National Indigenous History Month: Cheyenne Bruneau on her grief and hope for the future

National-Indigenous-History-Month-2021

Cheyenne Bruneau

Program Manager

As National Indigenous History Month draws to a close, Cheyenne Bruneau, program manager for NSI’s Art of Business Management – Indigenous Edition, honours the event and shares some of her story.

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My Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) heritage is non-status Indigenous. I was named after my great-great-grandmother’s tribe; she had to flee from her community of Cheyenne and her path led to Canada where her Indigenous roots went on to entwine with African descendants. Cree is also mixed in the French part of my heritage. I explain this because my ancestry has a pattern of displacement and, while I was born in Canada, I do not belong to a specific community in this country.

In essence, my Indigeneity is rooted in spirituality, as I feel a profound connection to my ancestors, the Creator and Mother Earth. My voice is but a single drop in the water of millions of Indigenous peoples; the only story I can share is what I’ve experienced.

Ten years ago, I became curious about my lineage because, at that time, I mostly knew the history of slavery in the United States, and how the government had stripped the land from Indigenous peoples for the inception of North America. I kept asking “But what else happened in Canada?,” so I began researching Canada’s hushed histories for a university paper.

Discovering the hidden truths about Africville guided me to learn about the Sixties Scoop and residential schools. After privately wailing in sorrow for the oppressed souls, I turned to the medicine of songwriting as an outlet for expression.

Flash-forward a decade, and our country collectively mourns the children who have been waiting to be found. For far too long, Indigenous peoples’ voices have been muffled, and now Canadians are listening. The world is listening.

For those grieving, please offer yourself gentleness during grief. It is important to note that with each announcement of residential school graves, the news profoundly impacts every Indigenous person each time. I no longer find the news surprising, but it’s like reopening a wound on the soul, as sorrow ripples across generations.

For survivors to be believed marks the beginning of a collective healing. Through healing intergenerational trauma, there is also the discovery of intergenerational wisdom.

A hopeful ember burns in my heart as we are witnessing the blossoming of a movement within the screen industry where Indigenous voices are being amplified and embraced.

Platforms are celebrating culture and the continuation of the very traditions which were once forced to be held in secret. History is being rewritten as truths are being brought to light. While we acknowledge the shadows and invisible shackles that built this country, we must also recognize the accomplishments and resilience within the communities – the many facets that define Indigenous peoples.

What steps will you take to better understand the history of Indigenous peoples? This week I am starting a free online course offered by the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta, because learning is a continuous journey.

This is a time for us all to deepen our understanding of the past so we may move forward more mindfully.


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