Presenting the Past

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Canada has to confront its colonial past

Article: Paige Kreutzwieser – Contributor

Institutions like the FNU are critical to Canada confronting its colonial past. /Source: uregina.ca

Institutions like the FNU are critical to Canada confronting its colonial past. /Source: uregina.ca

I will be honest, when first asked to write an opinion piece on the treatment that First Nations have received in Canada’s “colonial past”, I was a little intimidated.

As the editor pointed out to me, he was never suitably taught the horrifying history in school until University. What is almost equally as horrifying is that statement is too common for many of us in the Generation Y category.

What intimidates me about this issue is that I fear I won’t do justice to the topic. What can one measly little university student write about that can give back to these people that which they desperately deserve. Children were abused, humanity was devoid. It finally came to me that what I need to write about is what I know.

After completing a number of courses at the First Nations University here at the University of Regina, I have been deeply emersed in a culture that, at first, was foreign to me, but now, I feel I have some form of attachment to. What I have learned so far is that there are many people in the First Nations community who are hurting: economically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

What I am still learning is whether it is because of Canada’s colonial past or was it partially self-inflicted? What I do know is there is a conversation happening within the Aboriginal community. Discussion and stories are a prominent part of Aboriginal culture. They are using this strength of theirs to bring up issues and start a debate around the country.

From grassroots movements to government apologies, the First Nations community has been the topic of much discussion in the Canadian media. The most recent issue – nutritional experiments conducted on at least 1,300 Aboriginal people in the 1940’s and 50’s. The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has called on Stephen Harper’s government to apologize for these abusive acts, mainly administered on children, claiming the “2008 Apology” is not enough.

But, when do apologies become a “boy who cried wolf” syndrome?

It’s one thing to receive an apology, and it’s another to keep asking for them. It’s not to say that demanding conviction isn’t justified. Rightfully so, all First Nations affected by Canadian residential schools deserve apologies from around the country.

However, requesting more apologies reminds me of someone begging to work things out with the partner who cheated on their relationship. It’s desperate and doesn’t accomplish anything for the future. What really needs to start happening is a healing process. I look back at my – limited – time in nursing school. What first year students are mainly taught, besides the dreadful introduction to anatomy, is caring.

Caring for someone helps the patient heal. It is such an important part to the process of becoming healthy again. Perhaps many First Nations believe Canada has turned a blind eye to them. But, there are many who do care. There are non-Aboriginal people who want to help them heal.

Even though it is painful to learn about shameful things that have happened in the past, it is even more agonizing to find out decades later that not much has been done to soothe the hurt.A good start would be encouraging Canadians to become educated in our country’s history. Will this answer all the problems facing First Nations people in Canada? No. Will it spark interest in people who want to help promote and fight for aboriginal issues? Absolutely.

            This is what I remember from my high school history: “CHIEF PIAPOT” was a guarantee to be used in the crossword puzzles our teacher gave out in class.

Something about that just doesn’t seem right.

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