Roy Alexander, Beverley O’neil, Paul Winn
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.