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
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.
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
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.