I’ll be there to share the land

As I was flipping through my Social Studies text book looking for the answer to another dry text question, a realization started to bother me; every year, in every text book there is a passage about the sufferings of the Aboriginal people.  What bothers me is not that our text book recognizes these troubles, but rather that they exist, and that their existence is so closely weaved through out our history as a country.

The first time I was sitting in class and heard that it wasn’t until the year 1960 – that’s right, not even 52 years ago – that Aboriginal citizens were given the right to vote in a federal election, I was absolutely stunned. But that wasn’t even the beginning, or anywhere close to the end.

Living in a community that has a large Aboriginal peoples population, I’ve seen first hand only a little of the struggles these communities face, and have heard some of the stories people have been brave enough to share with me. Stories of extreme physical and sexual abuse in residential schools, leading to almost unspeakable pain and suffering, to pipelines pumping oil through towns, destroying local ways of life.

And how about some of the facts? Like how we have Aboriginal people living in third world conditions? Or how nearly 60% of Aboriginal youth on reserves won’t finish high school?

Where does it end? It’s still happening today all around us. I think it’s important for their communities to know that they do have people outside of their culture who want to improve their quality of life. We can’t fix what our founders and maybe even ancestors did, nor can we erase what that they did it, but it’s important for this generation to recognize what they did and the tremendous impact they’ve caused.

With Aboriginal issues in Canada, a blame game gets played. Some feeling it’s not their responsibility to help solve what they themselves did not physically do, but also some feeling helpless, and some purely unaware. As much as our government might like to pretend monetary compensation will solve everything and make everything right again, it doesn’t pay for healing.

As a country, we may be finally starting to recognize that it’s time to be inclusive of everyone’s needs. Yesterday, the 12th of November, marked the day that Canada signed on to the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Next time you leave your house, think about the land your feet is on. It is beautiful, vast land able to take care of us all. When I inhale the newly crisp Fall air, and watch the Pacific Ocean wash over the rocks, I thank the Coast Salish people for sharing this land with me.

In closing, I think a couple verses from one of my favourite Canadian bands, The Guess Who simply sums it all up.

Have you been aware?
You got brothers and sisters who care
About what’s gonna happen to you
In a year from now

Maybe I’ll be there to shake your hand
Baby, I’ll be there to share the land
That they’ll be givin’ away
When we oughta live together
I’m talkin’ bout together, now

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