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In Idle No More Education is Key

Unlearning the history books, teaching each other

by Hillary Bain Lindsay

Canadians need to learn their history, say Idle No More organizers (Photo: Lesley Thompson).
Canadians need to learn their history, say Idle No More organizers (Photo: Lesley Thompson).

HALIFAX — "We all deserve to know the truth about our history," says Michael Stevens, speaking to a crowd of about 250 First Nations people and their allies, gathered at the foot of Citadel Hill for Monday's Idle No More rally.    

"This is where Governor Cornwallis issued his scalping declaration [in 1749]," says Stevens.  "Ten guineas for the scalp of every Mi'kmaq man, woman or child."

"This is not the history we are learning in schools," he says.  

But this is the history that Canadians are learning through Idle No More, says Shelley Young, one of the organizers of the Trail of Fire, a two-day Idle No More event that included today's march.

"Canadians need to know the truth," says Young.  “We’re sharing our history.”  

Young believes the large crowd today demonstrates that the teach-ins, flash mobs and rallies of the past few months are having an effect.  “It’s working,” she says. “Canadians are becoming aware that Idle No More is not a First Nations issue, it's a Canadian issue … Seeing allies here today, it makes me so happy.”

The Trail of Fire began yesterday at the old residential school grounds in Shubenacadie, NS. “We prayed for the children that had died there and our survivors," says Young. “Canadians don't know about the abuse, the genocide," she says.  "Children as young as my [two-year-old] daughter were taken away from their parents … My grandmother went to residential school.  I still feel the effects of that every day."  

"The Canadian government has done everything they can to eliminate us.  Eliminate our culture," says Young.  

“Canadians need to know about what the government has done in the past," she says, "And also what it's doing today."

First Nations treaties are being ignored by the Harper government, says Young.  “Canada is breaking the law.”  

"[My students] don't know about First Nations history, they don't know about treaty rights," says Erin Wunker, a professor at Dalhousie University, who spoke at the rally.  “We [non-native people] need to work hard to educate ourselves about these treaty rights, and about our own complacency in not understanding the history of this country."

It is not simply for the sake of justice for First Nations that non-natives should care about treaties, adds Wunker.  “First Nations people are the only people in this country with the constitutional right to stand up for us, and we need to stand with them, against this government."  

“We’re not just fighting for what happened to us," says Young. “We’re fighting for everyone here.”  The treaties protect the land and water, she says, and that’s something all Canadians need to care about. Otherwise, “we will have clearcuts and poisoned rivers."

“We have to stand up,” says Young.  “We have to fight.” 


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Topics: Indigenous
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