Last week, for National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, we asked the RAVEN community to share your stories of putting reconciliation into action.
Here are some of the beautiful, courageous and difficult stories you shared.
A long time ago, in a galaxy nearer than my face, there was an Indigenous-led mass arrest on Parliament Hill- it was called the Tar Sands Action. Indigenous leaders gathered and their talks culminated in waves of people going over the barricade to our governing place by then PM Stephen Harper, aka Hungry Husky Eyes.
I’d taken a very early retirement from English teaching to do just what I was doing- and something else pressing. But I’d never been arrested and I was scared.And vacillating. And then, after mental images of being undressed and strip-searched in a room with a big German Shepherd, I said OK to that and, at peace with myself, went to the sign-in place.
The first thing a young Greenpeace man said to me was, “I am a criminal.” He then wrote a phone number on my forearm- the number of an Ottawa lawyer who would tell me something if I could phone from the jail.I turned my purse, everything over to friends and kept a ten dollar bill and an I.D. card.
As I stood with my group of seven, breath a bit shallow, I saw the drummers at the big drum on the Hill. I walked over to them and said, “I’m going over and I’m scared. Could you please drum me over?” One of them looked up- later I recognized him as Thomas Clayton-Muller – and without a word a powerful chant and drumming arose. No more fear. Vanished. I felt a miracle of good will flowing into me.
We’d lined up in waves of seven, about two hundred of us, and I walked the gauntlet holding hands with a young man named Stuart who’d just graduated in Gender Studies and an Indigenous guy named Joe Fox who was involved with AIM. The grass passage we walked felt like a massive distance; and all along the way, a mass of people on both sides sang the song, “Which Side Are You On?”.
Maude Barlow had advised us to dress “well” or something, so I was possibly the only woman there in a voile skirt…she had pants on, well pressed, I guess. I got to the stile and on the other side were two firm-looking policemen gazing at me. Since I was cursed with a skirt, I asked for a bit of help in climbing over. They looked nonplussed and I can’t remember if they offered a hand, but I made it and opened a friendly conversation…something I bet no Indigenous person would have thought it possible to do.
As they politely handcuffed me, I glanced up and noticed a young man on the steep roof of Parliament. I was afraid he’d fall, so I told the police he was there- and they looked quietly horrified and I think tried to deflect me. I looked again- he had a gun, and it looked like it was pointed at me. As we talked, they spoke about biking to work and about their kids’ fears of climate change. They had to do their job and we’d made friends anyway.
We the arrested were herded along the lawn on the Hill, and there was huge rumour and speculation about our future. Where were we going? Would there be enough jail space? Two wonderful things then: people on the other side started pitching food over the fence to us- banana bread, sandwiches, a picnic! And then I saw Bill Erasmus, Dene nation, approach the barrier and look us over quietly. Just gaze. And I deeply hoped that he saw hope for us white race, I hoped he saw that possibility so we could also hope for ourselves that we would one day be worthy of being looked at in a good way, not just as land and resource predators.
Chi migwitch for that gaze, Bill Erasmus, it has supported me- even if I misunderstood it.
Other rumours: there were huge tents out back to process us, and eventually we were led there. I had my I.D. checked, and then was taken to a square metal vehicle (Paddy wagon?) and with other women sat on square metal benches on either side. But the thing was huge. Why?We got dumped far from the Hill at Le Breton flats, and from another door some men arrests came pouring. Among them- Joe Fox and a Quebecois journalist who had little English, it seemed.
Our problem was getting back to the Hill. I had $10 on me, and that was exactly enough for us all. I can only say I’ve had other police and courtroom-involved encounters before and since, but I’ve had the richest life conceivable of meeting and being deeply affected by a Canadian elder, Ojigkwanong, since gone, and one a Huichol, from Mexico – the only tribe never to have been worked over by the colonizers. And Lakota elder Arvol Looking Horse, nineteenth holder of the White Buffalo Calf Woman pipe. Two years later, to my shock and horror I saw him seated on a horse (he loved horses) facing the violence, water hoses and attacks by the privatized army at Standing Rock.
Thank you, Raven, for giving me the chance to support the West Coast communities in court. Our life is meant to be, above all, meaningful. Indigenous people have given me this by their presence and teachings. An eye can teach, a face, a hand. Love to the West Cast communities, Marie
Oui merci tshinashkumitin de permettre que je puisses transmettre mon dégoût sur le mot réconciliation. Comment réconcilier avec les gouvernements qui n’arrêtent pas de tout nous prendre. On a pas le droit d’exister sur nos territoires et ils veulent encore notre pardon???Pas de territoire, pas d’existence comme premier occupant, c’est ça la vraie vérité! Jamais la réconciliation sans le respect de mon territoire! Shanipiap — G. McKenzie Sioui
Allowing GasLink to raze native unceded lands is how the B.C. NDP government does reconciliation on the National Day of Reconciliation.Nothing has changed yet in the making of laws and preaching big words but the raping of the land that was never ceded goes on and with the condoning and support of the police, the RCMP.Shame on Canada ! That our politicians and police can be such hypocrites; we, the people say, ‘Shame on you!’ — Gerry Lacroix
I reside on the unceded land of the Snuneymuxw people.
Today I fulfilled a promise to myself and read the Universal Declaration of Indigenous Rights. My partner and I attended the Reconciliation Day event at Maffeo-Sutton Park.
Going forward I plan to contact the BC premier and our newly elected MP with my concerns about our government’s involvement with indigenous peoples.
Thank you for the opportunity to express myself in this way. — Philip Clarke
As I have noted before, ‘reconciliation’ is a misnomer, since it implies the reestablishment of a previous state of harmony which- rather obviously- has never existed.
Governments almost never bring about fundamental change unless forced to do so by mass popular action. One such action would be to ensure that Mr Sunny Ways and his phony cronies in Ottawa do not dare to further misuse taxpayers money to appeal yet again against a just compensation for indigenous children.
Governments both federal and provincial must be forced to stop either actively resisting or passively ignoring necessary steps to redress the shameful treatment of indigenous people.
Horgan’s BC government, while uttering empty words about the UNDRIP, has manifested an egregious blind eye approach, particularly to aggressive offences committed by Canadian federal paramilitary forces in aid of continued corporate aggression against indigenous resistance.
Enough already.Talk minus action = zero. — David Bouvier
I’m Pat and I’ve sending emails, writing letters, signing petitions and sending tweets. I’ve been reading various indigenous authors and have even tweeted the pope.
I will continue to do whatever I can to further the cause of reconciliation. — Pat Taviss
I think I agree with the thrust of your message today. I didn’t celebrate this so-called holiday. I fundamentally don’t think we have accomplished enough to be entitled to celebrate. There are 94 Calls to Action. I understand we have done one.
I agree with Penticton Band Chief Gabriel. He is reported to have said in a newspaper article “it is far too premature to celebrate this day.”
I believe we should be working like crazy on many tasks like correcting all water services in First Nations communities. When that and others are completed then we can celebrate. — Michael Jessen, P.Eng.
Member, Parksville Qualicum Kairos