Originally written May 2017
Canada is celebrating 150 years since confederation this year. Although this is an admirable milestone in some ways, for indigenous people it’s a perpetuation of the false perception that Canada was born 150 years ago, and all previous human existence and activity prior to that time in this region are irrelevant.
Since copious archaeological evidence has been unearthed proving the presence of human civilization in this region of the planet dating back 13,000 years at least, it’s understandable that many indigenous people are offended by these birthday celebrations.
During a tour of Louisbourg, I gained some insight into a root cause of the conflict indigenous people have with settlers. The representative of the historical inhabitants of this land at Fortress Louisbourg explained that the indigenous people have a fundamental cultural construct of sharing. Hence, when the settlers arrived and they wanted access to the land and resources, from the indigenous perspective the native people agreed to share. But they didn’t realize that these new visitors didn’t have their same perspective or construct. They didn’t realize that saying yes to visitors who had different ideas of their relationship to others and the land would so severely undermine the first peoples’ way of life.
Imagine someone stops by your house and you let them in to offer them shelter, and soon they’re taking over and locking you in the basement. You try to relate to them from your paradigm, but it just doesn’t work. They keep taking more and more control over your lives and you try to do everything you can to protect your way of life, but like a virus, the new construct takes over, and you are left betrayed, bewildered, frustrated, confused, and angry. And then they start harvesting your children and taking them away and hurting them, while you’re still locked in the basement.
One of the toughest lessons I learned in my life is that not everyone has the same values as me. But before I learned that lesson, I had to pay dearly.
The First Peoples of this land have paid enough. At this juncture of celebrating 150 years as the nation Canada, it’s time we sit at the table together and decide together where we go from here. The Indigenous People know this land better than anyone. Their voice is essential in conversations and collective decisions from here on.
Now is the time to turn recognition to action. Learn more at Recognition2Action.ca