We started the week in this space by spotlighting two artists, Lesley Hampton and Joe Buffalo to mark National Indigenous People’s Day on Monday, June 21. And now the week is ending with another devastating discovery that’s putting Canada in the news around the world, yet again, as 751 unmarked graves were found by the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan at the site of a former residential school – which, really, is too generous a word (“school”) to use to describe these places where Indigenous children were stolen, tortured, and often killed as part of a program that was endorsed by the Canadian government and run by church leaders. This is just two weeks after the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found in Kamloops, British Columbia. For those of you who visit this site from outside of Canada, here’s a map that will give you some idea of how many of these facilities existed in this country, the last of which closed in 1996, two years after Justin Bieber was born. I’m dating it that way because these f-cking crimes are RECENT. Because there’s a pervasive very Canadian assumption, not that it should matter, that this sh-t happened a long time ago. It didn’t happen a long time ago. It was happening and it kept happening and this is how many people it happened to:
As a Canadian, though, I have to call myself out. I graduated from university that year, as a history and French major and, well, ask me at that time what I knew of Canada’s Indigenous genocide and I would have looked at you with a blank face. The fact is, too many of us, probably most of us, are complicit by ignorance. That ignorant complicity is a tool of white supremacy – and, as Tanya Talaga writes, it is a form of violence:
We are now seeing the evidence of that violence exposed to us by ground-penetrating radar technology that’s being used in these recoveries. And much of the funding of these recoveries is being paid for by First Nations communities themselves. I mean, if that isn’t layers of injustice: to have been telling an entire nation and anyone else beyond that your people have been tortured by the thousands, and then to have to go into your own pocket to reclaim your descendants.
They’ve always been telling the truth, it’s just that most of us weren’t listening. And now it’s impossible not to hear it:
“Canada will be known as a nation who tried to exterminate their First Nations. Now we have evidence. Evidence of what the survivors of Indian Residential Schools have been saying all along, for decades — that they were treated without humanity, that they were tortured and abused, that they saw their classmates die.” Bobby Cameron, Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations
Yesterday on The Social, we interviewed a guest from the United States, a lovely, compassionate, empathetic, amazing person, who thanked us for our questions and said that she loves talking to Canadians because we are so kind. It was right after the news from Cowessess First Nation was announced. And in that moment, for our team, it was awkward accepting that compliment, a compliment about a reputation that Canada has maintained for so long around the world. I know I keep going back to this but it’s because that reputation has been so successfully reinforced – even though, well, it’s wrong.
Canada should be “known as a nation who tried to exterminate their First Nations.” That’s the real Canada that too many Canadians refused to see for too long. As a Canadian, that’s on me. So as a Canadian with a small platform, this is the Canada I’m sharing with the rest of you who are reading about Canada from within Canada and outside of it. This is who we were, this is still who we are, and if it’s not who we want to keep being, let’s do the reading, let’s keep talking, call your MP, and let’s start changing together.
To honour the children lost, to acknowledge the legacy of the residential school system and its ongoing impacts, and to take the first significant steps towards reconciliation, Canada must act now with intention.https://t.co/1VKL4N1Jx0— NCTR (@NCTR_UM) June 24, 2021
Yours in gossip,