When Adam Beach was approached by Heritage Canada to act as one of the 150th anniversary ambassadors, he took some time to speculate on whether he should accept the role. As Canadians prepare festivities for the sesquicentennial this coming Canada Day, there is still a dark shadow cast over its historical relationship with Indigenous people.

“I have to be a representation of truth in regards to the horrific times over the last 150 years,” says the First Nations Golden Globe-nominated actor. The effects of the residential school system, the demolition of Indigenous languages, and the poverty experienced on reserves still resonate with Canada’s indigenous people.

Knowing this history still impacts his community, Beach sometimes finds it difficult to celebrate in the upcoming festivities. “Historically, we as native peoples are protectors of the lands and waters,” he says. So it is only right to share the somber sentiments of his community.

However, Beach says relationships are improving between Canadians and Indigenous people. Through government-funded programs like ones that supported his film career and the acceptance and implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he envisions a Canada that will right its wrongs.

“At the same time, I am able to say I’m happy and proud to be Canadian, because this is the soil of my ancestors and I carry that deep in my heart,” says Beach.

“No one will ever change that.”

Canadians should take this opportunity to educate themselves on Indigenous history, according to Beach. He recommends Canadians celebrate National Aboriginal day on June 21 and seize any opportunity to learn about the diverse cultures and history of Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

“There’s some differences we’ve had over the last 150 years, and I hope that our journey over the next 150 years will be able to resolve all of that,” says Beach.