The text from a progressive-minded cousin was almost angry, demanding to know why so much political oxygen is being spent on Indigenous people’s issues.
He understood the version of history he’d been taught in Ontario on Indigenous matters was far from the truth. And he realized the need for reconciliation of the white majority with the Native population.
His dislike of Indigenous matters sucking up most of the political oxygen is based on a passion for climate change action: To him the only searing issue of the day should be climate change.
His inability to understand the importance of Indigenous issues comes not from wrong-headed stereotypes of Indigenous people as lazy and prone to alcoholism.
It comes from genuine fear for the fate of the planet if measures to reduce climate change impacts aren’t the main part of political policies.
To better understand the need for truth and reconciliation one ought to walk a ways in Indigenous foot wear.
Since the 1870s, these original inhabitants and owners of the land have been mistreated. They were put on reserves after signing treaties with great promises. Even some of the reserve lands were stolen without permission or payment.
On the reserves they were prisoners, only allowed to leave if the local Indian agent agreed. They were placed on welfare, robbed of their dignity, not allowed to practice their religion or culture.
Imagine the uproar if Christians or other religions were forbidden from practising their ways.
Our political leaders and most voters back then looked upon the Indigenous people as heathens, un-Christian, needing salvation from a Christian God.
From 1876 until 1960, Indigenous people were only allowed to vote if they renounced their culture and became Canadian citizens. In 1960 they got the vote and permission to leave the reserves without approval.
They were considered sub-human with attempts to kill their language, culture and customs in the residential school system — a system rife with emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
These abuses only became known and credible to most of Canada during the Truth And Reconciliation Commission. Even then many did not believe the stories, or even pay attention.
Discovery of unmarked graves at several sites of residential schools brought the horrors of these schools to public attention.
The issue is gulping so much political oxygen simply because this is one huge opportunity for Indigenous people to make others aware of their terrible suffering and depravation — suffering that has shown up in successive generations with insufficient parenting skills, family violence and substance abuse.
Graduates of residential schools had no way of learning parenting skills.
This offers an opportunity to make everyone aware, feel sympathy and feel guilt for what our political leaders did during the last 150 years.
Real reconciliation will take a generation or two to happen as the young sympathetic and guilt-ridden generation of today assumes leadership positions.
Where will it end?
Beside from understanding Indigenous people, the ultimate ending could see the First Nations collect annual rent from the national income.
Ron Walter can be reached at email@example.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.