Inez to create an opportunity for people to learn about Canada’s Indigenous peoples, helping to remove prejudice and ignorance which is still prevalent today.
Inez says while National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Day is a positive small step forward, much more work still needs to be done.
Resources for supporting and learning about Truth and Reconciliation
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report to understand what it means for Canadians, businesses, and our communities.
- Browse through Cree author David A. Robertson’s curated list of 48 books by Indigenous authors.
- Stream the National Film Board of Canada’s online collection of Indigenous-made short films.
- Read the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion‘s CCDI Commemoration Guide: National Day for TRC/Orange Shirt Day, a consolidated resource with multiple hyperlinks to CCDI’s extensive Knowledge Base of articles, webinars, and research on TRC.
- Some podcasts:
This material contains the current opinions of the author and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material is distributed for informational purposes only. Nicola Wealth is registered as a Portfolio Manager, Exempt Market Dealer and Investment Fund Manager with the required securities commissions.