A friend posted this photograph of a sign they have in their house. Simple, yet ever so powerful. Damning, despite the cheery background.
At this time, Wet`suewet’en protesters are blocking the construction of a pipeline on their lands. Indigenous people across Canada are blocking railways in support of this issue, crippling transport and passenger train service. Standoffs are occuring, people are being arrested. And this photograph has never felt more succinct.
I am a Nakoda Sioux, from the Carry the Kettle reservation near Wolseley, Sask. I am First Nations. I am Indigenous. I am Native. I am Indian. And I am about a dozen or so racial slurs that have been invented for us over the years.
They are fighting…no, WE are fighting for control over our lands. For acknowledgement that this land was ours. We are fighting to reclaim the knowledge that was destroyed by colonization. We are fighting to recover the identity that was stolen from us.
My parents were taken from their reservations, from their families and homes, then placed in residential schools. What they experienced there was something they would never speak of, except in alcohol slurred whispers. The memories were far too much for them to endure.
They were children.
They were fragments of people when they returned. Bits and pieces of indigenous and christian teachings, jammed together, neither fitting well with each other. When they found each other and began a family, this little bit of knowledge was all they could give. They could understand their language, but my mother could not speak hers, and my father, only a little.
I grew to adulthood with this little amount of knowledge. I was native, and proud of it, though I knew so little of my ways. Practically none.
I was an adult when I first heard of the Canadian government’s attempt at reconciliation. Money. Lots of it, being thrown around at the survivors of the residential school system. Just money.
I spent my entire life watching my parents struggle with their experiences, with their traumas from living in a residential school. The government seemed to think that money would solve everything. But would it? Did it?
It didn’t. Reconciliation is a simply a word, a concept. Writing about it, making a speach and broadcasting it to the world doesn’t make it any more real than the positive effects of the phrase “Thoughts and prayers.”
Reconciliation happens when two groups of people finally open up about their experiences. The problem as I see it is that the government is essentially a faceless organization with multiple, sometimes contradictory, urges. Urges that are fulfilled by various levels of bureaucrats. How can true reconciliation begin when the faces of the government change as if with the season?
The leaders of these protests have perhaps learned from the lessons of the past. The protests and standoffs that are taking place across Canada are perhaps a new form of communication. One that the government of Canada cannot afford to ignore.
The government will listen. We will make them.
Reconciliation is Dead.
But communication is still possible.
*Credit to Rebecca Holm for the excellent photograph and the kernel of an idea.