I believe that this is one of the most exciting times to be alive. We have an opportunity to make history. We have a chance that our parents and grandparents didn’t have: to make things right between First Nations and the rest of us. This is the time to be awake to possibility. Idle No More and Chief Theresa Spence have invited us to join a dance.
On Jan. 11, in preparation for prayer, drumming and a round dance outside the prime minister’s constituency office in Calgary, my husband Bill and I spent time together in prayer and in silence. Later we talked about how the Idle No More movement has changed Canada. We recalled people and events that have brought us to this moment. Idle No More didn’t come out of thin air.
The Berger Inquiry, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the preparation for the Kelowna Accord, the formal apologies of churches and the government — all helped to build awareness and bridges.
New school curricula, published over the last 20 years, tell a more honest history of Canada. New works by Indigenous writers, poets and musicians have helped us see with new eyes. (Who can forget Thomas King’s Dead Dog Cafe on CBC radio that helped us laugh and learn?) On television, new dramas showcase Aboriginal actors as the stars, not secondary characters (who were often played by Italian actors) speaking pigeon English. The Aboriginal Achievement Awards and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network are also succeeding in teaching and entertaining Canadians.
Aboriginal hockey players, professors, lawyers, ministers, priests and business people are in the public eye. Aboriginal politicians, including cabinet ministers and the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, are among our nation’s leaders.
Some years ago, the United Church set a model for self-governance by establishing The All Native Circle Conference. And the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, still touring Canada, is hearing tens of thousands of testimonies in order to create a full record of what happened in the residential schools. It’s a whole new world we’re living in.
As we learn more about the real history of this land, many of us feel shame and anger. But we can’t stop there because negative emotions will poison us. More importantly, the Idle No More movement isn’t asking us simply to feel; it’s asking us to act. We are being invited to join the dance. Let’s step up.
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