My Perspective ~ Canada Day 150
By Sheila Willis
I have really struggled with the 150th Birthday of Canada. Being a historian, the writings of the past are good examples of some of the subtle ways that Indigenous peoples have been disregarded and disrespected in the past – this aside from the residential schools and other things we are learning more and more about.
I recently read a portion of a guidebook for settlers and tourists called “Edmonton to Peace River and the North Country – 1918-19 Guide with a map of North Country” (1). This ‘guidebook’ essentially told settlers and tourists that several of the ‘reservations” along Lesser Slave Lake had good hay meadows. They never mentioned that permission should be sought until they reached land that had been settled.
This is just one example of many of the subtlety of these types of writings. I wonder how things would have been different if a hundred plus years ago, some of the ‘instruction manuals” were worded differently. That however is nothing that can be changed. What we can change is our present day outlooks and attitudes.
We can educate ourselves to the truth. From that point forward we have a platform to stand on, as a nation (of nations), to move forward with better relationships and become a stronger country because of it.
My passion is the history of northern Alberta. Fort Vermilion & Fort Chipewyan are the two oldest European settlements in the province of Alberta, developed with the entry of the fur trade into this region.
I’ve heard from the descendants of the settlers, First Nations and Metis that there were positive interactions. People shared food, were shown trails, and were taught the survival skills of a harsh land. Indigenous women delivered the first European babies born in the north and these same women were nursemaids to sick Europeans.
I think in the 150th Birthday of Canada we should all commit to working towards a better future. I have been involved in the building of the History Check app and view it as an opportunity to relate history from all viewpoints.
I look forward to developing the relationships with First Nations and Metis to share this opportunity to relate their history from their perspective, if they choose to. My challenge is educating myself on how to do that respectfully and according to custom, as I did not have a lot of exposure to Indigenous culture growing up.
I know other people feel the same challenge. They want to do the right thing but are really unclear of what the right thing is and how to go about it.
I see Canada 150 as an opportunity to learn how to approach this challenge and hope others do the same. Education requires teachers and students. Lets make the history that begins today, better than it has been for the last 150 years.
The views above are my own. While I am confident the Board of FHNAS has similar views, I am speaking for myself in this post.