By Dean Midyette
When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write. It has been strongly impressed upon myself, as head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.
Sir John A MacDonald, 1879
This year, National Aboriginal Day falls on Wednesday, June 21st. There will be events celebrating our local First Nations culture on Sunday June 18th at the Lakeshore Resort and Campground and on Friday June 23rd at the Shuswap Community building. These ceremonies honour Nations that are over 10,000 years old.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission tabled its final report, making public the injustices inflicted on First Nations children and families through the Indian Residential School system.
While many of the 94 calls to action involve government or large organizations, reconciliation must also be personal. It begins with acknowledging that families were torn apart by government-mandated racism, that many aboriginal children were abused and suffered at the hands of teachers and clergy, and that thousands of those children remain in unmarked graves. The final Indian Residential School to close was still open until 1996.
Beyond residential schools, First Nations members chose to fight in overseas wars, defending rights and freedoms only extended to settlers. These inequities remain today on reserves across Canada.
As we accept the invitations of our First Nations community members to share in the National Aboriginal Day festivities, we must remember that it is a time to celebrate, but also a time for reflection and introspection.
In the words of Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Reconciliation is not an aboriginal problem it is a Canadian problem. It involves all of us.