The Western world was in mourning when it learned that Russia had invaded the neighbouring country of Ukraine in the early morning hours last Thursday and since then, social media has become a maelstrom of memes, opinions, information – and disinformation.
But Indigenous groups across Canada have come out in droves to support the Ukraine against the unprovoked invasion.
One touching example of this support has been demonstrated among the Cree in Western Canada and Anishinaabe peoples in Northern Ontario, after a popular TikTok video by JayRoy Makokis explained the significance of the headscarf now being worn by Indigenous people all over social media in solidarity with the Ukraine: the Kookum Scarf.
The scarf is a symbol of the friendship formed many years ago between the first Ukrainian settlers and the Cree people, he explained. Makokis hails from the Saddle Creek First Nation in Alberta.
They helped each other and traded with each other in the early days and continue to do so.
“There was a very strong bond, especially here in Saddle Creek First Nation,” he said, adding that to this day, local Ukrainians come to the reserve to sell their goods and interact with each other.
“There’s just a mutual respect, a historical respect,” he said.
The scarf is a brightly coloured and intricately designed piece of cloth featuring elaborate flower patterns that many Ukrainian women wear over the heads.
And you’ll also see Cree women wearing the scarves.
“You’ll still see to this day our old people, the old ladies, wearing them in ceremony,” said Makokis.
Young warriors wear them on their heads.
“It gives us pride. We feel very powerful with our scarves on our head.”
Indigenous people of all ages are now taking selfies wearing their kookums.
He asked Indigenous people across Turtle Island to pray, “for our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine. Pray from your heart. Believe in your prayer. Prayer is so powerful. Prayer is what got us through so many difficult times.”