National Aboriginal Day: My Thoughts on Canadian Indigenous People’s and the European Colonizers: Past, Present, Future – By Kelsey Darnay

As a part of my Indigenous Peoples course my final exam was an essay outlining the relationship between Canadian Indigenous People’s and the European colonizers, including the past, present, future. As today is National Aboriginal Day, I thought it would be important to share my thoughts on how I see the relationship between two from an Indigenous perspective. There is a lot of work to be done in the present and the future to heal and move forward to a better relationship.

Canadian Indigenous People’s and the European Colonizers: Past, Present, Future

After the European “discovery” of North America and the ‘Indians’, their goal was to benefit and profit from the land’s resources. Trading was already a developed network amongst different Indigenous bands in North America and trading naturally developed between the European explorers and the Indigenous bands that they encountered (Payne, 2004). By the 1600’s trade between the Indigenous and the French became ritualized because of the demand of beaver fur that was fueling the economy of New France (Payne, 2004). These trades benefited both parties, although the French did not want to rely on the Indigenous people for trade and therefore wanted to settle within Quebec and become self-sufficient.
The French were not the only ones in the trading business, other Indigenous groups were also dependent on the fur trade for their own economy and this created tension between opposing groups (Parrott, 2006). The fur trade was not the only tension during this time – the British and French were struggling for supremacy in North America (Eccles, 2006). These conflicts resulted in war, like the 7 Years War. The opposing sides, France and Britain, depended on Indigenous allies throughout the war. It ended with the Treaty of Paris of 1763 where Canada was formally ceded to the British (Eccles, 2006). After this treaty there was no longer any need for Indigenous allies and this was shown when the Indigenous peoples were not invited to the signing of the treaty. This act led the Indigenous peoples to believe that conflict with the Europeans was unresolved. Chief Pontiac decided to lead a pan-tribal resistance against the English colonial rule. The Europeans did not take this Indigenous resistance seriously, and therefore did not prepare a defense. British General Amherst believed that the Indigenous people were ‘less evolved’ and therefore incapable of military strategy. The British security was shook because Pontiac had a lot of early success due to his strategic attack plan. This resistance led to the realization of Indigenous power, which eventually led to England recognizing Indian sovereignty. Therefore land that had not already been ceded to or purchased by England was reserved for Indigenous people.
The Europeans eventually wanted the land that the Indigenous people were living on for resource extraction, settlement, and development. There was a shifted European interest from allies to active colonizer. In order to peacefully colonize, Indian land treaties were made with the Indigenous peoples. The point of treaties was to convince the Indigenous peoples to cede their land for colonization benefits, in return for profit. In the changing times the Indigenous populations were in need of money and goods in order to support themselves. A major focus of the Canadian Government during the period of treaty making was to introduce the First Nations to agriculture so that they could develop self-supporting communities, like the colonizers. This push towards agriculture was seen in many treaties through the goods included in the agreements. This shows that even through the treaties Europeans wanted to assimilate Indigenous people into Euro-Canadian culture. As outlined in the Gradual Enfranchisement Act and the Gradual Civilization Act, two pieces of legislation that would become the consolidated Indian Acts. Although treaties were meant to benefit both sides, they were understood differently from each side, which has led to issues that are still relevant today.
A major result from the treaties are Indian Reservations, which is land that put aside specifically for First Nations, Status Indians. Many of the numbered treaties also included schools for the bands that desired them (Canada, 1978). These schools, which were built across Canada, became the Indian Residential School System. These schools were a part of the government’s plan to forcefully assimilate Indigenous children into Eurocentric culture, and to get rid of Indigenous culture altogether. This legacy has created long lasting issues, like intergenerational trauma and other negative impacts. While the relationship between the Europeans and Indigenous peoples began as mutually beneficial, colonization has led to major issues for present day Indigenous peoples.

The legacy of the Indian Residential School System is still something that affects Indigenous peoples across Canada. The attempted forced assimilation of Indigenous people has created many issues. The actions that were taken at Residential Schools including physical, mental, sexual, and spiritual abuse in attempt to eradicate the Indigenous culture has been defined as cultural genocide. The traumatic events that took place at the Residential Schools have not only hurt the survivors of the system but also their families through intergenerational trauma. Many problems associated with Indigenous peoples like chronic health issues, poverty and a lack of parenting skills can be traced back to the Residential School System. The Government of Canada has recognized their part in this history. Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Canada has begun to try to work towards changing their relationship with the Indigenous population for the better.
Although the recognition of the Residential Schools and the TRC is a step towards healing the relationship, serious action is needed to actually improve the relationship. There are 94 Calls to Action in the TRC and as a part of reconciliation the government needs to make the changes suggested (TRC, 2015). Implementing these actions will lead to a positive change in the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the government. It will also improve the livelihood of Indigenous peoples instead of harming them. Reconciliation has just begun, it will take time to actually heal and meaningfully improve the relationship, likely generations. The government has taken its first steps in reconciliation by acknowledging that the actions taken against Indigenous children and communities were wrong.
Other Indigenous issues that are relevant today because of colonization are land claims and other issues resulting from treaty agreements. Throughout the development of Canada the European settlers needed to make treaties with the Indigenous population to peacefully extract resource, settle, and develop the land. Unfortunately, the Crown and the Indigenous peoples understood these treaties differently. Whereas the Crown understood the treaties as a purchase of land, the Indigenous peoples, and their descendants, understood it as a land sharing agreement, not as complete land surrender (Luby, 2010). These misunderstandings have led to court cases involving land claim issues, or other issues involving unfulfilled treaty promises. These court cases eventually led to the understanding that land, which was not ceded to the Crown, was in fact Indigenous land. The Canadian legal system acknowledged ‘Indian Land’ and Indigenous sovereignty. Although, this did not lead to the land claim issues being resolved. In 1974 the Office for Native Claims was opened, unfortunately it did not initiate remedial action.
Even today there are many land claim and treaty issues still being dealt with in the court systems. However, the government is working on resolving these issues on a case by case basis. The goal is to improve the Indigenous social, economic, health, and political situations that they are currently facing today. This improvement can happen through Indigenous rights including land rights and culture rights. Although, for this to happen on a truly meaningful level the contemporary issues that Indigenous people are currently dealing with need to be improved. This will only be able to happen with the help of the Canadian government. Furthermore, with the help of the government and the actions they take to help Indigenous peoples the relationship between the two populations will have a chance to reconcile and change into a more positive one.

The Canadian Government’s acknowledgement and recognition of their part in the colonization of Canada and how it affected the Indigenous population is a start to fixing the problems that it has caused. The negative impacts of colonization through the Residential School System and the results of the treaties that were made between the Crown and Indigenous peoples are still relevant today. Although Stephan Harper issued a formal apology in 2008 for Canada’s part in the Residential School System, many survivors did not accept the apology. According to political scientist Matt James, an authentic political apology tends to have eight requirements: recorded officially in writing, names the wrong in question, accepts responsibility, states regret, promise non-repetition, does not demand forgiveness, is not hypocritical or arbitrary, and undertakes – through measures of publicity, ceremony, and concrete reparation – to engage morally those in whose name the apology is made to assure the wronged group that the apology is sincere (Corntassel & Holder, 2008). The first statement only explicitly apologizes to those who were sexually and physically abused, and did not mention anything about the residential school policy itself or other cultural, political, social, economic and psychological impacts brought on by the schools (Corntassel & Holder, 2008). While a majority of the eight requirements have been met since the first statement, not all of them have. In order to fully reconcile and create a positive relationship between the government and the Indigenous population the eighth requirement must be met. This could happen through acting upon the 94 Calls to Action from the TRC.
It is the actions taken after an apology that prove regret and the want for forgiveness. Justin Trudeau has taken steps to acknowledge the contemporary Indigenous issues like the underdevelopment of reserves, water issues on reserves, and missing and murdered Indigenous women. However, there has yet to be solid actions taken in order to alleviate these issues. From now and into the future, serious actions must be taken by the government in order to fix the wrongs that colonization has created for the Indigenous people. A more dynamic and undivided attention to these issues will need to happen so that they can be resolved. Although this has currently proved to be a challenge, the continuation of working on these issues may lead to a better future. Resolving the Indigenous issues will lead to a better life for Indigenous people and hopefully generations to come. It will also lead to a better life for all Canadians and the generations that will follow.
The TRC has outlined what the Indigenous population needs from the government in order to help their social, economic, and political situation. Sections of the Calls to Action include child welfare, education, language and culture, health, settlement agreements, missing children and burial information, and more. Everything included in the Calls to Action have been affected by colonization and the Residential Schools. Implementing the Calls to Action will lead to a positive future for Indigenous peoples, the government, Canadians and their relationship. It will also lead to a future of reconciliation, which is what the Indigenous people want. What wrong was done to their people during colonization will be remembered in Canadian history. It does not need to impact the future generations and how they live their lives. Eventually the goal is for Indigenous people to not face problems that are a direct result of colonization. With the recognition and attention that Indigenous issues currently have in the government and media there is a good chance that positive change will happen. Although, a real effort must be taken by the government to ensure that this change will happen to make a better future. Underfunding and underservicing First Nations communities and children must come to an end. This will create a positive relationship between the future government and future generations of Indigenous peoples.

Canada. Department of Indian Affairs Northern Development. Treaty No. 3 between Her Majesty the Queen and the Saulteaux Tribe of the Ojibbeway Indians at the Northwest Angle on the Lake of the Woods with Adhesions. Ottawa, Ont.: Queen’s Printer and Controller of Stationery, 1978.

Corntassel, Jeff, and Cindy Holder. “Who’s Sorry Now? Government Apologies, Truth Commissions, and Indigenous Self-Determination in Australia, Canada, Guatemala, and Peru.” Human Rights Review 9, no. 4 (2008): 465-89.

Eccles, Wiliam John. “Seven Years War.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2006. Accessed April 5, 2017.

Payne, Michael. The Fur Trade in Canada. Toronto: J. Lorimer, 2004.

Parrott, Zach. “Iroquois Wars.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2006. Accessed April 5, 2017.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Author, Issuing Body. “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.” Winnipeg: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015.

How to talk about social justice by Jamie Lupia

With the rise of internet activism, you find a lot of people who are incredibly book smart. Sometimes they talk about street or social problems and fall into repeating some of the power relations activists try so hard to break apart. I wanted to take a second to voice what may just be my opinion — but what I really stand by — and explain about how to speak about social justice.

In order to be an activist, it is pretty much crucial to let go of your ego. Having went to Brock University, I have been surrounded by the academic world for 4 years straight. Though it is where I got a lot of my “knowledge”, I found the most important lessons were outside the class room. They were writing for The Brock Press and interviewing real people. They were talking to people about experiences. They were in the friends I made, the struggles I saw, the struggles I had, and the lives around me. For example, I could read all about Indigenous solidarity and the biodiversity offsetting going on in Niagara. But it was not until I really attended the meetings, rallies, heard from the Native residents myself, and actually took time to look at my surroundings and privileges that I felt I could truly educate others. Or another example, I read so many pieces on the Ontario welfare reform. Statistics and paragraphs and political references. But what shook me was the accounts of the actual single mothers on welfare. This is not something I had to read or dig for. This was not difficult or wordy or tricky to understand. This was real people’s lives. Scholarly sources and books only fostered a little bit of the understanding. The rest was reality.

This being said, the first way to talk about social justice is with accessible language. This accessible language is making sure you don’t fall into the trap of speaking with mainly the academic jargon you were taught. This means writing and speaking in ways that people can actually understand. All people. If you are writing or speaking for social change, chances are you are talking to the public. The public does not consist solely of students, teachers, elites, and academic figures. The public consists of people of all education levels, intelligence levels, and vulnerabilities. Big words could intimidate some people, and in turn discourage them from thinking they are not “qualified” or “smart enough” to join in on the movement. It is wrong to assume everyone will understand one way of saying things. This does not mean “dumb yourself down”; it really just means to be aware of how you talk. Do not perpetuate power or hierarchies simply by speaking like you are smarter than everyone. It suuuuucks.

The next point is to talk with accessible knowledge. This refers to not assuming that everyone is willingly ignorant. Some people just do not know what you know. Some knowledge is just simply not accessible. Sometimes this is a result of a systemic thing, such as people of power keeping knowledge out of the public’s ear. Or this could be as simple as someone having went to a different school than you or growing up in a sheltered house and not being exposed to controversy before. Knowledge is not just books, school, reading, and writing. There are all different forms of knowledge, and if someone does not have the same as you, you can educate them in healthy ways — not just tell them to get educated and consume knowledge, and then leave them to fend for themselves. If they don’t understand — put it in a metaphor or example that will help them understand. Expose them in healthy ways, rather than shaming them or blaming them for not knowing something. Give them the full story and allow them to create their own conclusion. The word knowledge itself carries a heavy weight, with connotations of academia and books. Knowledge is more like the image of a tiny lightbulb — no one alone has the right to say that there is one way to give the bulb electricity.

Lastly, to talk about social justice and social change, you must have empathy. This can seen through accessible language and accessible knowledge. However, it deserves a little explanation of itself. Empathy is not sympathy. While sympathy means “I feel sorry for you”, empathy is a little more passionate. Empathy means “I feel strongly for you, and I may not understand fully but I want to help create change”, or at least create understanding.

Talking about social justice is tricky. There is always someone waiting to call you politically incorrect, throw a scholarly citation at you, ask for your sources, or just straight up argue just for the sake of arguing. The great thing about life is that you do not always need 5 scholarly sources in MLA format on a page to hand in. You can look at the world around you for proof. You do not need formal education to be an activist. You do not need to slam down books to make the world a better place. You just simply need a cause you feel strongly for that does no harm to any group of people. An inclusive and healthy goal. Some smart and unique strategies on how to get there. You need to be mindful about your tactics, your words, and what could come of your actions. And you need to have heart. You do not need to know everything. You need be humbled in knowing that you never will know everything. And while educating others, be open to being taught something in return.

World Water Day importance by Jamie Lupia

We cannot celebrate world water day and talk about how important the water we have access to is, without acknowledging who the water belongs to. Despite being a sought after commodity today, sold in tiny plastic bottles and pouring over kids at your nearest water park, water is and will always be especially precious to a specific group of people. Indigenous communities, especially the Native presence in Canada, has an incredible ownership over water and rights to be consulted about what is done with that water. These rights have been being ignored for all “150 years” of our country’s “birth”. When people are fighting against pipelines and other water pollutants — they are fighting in solidarity against the theft of Indigenous land and resources; against people who think they can take what is not theirs. I know in my Niagara region specifically, there is an incredible outreach from the Indigenous community against organizations that put a high economic value on water. This being said, water is not only an Indigenous issue — when there is a water crisis, it is an everyone issue. If you aren’t mad, you aren’t in the know. For example, Canadian government has for a long time approved a pipeline from western USA to Montreal, all along the watershed. This pipeline transports tar and oil. The catch is that it has 14,000 chances of leakage. They have fixed (I think) 2,000 potential spots. That still leaves tons of possibilities of pollution, not to mention that a lot of these possible pollution leakage spots are going through reserves or residential areas. Not to mention again that 20% of the entire world’s fresh water supplies comes from the Ontario lakes. What does this mean? The government, for economic purposes, is ignoring that they are at high risk of polluting 20% of the world’s fresh water supplies. Indigenous rights, Indigenous resources, but everyone’s problem. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong, and I genuinely want people to talk about these issues and events. And if you don’t know why World Water Day is so important, you need to start waking up and joining the conversation. Please make yourself aware about how important water is, where it comes from, and who it belongs to. Water is not renewable.

“If I Weren’t Afraid” by Amanda Froment

“So please ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then go out and do it”
– Sheryl Sandberg

I was scrolling through twitter once when I saw the quote above in my newsfeed. I sat there for a second listing all the things in my head, and then I grabbed my laptop and starting writing this.

If I were not afraid, I would be travelling the world solo right now. I would have at least five different stamps on my passport from countries that I have always wanted to visit, and I would have a phone full of pictures from all sorts of adventures.

If I were not afraid, I would buy a car – like I have wanted to do for the past year and a half – and take off on a road trip to California, another travel dream of mine.

If I were not afraid, I would leave the current program I am in and start journaling (specifically travel – has anyone noticed a theme?).

If I were not afraid, I would write lyrics and post covers of original songs. I would stop second-guessing every word I write and go for it.

But I am afraid. I am afraid of getting lost, losing myself, losing people, spending all my money and having nothing left, not receiving approval. I am unsure of myself and the decisions I make. I am always asking for advice, for people to choose an option for me because I cannot fully trust that the decision I make will truly be satisfying.

If I were not afraid, I would be living the life that I constantly see on social media; instead of retweeting or favouriting or liking. Maybe it’s my time to start doing it.

So, now it’s your turn. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

A post about Canadian Treaties by Kelsey

I realize I am a bit late in writing this because Treaties Recognition Week was the first week of November, but the ignorance I found in my ANTH*3670 Indigenous People’s discussion thread has pushed me to share my response on a larger platform. I wanted to share to Storyteller because I feel that people who read these submissions want to learn through other individual’s experiences. Myself, being of Indigenous background, have had to deal with classmates who do not understand Canadian’s history with its Indigenous population. This can sometimes be very frustrating to me, but I also realize the oppressed history of the Residential School System legacy is to blame. For this exact reason, this is why I believe education is extremely important.

Teacher Discussion Question: Are We Really Treaty People?

Student Answer:
We Are Not The Product Of Treaties.
I would argue that the average Canadian is not the product of treaties so much as we are the natural conquerors. Indigenous people are the ones who abide by the limits treaties place. The average Canadian does not concern themselves with any particular treaty and if all treaties where suddenly destroyed it would not effect the life of the average Canadian but it would cause a crisis in the indigenous community in Canada. Treaties have been more of a way for Europeans to legitimize their conquering to new lands and the negotiate a system in which the indigenous peoples are essentially bought out so that they do not have to be conquered by force. Is this system the equal, no, but should it be, no. Indigenous peoples and Europeans where not at an equal balance of power historically or presently and it is only right that the more powerful decide the system of institution that will govern the lands. The treatment of indigenous peoples is not meant to be equal it is meant to be fair and many of the treaties have proven to be fair and those that where done through unfair means are resolved through the court system of the Canadian government, the dominant power, which is willing to accept its mistakes of unfair treatment if they have been fairly proven.

My Response:
Without treaties the European settlement that it is today would have never happened, therefore I disagree that the average Canadian is not a product of treaties, but all Canadians ARE products of treaties. Without many of the numbered treaties, Europeans would not be allowed to develop through “Indian Territory”. For example, Treaty 3 allowed “the federal government access to Saulteaux lands in present-day northwestern Ontario and eastern Manitoba in exchange for various goods and Indigenous rights to hunting, fishing and natural resources on reserve lands” (Filice, 2015). Without this treaty, Europeans would not have access to these lands and the resources of this land, which helped with settlement. Without treaties Canadian families would not be comfortably settled where they currently are.
I will agree that language barriers and cultural barriers led to a misunderstanding of certain terms of treaties. The First Nations saw the treaties saw the payments as a gift for the settlers to use the land (aka rent) where as the British Government took it as a purchase. Although, this misunderstanding is what has led to the current Land Claim issues that the government is working on resolving. There is even a Treaties Recognition Week, during the first week of November, which comes out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the country’s lack of understanding of its Indigenous population. The government of Ontario has implemented this week to “recognize the importance of treaties and to bring awareness to the treaty relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the province” (Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, 2016). David Zimmer, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs has stated “Treaties are the reason Canada and Ontario exist as we know them today. All Ontarians, especially students, need to gain a better understanding of treaties. Treaties Recognition Week will provide ongoing opportunities to learn about the treaties that have shaped the province” (Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, 2016). Just on this statement alone I can argue that all Canadians, including the average Canadian, is the product of treaties made between the British Crown and the Indigenous people. The land you are living on is because a treaty was made, if you take away the treaties (if they were suddenly destroyed) the Indigenous people would claim the land that was rightfully theirs before the treaties and European settlers would have to find somewhere else to live.
Filice, Michelle. “Treaty 3.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2016. Accessed February 8, 2017.
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “Ontario Proclaims First Week of November Treaties Recognition Week”. Ontario Newsroom, 2016. Accessed February 8, 2017

What I like about online discussions is the fact that we can build off of each other’s ideas, and respectfully state our own ideas. Although, when very under researched response to a historical topic, especially about my people, comes around I get a little offended. I felt so strongly about this that I felt I had to share.

Jobim Novak’s Lyrics about Gun Violence

The other day someone died outside of my school
The event had me spinning, man I felt like a fool
Cuz I remembered how I used to glorify using tools
A rebel without a cause, hittin’ blunts playing pool
The truth, is he bled where I usually hang
I was lucky to not have been there to be hearing them bangs
Doin my thang blessed, I was safe in my class
Til I hears someone say that they heard 15 blasts
I couldn’t believe it, it was just like a dream
I was lucky that I wasn’t outside with my team
The dudes lit him up, then jumped in a truck
I thanked god for saving us, praisin our luck
But the guy lay there, bloody and bruised
His soul went out, like it was a blown out fuse
It’s fucked that it happened so close to home
To the place where I learn, to the streets that I roam

I remember the day, when I heard Grimmie died
That shit broke my heart, man I’m not gonna lie
So young, so precious, wit a voice as a gift
liked to put on her songs cuz they gave me a lift
She was my age, born in the same year as me
I still think all the time, of what she could be
But she’s gone, and I can’t really turn back the clocks
Can’t knock away the gun that they all tried to block
The shit makes me wonder, about my own fate
Like if I might getting taken by somebody’s hate
Fans can be nuts, this has happened before
Like what happened to John Lennon, back in the days of yore
I often wonder, if musics the life I’m gon’ lead
If the stage is for me, or just for me to leave
I like to believe, peeps are inherently good
But those thoughts lay in the shadow, cloaked by my hood