Here on Canadian Thanksgiving day, I am mourning.
In Australia, awareness of aboriginal issues is growing. Indigenous people have occasions to celebrate their heritage, have special government support and programs, and have their own television station. While there are still many injustices especially in rural communities, there have been some improvements in the last two decades. Not so for the indigenous people of Canada.
For many North Americans the plight of the Native Indians is a non-issue. Most have been consigned out of sight on reserves and there is little representation of any aboriginal issues in the media. In Australia we try to have a representation of aboriginal people in TV shows and politics, in Canada it’s virtually radio silence.
Thanksgiving goes on as usual… and people there “could care less” about how the First Nations people feel about the holiday.
The stench of death over the holiday
Apparently, Thanksgiving itself has Canadian roots. In 1578 the first Thanksgiving celebration took place in Newfoundland when English explorer Martin Frobisher landed there in 1578 in his quest for the Northwest Passage. Additionally, another year was noted where Samuel de Champlain in Port-Royal on Nov. 14, 1606, which saw Europeans and Indigenous peoples breaking bread together.
Where the American Thanksgiving has its history from Massachusetts, marked by a swift genocide. Genocide and mistreatment of the first nations in Canada came soon after Thanksgiving became a regular practice and while there is not the direct association with genocide as the US Thanksgiving, it is certainly not as positive when you think back through history.
Christian settlers wanting God’s blessing over Canada forced conversions by threat of death murdering many confused Native Indians, there were treaty violations in which the land was stolen, and an all-out war over Halifax. Rape and slavery and the sordid attempt to make Canada a “white protestant” nation.
Not much has changed
Even today, the First Nations people of Canada have less rights than your average refugee in Canada. There is a gross overrepresentation of indigenous Canadians in prisons, and children get taken from Indigenous Canadians still, citing poverty as an excuse.
There is a vicious cycle where the natives are too poor to stop the injustices but how can they get the funding to get out of their poverty? Only now is the Canadian government addressing the “stolen generations” and yet removing children from native homes is still happening!
The Canadian government wants to throw money at bringing in excess refugees and asylum seekers but when it comes to the people who initially own the land, they won’t return what was stolen or acknowledge that the land does not belong to their government to do as they please.
Celebration or mourning?
Who else is mourning the girls from Indian reserves in their teens who go missing every year from being forced into prostitution?
Who else is mourning the fact that Native Canadians are treated like third world citizens in their own country?
Who else is mourning the silence surrounding the dire living conditions for the natives?
Canada has a lot to answer for and letting Native Indians perform a song at a Thanksgiving celebration and giving some money without answers or compassion is not going to solve any long-term problems.
I have been having my pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving with a side of tears, for all the injustice that continues to plague a beautiful culture of people who deserve better.
Bridget Brenton is involved in Aboriginal and Islander based ministries, and enjoys tech stuff like making websites and making games (www.christianvisualnovel.com) in her spare time.
Bridget Brenton’s previous articles may be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bridget-brenton.