This first appeared as a FaceBook post. Bear with me. It’s important.
My “settler/colonizer” roots go deep in this country. Some of my family has been here since the late 17th century, part of those first boatloads of land-tied serfs brought to “New France”.
I need to say that up front: I am a product of colonization. It’s not something I need to be ashamed of (how could I be? I had no say in the matter) but neither is it something I can point to with “pride”. It is just a fact.
Some of my forebears were directly involved in the subjugation and genocide of the First Nations and Metis people they encountered.
Like my sentiments above, this is not up for discussion: it simply is another fact. It is not something I need to feel “guilty” about, but here there is a burden: I am responsible for this, in the sense that I have a duty to make reparations, and to go forward doing better than those who came before me.
That’s not onerous. That’s not some kind of cross to bear. It, too, is simply a fact, and “duty” should not be a dirty word. If I am a decent human, I take this on, voluntarily and without resentment, because it is not born of guilt.
But here’s the real internal nut that all of us with similar pasts must confront and crack open:
The “revelations” about what had been done/was continuing throughout my lifetime/is happening now – the residential schools, the indifference/blatant racism of law enforcement, the pretense of “listening” to First Nations voices while blithely ignoring the content of their words and actions to pursue some hazily defined “economic good” — these things should not be news to anyone.
Because we did know.
Our parents knew.
In the neighbourhood that I grew up in, we were strongly discouraged from playing the cowboys part of “Cowboys and Indians” (we did play the “Indians” part. None of us wanted to be cowboys) — because our parents knew.
And we, even as children, understood it instinctively. We could see even through the myths from Hollywood, how a way of life was being destroyed, and how the myth was being constructed. We might not have had the words to describe this…but we knew it for what it was.
I cannot be held guilty of atrocities that occurred under governments that adults elected while I was still below the age of consent.
But all of us must face these facts: we, as a group, chose our own self-interest over basic humanity towards others, we perpetuated (continue to perpetuate) these acts and attitudes, and it is our duty to end this.
If not us, then who?
If not now, then when?
Morgan Smith acknowledges that she lives on land belonging to
Métis/Tsuu T’ina Plains Cree
Treaty 6, 1876