The Assembly of First Nations Day of Action has come and gone. For those who read the post "Shame on Us (Slightly Misleading)" you’ll find that the red nose wasn’t a big part of the action, which is just fine by me, as the likelihood of anyone paying any heed to my suggestions is slim to none.
For those south of the 49th, I’ll translate. Canadian First Nations (meaning Indians, or Aboriginals) staged a one-day, cross-Canada protest. There was an element of fear that things would escalate out of control on the Day of Action. It has happened before. Search up Ipperwash if you want some more information.
The overall tone was peaceful, respectful and supportive. In listening to the various media outlets around Toronto I heard only one of perhaps a dozen ‘person on the street’ clips that wasn’t positive, meaning 11 were understanding and supportive of the cause.
This doesn’t mean the Day of Action was a failure, or too limp-wristed to be of any value in advancing the First Nations’ cause. Quite the opposite: It looks like us White Folks are starting to get it.
Since I can only speak for myself, I will. I’m a fifth or sixth generation, middle-aged, United Empire Loyalist White Canadian Male of British, Irish, Scottish heritage. The standard Anglo-Saxon Canadian Mutt, who was brought up on Cowboys and Indians in the 60’s in a school system that didn’t know shit from sandwich fixings when it came to First Nations’ history, culture or issues.
Or, if you want to stereotype me, I would be the second to last person you would expect to be on the side of the First Nations. The last person would be Mike Harris, former Premier of this province. Like all stereotypes, there is a grain very broad truth in it, but there are also too many assumptions. What I do share with another stereotype, of Canadians in general, is an essential sense of fairness.
I didn’t come to this realization overnight. Around 1977 I was fortunate enough to visit the Golden Lake Reserve and hang out with some folks. Something didn’t sit right. I was a 90 minute drive from our nation’s capital city, in a place that I could best describe as the Third World. I decided to figure out what the hell was going on. There was reading involved. There was the asking of dumb questions and some very patient answers from people who took the time to explain things from their perspective. Then there was some thinking. Reflection, if you want to use the more formal term.
Over the years, in watching other First Nations groups, I saw the same things, sometimes in lesser degree and sometimes in greater degree. It still added up the same. Canada screwed the First Nations and was acting like a bunch of racist, paternalistic, bureaucrats who moved their mouths, but never their hands to their wallets, or a hand outward in assistance or friendship.
Consider this: The only reason any of the explorers of history lived more than a week and half over here, was because the First Nations peoples met the boats and taught effete upper-class twits how to not die in a new land that was nothing like France, England, or Norway. If you don’t believe me, take a drive up past Maniwaki (less than an hour drive from the Parliament Buildings in the Nation’s Capital) and walk into the bush. If you get lost, odds are rescuers will not find your body. Ever.
In exchange for not letting our ancestors die, we took their land, slaughtered several thousand just for giggles, shoved them into reserves, attempted to ‘tame the red man’ and generally trampled all over their existence. Then we had the bald-faced temerity to set up a system that was designed to systematically rip away any last vestiges of culture, language or history over generations with the Indian Act of 1876.
My voyage to a vague understanding has been long. Very few Canadians have either taken the time, or had the luck I had to develop a half-informed opinion. The Day of Action, with all the attendant media coverage of the issues involved is a start. It helped to put the issues in 20-second sound bites that are digestible by non-First Nations people.
Which means at the end of the Day of Action, a lot more Canadians are starting to see the beginnings of an understanding of why the First Nations are not happy. Which also means, a lot more Canadians are potentially willing to stand along side the First Nations because we recognize the vicious unfairness of the whole situation.
So, fellow pasty-faced non-First Nation Canadians, what are we willing to do about it?