Many years ago, when I was young, I asked,“Grandma, weren’t there native Americans already living on your land when you homesteaded it?”
“Well, sure, I guess, but they didn’t own it. They didn’t farm it or anything. We made it productive.”
And that’s the story I knew growing up. I am descended from prairie immigrant homesteading farmers, and proud of it. My ancestors didn’t have an easy life; they worked hard and I am grateful for the towns and roads and country of Canada that they built. They passed along to me, a lucky grandchild, the good life in a great country that they envisioned. But…
I always wondered if they hadn’t missed something with the land’s indigenous peoples. Wasn’t there a better way they could have worked things out with them? No one discussed this in my generation growing up. I am 59 years old this year, this 150th year of our existence as an acknowledged country. But I know that the land of our country has existed much longer than 150 years, and that there were people here in those long years before.
My father was in the Army and for a time, we lived in Goose Bay. Living on base, we didn’t mingle with the local, native population of Labrador very much. I remember seeing them outside the Hudson Bay store and being curious about their lives – how did they live here, what did they do?
Again, no one taught me much about this then. But as I grew up, I read. And I became even more curious about our country, our whole country. I’ll never be an expert in human relations or fixing the past, but I do think this: to reconcile the past with our present means we can move forward into a better future for all.
To me, Canada means all of us. The whole country of Canada. Not just the builders and makers, not just lucky immigrant grandchildren. It means everyone: Indigenous, old world immigrants, new immigrants, mixed-cultured, and yes, even the lucky immigrant grandchildren : we’re all Canadians now. Let’s move forward, together, for all our grandchildren.