RECONCILIATION REPORT ON CONDITION OF CANADA'S NATIVE PEOPLE
1) In the airport of Alice Springs, Australia in 2012, I happened on an English spinster school teacher whom had come out 30 years previously to teach the 'abos':
a) What did you like most of the job? 'The challenge'.
b) What future do you see for the 'abos'? (long pause) 'I don't know'.
2) That story can be repeated around the globe for the indigenous peoples of many nations including Canada's Inuit and native peoples.
3) In 1964 at a seminar at the University of UBC, a retired Superintendent from Victoria spoke to us student teachers of how he took up the challenge of dealing with the education problems in Northern Canada. The reality was that the old ways of life were gone; how could these people be trained for a culture foreign to their nature?
4) In the 1950's, I remember seeing native people 'hanging on the lamp-post 'on a Saturday evening in inland Kamloops, B.C. because they were prohibited from being in Beer Parlours and from drinking on the reserves. Of course it was a racist policy. The biggest concern today on reserves is substance abuse...alcohol and drugs.
5) The Navaho Nation in the U.S. has remained intact including their language which was used for cipher purpose in WWII. Some still live in mud hovels because they choose to live that way. The chief who escorted our tourist group was dressed down but 'was nobody's fool'. Neighboring Apaches lost their language and were being absorbed in white man's society. Natives in Canada lament the loss of their cultural ways with the young people whom seem disinterested in learning the native culture.
6) When asked by the TV interviewer, the author of the above Report-a native as well as a judge- what would he do with children removed from the home of dissolute parents? 'Remove the parents and keep the children in the home and assign a caretaker figure (presumably native Indian). Presumably, in his world, there are caretakers galore willing to live a life of hell. That is not to say there are some highly proficient caretakers such as an older couple that I once met on a Caribbean cruise whom adopted 19 children and raised them on their farm in Northern Alberta. That is the exception rather than the rule.
7) The background of one country Nigerian Doctor I met at Ottawa hospital is typical of where assistance is best; namely selecting individuals (e.g. Oprah) and training them in white man's society; although rarely do these individuals, as the above example, return to their original societies ('Eliza Doolittle' theme).
8) Nothing is said about employers who suffer at the hands of errant 'employees' such as the wild employee in Prince George in the 1960's who thought it great fun to drive a Loader off the cliff as he jumped free. Local business guru, Ben Ginter, was quoted as saying that we should pay 10% of the workers 'to stay home'.
9) Regrettably, Native Schools were not the only ones abusing their charges; white private boarding school students suffered as well. Starting in the 1990's with the development of the Teacher's Colleges in Canada; teacher pedophiles were driven from the profession as was the case in the churches and boy scouts. My guess is that every large high school has a story each decade of a teacher who divorces his wife to marry an impregnated student.
10) Education is not THE answer; it is merely that we do not have any better answer. My suggestion is that the native peoples must, on their own initiative eradicate alcohol and drug abuse on the reserves first, then turn to available programs. (I will probably be 'burned' for that observation). A TV survey showed that only 7% expected something to become of this Report.
11) From Bryce Courtenay's Solomon's Song, comes this poignant passage from a dying Maori Chieftain to his counterpart in Australia: April 1866
My friend Black Hawk,
We shall no longer sit together by the evening fire or eat again from the same pot. I have now seen 60 summers and it is time for me to join our ancestors.
I am writing this letter to you, Black Maori (Hawk was a wealthy black Australian and adopted into the tribe as an honorary brother warrior), so that you will hold my life on the page and be its custodian and then, perhaps some day, history will judge me for what I tried to do and failed.
I have had a long life for a Maori man, who does not often see his hair turn white, and who is usually dead while his seed is still strong in his loins. In my time, too many of our brave young men have died for some foolish tribal war fought out of false pride or from seeking retribution for some imagined insult.
When I was a boy my father sent me to missionaries to learn the white man's language and his ways. 'You must see if they have lessons for us,' he instructed.
I studied hard and learned to read and write and spent much time with the pakha's Bible. I learned that it was a good book from a merciful God and I found it so myself. But I was soon to discover that it was the white man's Sunday book only and all the remaining days of the week the pakeha felt free to disobey the commandments of his own God.
It was then that I first realized that the Pakeha's word could not be trusted, not even on Sunday, for it was not founded in his mana. That his God was good only for births and burials and his word was as worthless as a broken pot.
I knew then that the Treaty of Waitangi was like the white man's word, and that the Maori would never have justice under the pakeha Queen Victoria or the law she makes.
When I came to my manhood the Maori people had killed more of their own kind than the pakeha. They had taken the white man's gun and turned it on their own. We have killed more than twenty thousand of our people while the pakeha stood by and watched the Maori die, thinking that soon there would be no Maori to come up against them and they could take all our land for their spotted cows.
And so I grew to be a man and I became the peacemaker among the tribes and then the kingmaker, joining all Maori under King Potatau te Wherewhero so that we could speak with one voice.
Alas, the pakeha did not want us to stop killing our own and they forced us to go to war with them. It was here that you, Black Hawk, became a Maori warrior and gained great distinction, so that you became a rangatira to be forever honoured in the Ngati Haua tribe and among all the Maori people.
Though we fought with honour the pakeha had too many guns and too many soldiers and we forsook the clever ways of our previous guerilla war, the runaway fighting you taught us and we went back to defending the pa and so were beaten, but remained proud in defeat, a worthy opponent. (historical note: the Maori were unable to field a year round standing army to combat the British whom could function on that basis; a similar tactic used in the American West RC)
Now, as I lie dying, I know that the pakeha, in defeating us, has taken everything from us but one last thing. Our warriors still fight in the hills where no pakeha dare go. They have created a redoubt that holds within it Maori pride. While we have our pride they cannot destroy our race. I pray that it is always there. Akle ake ake. You must speak for us, you must be my elbow and my backbone, General Black Hawk.
I shall die with a curse on my lips for the white man, for what they have done to my people...
I go to my ancestors now, where I shall watch over you like a father watches over his beloved son.
Chief of the Ngati Haua Maori