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Kokum scarves honour relationship between Canada’s Indigenous and Ukrainian communities

The kokum scarves movement is a growing trend amongst Indigenous peoples to honour the historical relationship with the Ukraine community. Global Regina

Since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, people have rallied around the globe in support of Ukraine.

It also marked a time when people in Canada began to learn about the history between the Indigenous peoples and people from Ukraine who immigrated to the Prairies.

The historic relationship is on display in the so-called kokum scarves movement, in which Indigenous peoples are wearing the colourful Ukrainian scarves as a sign of solidarity.

Read more: Regina’s Euro Deli Kiev supporting native Ukraine no matter the sacrifice

Nadya Foty-Oneschuk, a professor of Ukrainian language and culture at the University of Saskatchewan, said that when Ukrainians started immigrating to Canada in 1891, they faced discrimination by other settlers. Yet when they crossed paths with Indigenous peoples, she said they were welcomed and treated with respect.

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“We are starting to hear more and more stories about the little-known history of friendship between the first wave of Ukrainian settlers and their Indigenous neighbours,” Foty-Oneschuk said.

“They truly helped each other when others discriminated against (the Ukrainians). They’ve always had a genuine connection.”

Foty-Oneschuk said they traded goods including the Ukrainian hustka, which Indigenous peoples adopted as kokum scarves.

Read more: Saskatchewan families worry for loved ones in Ukraine: ‘How do you tell people to stay calm?’

“That all resulted out of the friendship and partnership,” she said.

Candace Linklater, founder of Relentless Indigenous Women Inc., was one of many who encouraged Indigenous people across Canada to wear their kokum scarves to show support for the Ukrainian community.

“What we’re seeing is solidarity,” Linklater said. “We want to be with them in prayer to show that these kokum scarves are that symbol for that solidarity with Ukraine.”

Seeing so much global support, including the kokum scarf movement, gives those some comfort during a difficult time in Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian community appreciates that more than they know,” Foty-Oneschuk said.

Click to play video: 'Hundreds gathered in front of Saskatoon City Hall in solidarity for Ukraine.' Hundreds gathered in front of Saskatoon City Hall in solidarity for Ukraine.
Hundreds gathered in front of Saskatoon City Hall in solidarity for Ukraine – Feb 27, 2022

 

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