Ac­tion, not in­sin­cer­ity, what’s owed First Na­tions

The Delhi News-Record - - OPINION - PA­TRICK MASCOE

As I write this, I would like to ac­knowl­edge that I am do­ing so while sit­ting at my desk on the un­ceded, un­sur­ren­dered tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory of the Al­go­nquin peo­ple. Why am I telling you this?

I’m not sure.

But I’m also not sure why I am hear­ing a sim­i­lar mes­sage ev­ery morn­ing on the an­nounce­ments at the school where I work. Fur­ther­more, I don’t know why the same state­ment is be­ing read prior to my staff meet­ings and teacher’s fed­er­a­tion meet­ings.

I do know how­ever, that this has now be­come our na­tional pledge of al­le­giance and if we say these mag­i­cal words enough (sim­ply in­sert Indige­nous name), ev­ery­thing will be all right. These very words will have the power to erase white guilt and re­store Indige­nous pride.

How does re­peat­ing a phrase ad nau­seam con­trib­ute to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion? When I at­tend teacher fed­er­a­tion meet­ings, teach­ers con­tinue to talk or get up and go for cof­fee or tea while the ter­ri­to­rial ac­knowl­edge­ment is be­ing read. Af­ter two weeks, I re­ceived not one ques­tion from my stu­dents about our new daily pledge. Yet, when I asked, no stu­dent could tell me the mean­ing of the word, “un­ceded.” How can in­sin­cere, empty rhetoric lead to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion?

Ac­cord­ing to Al­go­nquin-Anishi­naabe-kwe au­thor Lynn Gehl, it can’t.

In her opin­ion, the pro­to­col of ac­knowl­edg­ing her tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory is both mean­ing­less and pa­tron­iz­ing.

So, if the ter­ri­to­rial ac­knowl­edge­ment is not for the ben­e­fit of the Al­go­nquin peo­ple, then who is it sup­posed to ben­e­fit? It would seem that this is re­ally all about ap­peas­ing non-Indige­nous guilt.

Ter­ri­to­rial ac­knowl­edge­ments have ex­isted for hun­dreds of years as part of many Indige­nous cul­tures. I won­der how many schools have brought in an el­der to speak about this topic? Prob­a­bly very few.

I have never been taught any­thing about ter­ri­to­rial ac­knowl­edge­ments; they just started hap­pen­ing. Some­one needs to ex­plain to me how to­ken ges­tures and in­sin­cer­ity bring about rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

In 2008, the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion was es­tab­lished with the pur­pose of doc­u­ment­ing the his­tory and im­pact of abuse di­rected at First Na­tions Peo­ples. Note that the word “truth” comes be­fore the word “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.” I am in no way a cru­sader or ad­vo­cate for the First Na­tions.

I don’t be­lieve I per­son­ally owe any­one an apol­ogy, nor have I ever taken any­one’s land. I do know, how­ever, that say­ing sorry and not mean­ing it can only make mat­ters worse.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and his gov­ern­ment re­fused to sup­port Is­rael’s claim that Jerusalem is the right­ful cap­i­tal of the Jewish na­tion be­cause the city sits on dis­puted land. Wait. Doesn’t the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice sit on dis­puted land?

Ac­tu­ally there is no dis­pute, ac­cord­ing to Trudeau: In a 2016 speech to the Assem­bly of First Na­tions Chiefs, he stated the land be­longed to the Al­go­nquin peo­ple.

So why, then, is Ot­tawa our cap­i­tal? How can our cap­i­tal sit on some­one else’s land?

Herein lies the prob­lem our First Na­tions peo­ple face: po­lit­i­cal hypocrisy, un­ful­filled prom­ises, and mean­ing­less rhetoric. Ac­tion rather than disin­gen­u­ous words is the only way to achieve true rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. So please – enough with the ter­ri­to­rial ac­knowl­edge­ments. Stop talk­ing be­fore I be­come so de­sen­si­tized that I no longer care about the plight of my fel­low cit­i­zens.

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