The Editorial Page
Opening our minds to new perspectives

More than a few years ago, I emerged from the school system believing all the worst stereotypes about North American Indians. These beliefs were reinforced by the prevailing attitudes of family, and society in general.

I had an awakening at Montreal Expo in 1967. When I visited the Native Indian pavilion and studied the history displayed there -- from the Aboriginal point of view -- I had a whole new perspective. I stood there and I wept. My tears were for these many Peoples and what they lost when my forefathers came to these shores. My tears were for the indignities and pain they have suffered and still suffer. My tears were for the ignorance of myself and so many Canadian people with respect to these Peoples and their history. I set out to learn more.

They had been labelled "savages". Why? Because, in those early days, they were not Christian? Their belief in a Creator was not at all inconsistent with a Christian's belief in God. Their reverence and respect for Mother Earth and all things on and in it far surpassed ours. They would never have done to this Earth the destructive things that we "civilized" people do. Because they were uncivilized? They had a civilization that was as unique to them as ours was to us. Perhaps they considered us to be uncivilized. Because they were illiterate? By whose standards? They had different ways of sending messages and recording information, no less important than the European ways. Because they took scalps as trophies? Actually, most tribes did not. The truth is, European settlers were guilty of far more outrageous actions than this. And here is a bit of information not widely known or admitted to: the first person to take scalps was a European leader of an early settlement in Nova Scotia.

And today? Our jails are filled with Indians who do not all belong there. They are still regarded as "less than nothing" by many people. The police in one western community had so little respect for them that they were accused of picking them up and dropping them off in the middle of nowhere, without coats, to freeze to death in winter. When I talked to my own mother shortly before she died -- my beloved mother who was a loving and generous human being -- about the travesty of justice that had put Donald Marshall into jail for 11 years for a murder he didn't commit, she said to me, "But Sue, he was just an Indian." My mother!

There is no doubt that, today, far too many Native Indians are involved with alcohol, drugs, and various kinds of abuse. The concepts of physical and sexual abuse were taught to them -- a legacy from some people at some residential schools. Alcohol and drugs became an escape for these once-proud people who had been stripped of their languages and customs and taught that they were less than nothing and had no rights in this country.

If you think they had little culture, few values and not much worth preserving, visit the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec (across the river from Ottawa), and take the time to go through the amazing exhibits that depict the history of the early aboriginal civilization in this country. You may be in for an incredible eye-opener! (There are certainly similar types of musuems, closer to where you live.)

It is a tragedy that they have lost so much because they trusted the European settlers who moved in on them and took over their lands with false friendship and false treaties.

A few readers have accused me of trying to spread "white man's guilt" in these pages, of trying to make all Canadians feel guilty and painting all Indians as victims. I apologise if that is what I've done because these are not my beliefs. I do not feel personally guilty for deeds done by others and I don't believe you should.

As is the case with groups of people everywhere, there are always those who will abuse the system and think the world owes them everything. At the other end of the spectrum are those that no one can keep down -- the ambitious, the talented and the hard-working achievers. But there are a huge number of people in between who need to be lifted and supported back to better times.

I see a great need to help Canadians learn the history that really happened, to promote a better understanding of the Aboriginals and a respect for them and their culture. One way to do this is to encourage you to watch the Aboriginal Achievement Awards programme that is aired every year on television. It's not just those receiving the awards who will impress you; nor the marvellous entertainers who are as talented as anyone on earth; but the Aboriginals who are responsible for the whole presentation do such a wonderful job of it that I find it more impressive to watch than any other such show on television, including the Oscars -- far more class and style.

I see D&D as a vehicle to bring you new awareness as well. If we print articles that show you some everyday news situations from the perspective of a Native Indian, perhaps that will bring you new understanding -- whether or not you (or we) agree with those perspectives. And in new understanding, perhaps you will develop new respect. And if we develop a new and/or greater respect for them, it may help some of them develop more respect for themselves. Most of us try to live up to the respect of others.

And if a few of you want to keep your minds closed to any kind of understanding of the Native Peoples, then skip over that page or two that we may devote to Native issues. There is no need to cancel your subscription -- as, I'm ashamed to say, one or two of you have done. God knows, there's enough other material to read in this newspaper.

Sue Potvin

DID YOU KNOW that D&D's content is equal in size to a newspaper of more than 40 pages? It's true. Newspapers normally depend upon advertising to survive; and the ratio is normally from half (minimal) to two-thirds (common) advertising content. This is just one of a few reasons why it takes so long for one person to get this paper out. Aside from the work in putting the paper together, we (it's an editorial "we" -- a habit) also must sometimes wait for sufficient funds to come in through donations and subscriptions. Your renewal is more important than you may have realised. Is it due? Check your address label. The number following your last name indicates the last issue you have paid for (this is issue number 25).

If the layout of this issue looks slightly different, that's because it is. D&D invested in a new computer programme that allows the whole page to be assembled on the computer instead of piece by piece. With only two hours of instruction on this very different system, it has taken some time to learn enough to get this issue out, but it's already apparent that this is going to make production much easier in future.

Perhaps the most difficult part of producing D&D has been in choosing what to use from the wonderful selection of articles available to us. We look for balance. It's wonderful to have access to the works of such renowned writers as Dr. Michel Chossudovsky and Dr. Tony Hall, as well as the popular contributions of such regulars as Sydney White and Eva Lyman. But we must also make space for those citizens who have something to say and need a forum that they can't find elsewhere. Apologies to anyone who was expecting a piece in this issue, only to have it replaced by something else. We could easily go 24, even more, pages -- if we could afford the extra cost. Next time should come more easily.

PLEASE NOTE: Effective immediately, our fax number will be the same as our phone number: 902-765-9403. With e-mail so much more popular, maintaining a second line for fax use is no longer justified.