The Decade of Indigenous Truth: top news stories of 2010s

In a real victory for Indigenous voices across Turtle Island, the 2010s have undeniably been the decade of Indigenous truth.

An increase in awareness to Indigenous issues has largely been brought by the blood, sweat and tears of grassroots advocates. But a spike in Indigenous political leaders, journalists, and thought influencers have for the first time in Canadian history brought stories for us, by us to the forefront of mainstream news often resulting in needed social change. Although many of the stories have been tragic, confrontational or controversial — it has still been a good decade to be Indigenous!

Here are some of the top stories of the 2010s.

The Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission holds its first national survivors event in Winnipeg.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada adds 62 new names to a list of Indigenous women believed to be missing or murdered in Canada — bringing the total number of unresolved cases to 582.

Vancouver hosts the 2010 Winter Olympics. Four Indigenous nations: the Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh are official partners and launch the games in a historic Opening Ceremony performed by First Nations, Metis and Inuit youth and artists from across Canada.

Canada amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to include protecting First Nations people living on reserve. The act initially excluded on reserve status Indians in 1977.

Red Cross officials were mobilized to Attawapiskat to respond to the community’s housing crisis. UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya expressed grave concerns about the ongoing housing crisis and systemic underfunding in the community that has resulted about five families living in tents and another 19 families living in sheds with no plumbing.

Nationwide ‘Idle No More’ protests brought out hundreds of thousands of supporters across Canada in response to Stephen Harper’s Conservative Bill C-45. The omnibus bill included proposed changes to the Indian Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act and Environmental Assessment Act — diminishing the rights of Indigenous people in protecting their traditional territories.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence occupies space on Victoria Island near Ottawa and began a 6-week hunger strike, demanding justice for all First Nations in Canada. Spence said, “I am willing to die for my people because the pain is too much and it’s time for the government to realize what it’s doing to us.”

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives releases a study showing half of First Nations children in Canada live in poverty. The results are higher for Indigenous children in Saskatchewan and Manitoba with two-thirds living below the poverty line. The numbers reported were higher than twice the national average for non-Indigenous children.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People James Anaya wraps up a nine day fact-finding mission in Canada. Anaya says the country is facing a crisis and called for a national inquiry into the case of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Mi’kmaq land defenders protest hydro-fracking on their traditional territory near Elsipogtog, New Brunswick. About 40 people were arrested after protesters and police clashed on October 17. Elders were pepper-sprayed and land defenders were injured while police used bean bag rounds and dogs to control crowds.

The body of 15 year old Tina Fontaine was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg, increasing the pressure on the federal government to launch a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. RCMP released a report saying there were nearly 1200 missing and murdered in Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper later told CBC host Peter Mansbridge that the crisis “isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest”.

First Nations chiefs reject the Harper government’s Bill C-33, the First Nations Education Act. Manitoba Chief Derek Nepinak said the law was furthering colonial authority of education on-reserve to provincial ministers instead of First Nations communities having authority over educating their own children. The bill failed, and then-AFN Chief Shawn Atleo resigned saying he did not want to be a “lightening rod” on the issue.

Perry Bellegarde of Saskatchewan is elected National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He beats out two other candidates with 60% of the vote.

Justice Gethin Edward ruled that a family’s decision to pursue traditional medicine in the treatment of their child who was diagnosed with leukaemia is her aboriginal right. The ruling sparked national controversy and followed two separate cases of Indigenous girls from Six Nations who refused chemotherapy in favour of traditional Indigenous medicine.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued it’s final report, calling the Indian Residential School system in Canada an act of “cultural genocide”.

Justin Trudeau is elected Prime Minister. The Liberals hold a record of 10 Indigenous MPs — with Jody Wilson-Raybould and Hunter Tootoo taking key cabinet positions. The government announces the first phase of a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota drew water protectors from Indigenous nations across the globe in a united fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. It was the most aggressive move against Indigenous protests in the entire decade with sound cannons, guard dogs, pepper spray, rubber bullets, tear canisters and fire hoses being launched on protesters for weeks in sub-zero temperatures. Over 500 people were arrested and charged.

The National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls began it’s official work in September.

Contaminated or non-existent water treatment systems on First Nations across Canada hits national news after pictures surface of multiple children suffering from dramatic rashes in Kashchechewan. The story draws attention to the lack of basic infrastructure funding resulting in 134 First Nations in Canada, most of them in remote areas of Northern Ontario, enduring decades-long boil water advisories.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett attends the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to officially remove it’s objector status to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rules that the federal government discriminates against First Nations children on reserve by chronically underfunding child welfare services compared to the funding children receive elsewhere in Canada.

Over 50 First Nations communities sign onto the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion. The agreement aligns those nations to help one another in the battle against the oil industry pushing itself onto their traditional territory through pipeline development, oilsands expansion or oil exploration.

News breaks of an Indigenous inmate, Adam Capay, being kept in solitary confinement for over 1600 days in a Thunder Bay jail.

A coroner’s inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations youth in Thunder Bay finds four for the seven youth died in an undetermined manner. The inquest made 145 recommendations to the federal and provincial governments and shone a light on systemic and overt racism toward Indigenous people plaguing the city of Thunder Bay.

Ottawa announced an $800 million dollar settlement with survivors of the ’60’s Scoop’. The settlement ends an eight year legal battle and covers thousands of children who were forcibly removed from their families and communities, often adopted to non-Indigenous families in other countries.

Barbara Kentner, who was hit by a trailer hitch thrown from a passing vehicle in January, dies in a Thunder Bay hospital from her injuries sustained in the attack. Statistics Canada announces that racially motivated violence in Thunder Bay accounts for 30% of all hate crimes in Canada.

The Trudeau government does away with the Department of Indian Affairs and splits the department into two new branches of government: Jane Philpott was appointed to lead Indigenous Services Canada and Carolyn Bennett leading the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

Over 5000 Indigenous youth athletes travelled to the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto. Six Nations of the Grand River were host to the NAIG lacrosse and cultural events.

Harper appointee Senator Lynn Beyak was removed from the Conservative National Caucus after the lawmaker published racist letters about Indigenous people to her website. Beyak was later suspended in the spring of 2019 but returned to service in November. The Ontario senator said she believes she is being punished for exercising her right to free speech.

The accused in three high profile murder trials of Indigenous victims are all acquitted. Gerald Stanley is acquitted in the shooting death of Colten Boushie. Raymond Courmier was acquitted in the death of Tina Fontaine. Peter Khill was acquitted in the shooting death of Jonathan Styres. The three cases sparked peaking nationwide outrage that there is a lack of justice for Indigenous people in Canada’s legal system.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promises new legal framework for Indigenous people in Canada. The pledge is part of a new implementation of Indigenous rights framework by Trudeau’s Liberals.

Federal Court of Appeal released its decision to overturn the approval of the Transmountain pipeline, halting the project. The court said Trudeau’s Liberal government did not adequately consult First Nations communities that would be affected by the pipeline’s expansion.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls concludes, reporting a Canadian genocide of Indigenous people that in part makes up the colonial structures resulting in disproportionate numbers of Indigenous women and girls going missing or being victim to murder.

Police arrested 14 people on a northern B.C. forestry road who were protesting a gas pipeline going through the traditional territory of B.C.’s Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

The Attorney General of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould resigns in the wake of pressure from the Prime Minister’s office to halt criminal prosecution of SNC Lavalin on fraud and corruption charges.

A settlement is reached in the class-action case against Canada for survivors of Indian Day Schools. Up to 140,000 former students are entitled to compensation for schools that the federal government operated through to the 1990s.

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