A Letter of Love to Canada’s First Nations

Dear First Canadians,

We Canadians have been called “Peacekeepers”. We used to go into countries where the trust of other peoples was profoundly demonstrated. I’ve been proud of that. And now, after listening to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I’m gobsmacked. I DIDN’T KNOW! God, my fellow First Nations countrypeople! I didn’t know!

How could leaders of THIS supposedly gentle country initiate and/or support anything so horrific as Residential Schools? How could they ignore what was REALLY going on – and lie for so long?

How could the people running those cruel and abusive places – the ones who are RESPONSIBLE for preaching PEACE and LOVE of humankind – how could they ignore what they and their colleagues were doing? Letting it happen was just as criminal as doing these unbelievable deeds of dehumanization.

As a Canadian, I sit here in tears. I’m so sorry, First Nations. I’ve been your neighbour and I’ve worked with you. As a child, your women brought me soft handmade mukluks trimmed with fur so I could feel the experience of running barefoot through snow. You showed me your intricate beadwork and laughed at my attempt to mimic your dances. I’ve been accepted in your homes, shared your food, learned about your culture and wallowed in my welcome – as a child and on into my adulthood. I was there without knowing. I’m ashamed that it’s taken this long for me to HEAR and UNDERSTAND this travesty.

While with you, gentle and generous people, some of you *referred* to the effects of this abomination and some actually highlighted the value of your parents receiving a good start to on-going education. Now I suspect you didn’t know the full story – that your parents were protecting them from the horrors they experienced.

Not knowing the depth of suffering, I’ve actually prayed that those who couldn’t seem to move forward would find the strength to do so.

Canada, our back yard needs tending. It needs compassion, love, healing and patience. NOW.

Thank you, Truth and Reconciliation Commission for bringing the hope for Amazing Grace. It’s only just begun. If you watch the video, know there are First Nations people living, learning, loving and leading in each of these landscapes.

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15 thoughts on “A Letter of Love to Canada’s First Nations

  1. Thank you for addressing this, Soul Dipper……….I lived and worked among the beautiful First Nations people for many years, in a treatment center (built on the site of one of the residential schools), where their families came to heal from the generational trauma, pain, and – sometimes – the turning to addictions they made in an effort to numb their pain. They are a beautiful people who have suffered much, but who love to laugh. And it is amazing to me, how they are still willing to extend a hand in friendship as we belatedly come to our senses. That demonstrates a generosity of spirit the dominant society could learn much from. These are people who lived in harmony with the land for thousands of years, and who have watched us destroy it in less than a hundred. When systems collapse, it will be the indigenous people of the earth who will show us the way.

    • Thank you for your insightful comment, Sherry. When I was flying around the Northern parts of BC in Beavers and other small aircraft, I’d look out the window to view the endless wilderness. I saw the irony of gigantic sections of untouched land that almost hid the monstrous money-driven activities that were/are capable of destroying the delicacy of these incredible ecosystems.

      The only comfort I could grasp was that our First Nations people would be the ones to bring us back to sensibility. Yet, what have we done to their voice?

  2. A great piece of writing, I always new the First Nation people in the USA are treated appallingly, though it seem that they really do have a lot to offer society, but I had no idea that there was also this problem in Canada. Truth and reconciliation commission’s are wonderful things, in South Africa we had them just after the first elections(1994), and it lead to a lot of understanding and compassion, but they can only do so much, the rest depends on the people of the country and how they use this great institution. Here there are still huge divides in society in many things to do with race and apartheid, though things slowly improve. It does not treat many of the stigmas that these wrongs and struggle against them produce, for instance, there are many South Africans, who can’t get a passport, or if they can they can’t get visas to travel to many countries as they have apartheid police records, even people, who played a small roll, such as people who refused the army call up, and were imprisoned for it, and many who really did nothing but were still arrested by the authorities. Who can one discriminate against a person, for trying to free themselves. I do not know if these kind of problems exist in Canada, but if they do I hope you all can find a way round these types of problems. Best wishes and blessings, Charles. 🙂

    • Thank you, Charles, for your very welcome comment. I agree that any Commission can only do so much. Now that they have revealed the true depth the deep wound, each one of us needs to take up the baton. I just hope the First Nations people will be able to hold fast to the Canadians whose perceptions will now be changed and not fall prey to the intellects and sophistry of people who haven’t found compassion.

      I visited South Africa in 2009. I’d read different books about apartheid – knowing I would still be an observer – and wasn’t there long enough to gain the confidence or desire of any S. African to let me “see in”.

      Yes, Charles, who are we to discriminate against people wanting to be free?

      • It’s a weird thing that some how it is those that are most hurt by the problem end up being the ones who have to do the most forgiving, and trying to fit in. Hope all goes well for all the peoples of Canada. It was wonderful that you wrote this particular peace, I hope many read it, and think and prayer for all the downtrodden in the world. Charles.

  3. Time now for some real compassion from the Government after a very real and resoiunding apology and hopefully a lot of compensation. Then they need to address some of the current problems the First Nations women are complaining about, at least those who haven’t just disappeared. They need to follow your example and recognise that these people are just like us and should be treated as equals, and friends.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx.

    • Yes, David, this is an issue that asks us each to do some inner work. The Government has tried in different ways to put money on the issue. The Anglican Primate of Canada and the Prime Minister have both formally apologized. The wound continues to weep.

      Governments make a big deal about setting aside a pot of money, but they don’t advertise their tight rein on the dissemination of those funds. I believe First Nations, like any who experience abuse, need to be know they are heard and seen. The Commission hopefully lets this happen. It has given every Canadian an opportunity to LISTEN and understand the depth of these travesties.

      Already, intellectuals like Conrad Black are laying on the “yah buts”. I hope the First Nations people can hold fast to the notion they are finally wholly seen and can let the slings and arrows whistle by.

  4. Amy, I’ve just watched the most amazing documentary called ‘Awakening the Skeena” about an exquisite woman who swam its length to draw attention to the destruction of the wilderness and and headwaters by Shell for fracking..

    The film of her welcomes by the First Nations as she made her long Herculanean journey through rapids and waterfalls and long rocky patches was utterly moving… have you seen it too?

    • Oh, Valerie, thank you for bringing this documentary to my attention. I’m aware of the battle the First Nations people have had with mining companies and the impact they would have had on the headwaters of the Stikine River, but not with this issue with the Skeena River. I’m going to find the full movie – I just peeked at the preview.

      I’ve been in these parts of our country and any of these undertakings would be criminal. It’s been the First Nations people who have stood up and roared, thank goodness. We need that more than ever now. (eg. The Canadian Oil Sands).

  5. It is indeed unbelievable, the things that humans do to other humans…and animals…and the environment, for that matter. America has a horrible stain, first for the very same travesties that you describe to our very own First Nations, and then to the enslaved Africans who suffered under utterly deplorable conditions. And we continue to misbehave…going so far as to commit our atrocities on someone else’s turf….Guantanamo, for example…as we as a nation keep proudly proclaiming our most holy Christianity. Oh, you got me started, Amy.

    • Linda, we have something previous generations never had – the ability to expose and express both broadly and quickly. Having worked on/for Boards and government offices, I know there are people whose job it is to scan all Media – and now especially the NET – to see what’s being said about issues. When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made their report to Government officials, the political masks were firmly fixed. The response was as inane as “thank you for sharing” but I know the clerks will be damned busy scanning every type of media.

      It’s so true, we do continue to misbehave. The insanity reminds me to keep looking at/for solutions I can carry out so I’m not adding to the rampant negative energy that abounds from fear and a sense of helplessness. It’s so true that we, the ordinary people, are far freer to speak up than our politicians and other types of leaders. They are so afraid of losing jobs, big salaries and all the trappings that tag along with their lifestyles.

      Our Prime Minister has had so many opportunities to face us as a fellow human. Instead, he runs away from transparency and personhood. It reminds me of a family in which mom and dad hold the big ugly secret that the marriage is finished. Mom and Dad think the kids could not handle the truth. In fact, the kids know there’s a secret AND, in fact, think it’s way worse than a marriage breakdown. The parents need to know the kids are far more intelligent, resilient and resourceful than the parents realize.

      It sure as hell won’t be the politicians who bring comfort and healing to our First Nations! It’ll be the myraid of circles formed by ordinary citizens.

  6. Amy why is Canada doing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission now?
    Why were you flying around the endless wilderness of Northern parts of BC? Were you visiting small villages?

    • Rosie, Issues about the treatment of our Native people needed careful review and diligent consideration. In the last century, Residential schools had been set up “for assimilation purposes”, said the government. The horror stories about the children’s treatment is heartbreaking. Also, there’s something amok with past land claims and the housing support that was promised. A big issue in the current time, many native women have gone missing and never been found. There’s suspicion that these women may have been murdered by Native men, but the First Nation’s people feel there isn’t the effort put into solving these cases.

      I worked up North for three years as the Financial person for the school district whose territory was vast due to the wilderness. We had to fly to Board Meetings and it’s was phenomenal. The beauty has never left my soul.

      Yes, we’d hold meetings on a rotational basis in the various villages that were part of our District. We had several First Nations people on our Board and we couldn’t have done without their wise guidance and direction. One of the women went on to be Chief of the vast Tahltan Nation – a huge job and accomplishment. She and I had many great talks.

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