January General Meeting : Canada 150+, The Indigenous Experience

We acknowledge that are meeting on land that was the traditional territory of ‎ the Neutral (Attawandaron), Anishnawbe, and Haudenosaunee peoples. This territory was the subject of the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between these nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes.

Pat Reavy welcomed Lori Campbell, a Metis-Cree-Scottish woman by presenting her with a tobacco tie. Lori was a child of the 60’s scoop and has spent her adult life reconnecting with her heritage while obtaining two Bachelor’s degrees (in Indigenous Studies and Psychology), a Master’s degree from the University of Regina. She is currently working on a PhD in Social Justice Education.

Lori Campbell

Guest Speaker Lori Campbell and CFUW-Stratford Program Chair Pat Reavy

Lori began, speaking in her native Cree, before translating into English her thanks for the tobacco tie, which she accepted in recognition of the positive thoughts and intentions attached to the gift. She explained that after accepting a tobacco tie, she would later burn the tie in a sacred fire so that these good thoughts and sentiments might rise to the Creator. She also appreciated the land acknowledgement that opened the meeting this evening. She emphasized that it was significant as it indicates acceptance and respect of Indigenous peoples.

Lori is part of Treaty 6 Northern Saskatchewan, but as part of the 60’s scoop, was taken from her family and community and adopted. She did not know her natural family until adulthood. She is the eldest of eight, all of whom were fostered or adopted. Her siblings did not know their stories either. They were among the 20,000 taken between 1951 and 1991.  These children’s rights to their culture were stolen.

All Canadian’s should be concerned about the relationship between government and Indigenous peoples. Even the actions of government-sponsored efforts at reconciliation are troubling . For example, the Truth and Reconciliation Council currently travelling across Canada will only listen to a person’s personal experience, not what that person may have observed happening to others, or to those children that died. In addition, the teachers and clergy involved in the residential school system are not telling their part of the story, so the process is woefully incomplete. Also, this commission does not address land issues at all. In the space of 150 years Indigenous peoples regressed from thriving to barely surviving. The water is contaminated – 150 indigenous communities lack drinking water, the land is depleted. More native children are in the care of the child welfare system now than in the 1960s-1970s.

Lori’s grandmother attended residential school, and her mother lost all her children to adoption.  Lori noted that the newest generation of indigenous children is over-represented in Canada’s child welfare system. There is a significant inter-generational gap in knowing how to parent and how to be a family.  Despite the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issuance of three orders to address the recognized discrimination against native children, nothing has changed.  The funding formula for school is fundamentally flawed, with indigenous children (education funded Federally) receiving thousands of dollars less per year than their non-indigenous counterparts (education funded Provincially).

The Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women cites time constraints as the main cause of the firing or resignation of twelve Board members. However there are other concerns. The inquiry does not address the root causes of violence against indigenous women and fails to address the role of the RCMP. The approach is one of pathologizing: assuming that indigenous peoples cannot care for themselves. Again, there must be accountability and perpetrators must be held responsible.  Lori noted that both non-indigenous and indigenous women are most likely to be harmed by non-indigenous assailants.

We need to disrupt the national narrative by introducing children to indigenous culture and books, films and stories, to be proactive in promoting a truer view of Canada.

Reconciliation is an interesting concept, defined as the restoration of friendly relations and/or of making disparate beliefs compatible. Reconciliation requires that we understand our history to understand our present situation, but we are misinformed by our history books. The children in residential schools were taught that native peoples were dirty and heathen, inferior to white people. Non-Indigenous children were largely taught the same ideas. The residential schools were propagandized in 1950’s television commercials. Furthermore, When the Chief Medical Officer of Canada, Dr. Bryce reported on the misuse and abuse occurring in residential schools, he was fired.

Other countries that have held similar reconciliation processes have also not had completely successful outcomes. Part of the problem might be that there is no one held to account in the process. This has led to a call to action to explore ways that government might be held responsible. It is important for citizens to read the summaries and to discuss them widely. How do we reconcile?

In 1996, a $60 million report entitled the “Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples” was released, but  little was done to follow up on its findings and recommendations. Ironically, education got us into this situation and education has the best chance of getting us out.  For example, the story of Sir John A. MacDonald is not complete- it needs to be fleshed out to make him less hero, more human. The Jewish Holocaust is taught in schools,  so the eradication of indigenous peoples and the history of residential schools will also become part of the school curriculum.

What can citizens do?

  • Be an Ally. The CBC has a link to indigenous authors that will enlighten and inform.
  • Speak and share with like-minded people
  • Believe when Indigenous peoples tell their stories
  • Look at representation in Boardrooms, Council Chambers and Senates
  • Imagine Canada in 20 years- what will our children and grandchildren think of our actions
  • Create a new and representative nation

Here is a link to 150 acts of reconciliation in the last 150 days of Canada’s 150th year.

150 Acts of Reconciliation

Jane Cook thanked Lori for her thought-provoking and fascinating presentation and invited further discussion during the break.

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