The dominant group in any nation state often resorts to nostalgia, to mental or cultural ellipses, and to general forgetfulness in search of meanings and definitions to serve its own ideological needs of the moment.
-Quoted in Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry, p. 75
CCS Program Staff member David Lappano reflects on Canada’s sesquicentennial…
This year has a number – it’s 2017. In 2017 Canada wants to celebrate another number – 150. One hundred and fifty years ago, in 1867, four British and French colonies (Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick) joined in confederation to become Canada. It’s a momentous birthday year for the country.
This national birthday coincides with CCS’s own institutional birthday commemorating 125 years of diaconal education in Canada. The question we are wrestling with at CCS is how to commemorate these public celebrations in ways that don’t resort to nostalgia or mental and cultural ellipses.
There are other numbers I am reminded of:
- Treaties 1 to 11, entered into between the British Crown and several Indigenous nations. I am writing this reflection from Treaty 1 territory. I only read the treaty for the first time a few months ago.
- 80 First Nations communities south of 60th parallel are on water advisories. Most of these are long-term
- 46 Articles in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which “calls on states to honour and respect the Treaties and other agreements they have entered into with Indigenous peoples, to protect Indigenous languages and cultures, and to uphold Indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories and resources.”
- 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
- 25.4% of the people in Canada’s prisons are people with Indigenous ancestry, yet Indigenous people are under 5% of the total Canadian population.
Fortunately, whether we are Indigenous peoples or settler peoples, there are several Indigenous guides who want to take us into the ellipses of our past and our present. Here are some initiatives and sources that I’ve begun exploring, which will give Canadians different stories to celebrate or grapple with:
- #Resistance 150 – this is a digital initiative created by Christi Belcourt, Tanya Kappo, Maria Campbell, and Isaac Murdoch. This is a Twitter account that features Indigenous hosts who tell the deep history of Indigenous resistance to colonization. It also features the new and creative ways many are celebrating and expressing their culture while demanding the dignity that dominant culture remains reluctant to acknowledge.
- Decolonizing Lens is a Winnipeg event that features films by Indigenous artists every month. Admittance is free and there is often a discussion that follows the film.
- Colonization Road is a documentary film that explores colonization and dispossession by looking at the history of places where there is a street called Colonization Rd.
- Kent Monkman’s paintings are reimagining Canadian history and Indigenous representation.
- Red Rising magazine features Indigenous artwork, poetry, essays, stories, and interviews. I really like this piece from Erica Violet Lee: “Allowing love to flow beyond the edges of our skin (in the form of touch), our lips (in the form of language) and our eyes (in the form of tears) is necessary and radical in a world where we’re taught to believe those borders are impassible. So when we love each other, it is potent enough to heal the trauma and chase away the violence. So when we love it is wider than the prairies. So when we love, the bellies of our ancestors are filled with laughter and good food. When we love each other, pipelines shut down and borders open and logging machines jam” (Red Rising, Issue 4, p.4).
- There are so many books, but here are a couple that have been stretching me: George E. Tinker, Spirit and Resistance: Political Theology and American Indian Liberation (Fortress, 2004); John Bird, Lorraine Land and Murray Macadam (Eds), Nation to Nation: Aboriginal Sovereignty and the Future of Canada (Irwin, 2002).
Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved with the same level of consciousness that created it.” These Indigenous guides are making it possible for all the peoples in Canada to raise their level of consciousness. They can show us what some of us are afraid to see but must see, and they can show us what some of us might understand intimately and now have a chance to share with others.
Speaking personally, I am among those who need to listen and learn and be changed. I need to continue the process of decolonizing my mind so that my words and actions and relationships no longer serve the ideologies of empire, domination, or European supremacy. These are the ideologies in the ellipses of Canada’s history. It is my history.
We cannot confront or overcome this history on our own, and neither are our churches up to this task on their own. But we can choose to be led into one hundred and fifty years of a better future by walking with these, and other guides.