Roy Alexan­der, Bev­er­ley O’neil, Paul Winn

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Con­tact No Con­tact

The term “con­tact” is used to de­scribe ini­tial en­coun­ters of In­dige­nous peo­ples with set­tlers, non-in­dige­nous peo­ple and oth­ers, and car­ries a spe­cial charge in ac­counts of In­dige­nous his­tory. For most Cana­di­ans, con­tact re­mains an ab­stract “his­tor­i­cal” event, and it is one that has (d)evolved over cen­turies into a con­tin­u­ous state of “no fur­ther con­tact.”

Con­tact No Con­tact is a gath­er­ing of per­sonal nar­ra­tives cre­ated by writ­ers and sto­ry­tellers on the sub­ject of con­tact: how con­tact ap­pears in our lives and our mem­o­ries and how we en­counter our own cul­ture, as well as the cul­ture of oth­ers.

The project is de­signed to wel­come Cana­di­ans into a con­ver­sa­tion they might other­wise feel ex­cluded from, by con­sid­er­ing how con­tact started (or failed to start) in their own lives, and then how it went on from there—that is, how did “fur­ther con­tact” emerge or fail to emerge in their lives?

The sto­ries be­low are tran­scribed from videos fea­tured on the Con­tact No Con­tact web­site. For more sto­ries and in­for­ma­tion about the project visit con­tact-no­con­tact.ca. Quiet In­tro­duc­tions Roy Alexan­der

Early in the morn­ings I had a lot of free time and I was able to take my lit­tle Vic­to­ria boat­works clinker out and row around the is­lands. Al­most ev­ery sec­ond day if not ev­ery day in the sum­mer I would pass a gen­tle­man named Jimmy Mckay. I didn’t know him. We would just pass qui­etly, me row­ing and him row­ing in his dugout ca­noe. We would pass silently ev­ery morn­ing, I would wave and he would wave and smile. I was row­ing my boat in the cen­tre, English style, quickly out, and he was sit­ting on the back of the boat, row­ing the boat fac­ing for­ward sit­ting at the stern of the ca­noe. One day when I went by, I got close to him and I said “Jimmy, Jimmy, why are you row­ing back­wards? You’re row­ing back­wards, and why do you sit up at the end of the ca­noe like that?” I thought maybe it was some spe­cial sit­u­a­tion or some­thing. He turned around to me and he just chuck­led, and said, “Only the white man rows and can’t see where he’s go­ing,” and just pad­dled away, and that was al­ways my great mem­ory of Jimmy Mckay. And that was my very quiet in­tro­duc­tion to Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple. Where Are You From?

Bev­er­ley O’neil, Ktu­naxa Na­tion

At 24 I started to get used to peo­ple ask­ing, “Where you from?” Af­ter all, I’d only been an In­dian for six years, and now had the Gov­ern­ment of Canada let­ter to prove it. It read: “Con­grat­u­la­tions! You’re now reg­is­tered as an In­dian un­der the In­dian Act of Canada.” Be­fore this let­ter, I didn’t look like any­thing ex­cept “out of place.” In my new legally rec­og­nized In­dian Sta­tus, I was now equipped to an­swer any­one who asked “What are you?” One evening out with a friend, a fel­low asked me, “We know your friend is Na­tive, but we were won­der­ing what you are?” I replied, “We no­ticed you too, and we were won­der­ing if you’re white.” A Lot Like Me Paul Winn

My very first con­tact with First Na­tions peo­ple was when I was about 13 years old, in the city of Toronto. I was sur­prised be­cause you never ever saw any First Na­tions peo­ple in the city of Toronto. I’m sure that there was more than the cou­ple that I saw. They didn’t look like First Na­tions peo­ple, or “In­di­ans” as they were called, be­cause my im­age of First Na­tions and “In­dian” peo­ple were movies and draw­ings and comic books and things. These peo­ple were wear­ing clothes like I was wear­ing, they looked a lot like me. That was an in­ter­est­ing thing, and I re­mem­ber it led to a bit of dis­cus­sion [with my fam­ily] when I got home. And the re­ac­tion I got: “Well, you’re stupid! What did you think?” They said, your an­ces­tors were African, but you don’t see us run­ning around in the kind of clothes they wore in Africa in the past. We’ve mod­ern­ized.

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