ILLUMINATION
Published in

ILLUMINATION

White Privilege; White Responsibility in Canada

Husband in traditional attire woven geometric patterns of animals and human faces and hands. Wife in colonial black buttoned dress and cloak with shell trim.
Pacific North West Tlingit couple in Bear Clan ceremonial attire. Photo by Case and Draper in 1907

I am white but I write with the magnanimous support of my academic healthcare colleagues, students and friends who are Indigenous. Seeking, confirming and upholding truth leads to accountability, action and ally-ship. In Canada we are in the nascence of seizing truth and committing ourselves to reconciliation with our Indigenous brothers, sisters and 2SLGBTQQIA people,(2-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual people). Ancestral lands are being reclaimed through a legal process, First Nations health authorities are self-administered, social and occupational resurgence and flourishing of dignity is occurring in the wake of the inter-generational trauma and discrimination of colonialism.

6 totem poles between 1 and 2 stories high carved from cedar tree trunks with emblems of mystical thunderbird, orca whale, bear, wolf, human, eagle, raven, beaver and  frog forms; some painted in red, blue, white and black and others left natural. Situated between forest and plain, reflected in a small pool.
Author’s photo. Resurgence of Pacific NW totem pole carving; 4 Nations left to right; Nisga’a, Hesquiat, Kwakwaka’wakw, and Haida Gwaii

A hundred fifty thousand children over 4 generations were abducted and DE-cultured of their language and identity by being separated from family in Christian (residential) boarding schools. The tragedy lies in estimated 4,000 unmarked graves due to TB, abuse, malnutrition, neglect, electric chairs, medical experimentation even rental out to pedophile rings. Stolen children who survived did not know to whom they belonged nor where to return. Parenting became obsolete. Solace for distress and displacement has oft been found in the use of substances that perpetrates inter-generational trauma. While Indigenous people make up only 4% of the population of Canada they comprise 40% of folk living in ghettos. Pope Benedict expressed his sorrow for the suffering of the Indigenous people in Canada’s residential schools to the assembly of First Nations’ National Chief, Phil Fontaine in April of 2009. Apologies are not enough.

Twenty stone steps leading to a columned building are covered with children’s shoes, toys, flowers, photos and expressions of sympathy.
Vancouver BC memorial for 215 children whose bodies have been discovered in a residential school yard in Kamloops BC. They will be identified and returned to their people. The world grieves for these precious lives lost tragically and so far from their loving families. Count is rising with over 1700 children’s bodies at Nov 2022.
An Indigenous woman with black braids, earring hoops and 2 feathers in her hair wears a cloak covered in hundreds of tiny pictures of women that went missing.
National Inquest into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people (2-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual people)

In the last decade, the cases of hundreds of missing women (their precious faces shown above) were not investigated by abjectly negligent police forces. Women disappeared hitchhiking on vast highways that lacked public transport. They vanished from ghettos in the line of street work. All too late a serial killer was found videoing untold rape-murders. He rendered their bodies into sausages on his pig farm 2 hours from the downtown core where he lured primarily Indigenous women.

We acknowledge the strength and resilience of Indigenous people worldwide as they reestablish their languages and cultures. Restitution of land, health, the promulgation of historic truth and restoration of authority is required to facilitate forgiveness; both being prerequisites for reconciliation.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon

“Reconciliation will NOT be achieved if one side believes it is based on the recognition of rights and the other believes that it is an act of benevolence.”

-Senator Murray Sinclair, First Nations lawyer, Ojibway Nation, traditional name; Mizanay Gheezhik meaning “The one who speaks of pictures in the sky”. Chair of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 2009–2015

Senator Murray Sinclair; photos by Jerry Nussbaum and MacDonald-Laurier Institute

Trusting us and ours to hope, health, happiness and harmony.

“You cannot reconcile a relationship that never existed. We don’t need any more “sorrys”. We have closets full of sorrys. There is no word in Cree for Reconciliation. Only “kwayshahstahsoowin” which means “setting things right”. Restoring what is ours would set things right. Giving our land back would set things right.” -Maria Campbell
Slide used with permission of Maria Campbell

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Isak Dinesen

Isak Dinesen

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"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. What the world needs is people who have come alive. " - Howard Thurman (AfricanAmerican)