The Genocide Canada Wants to Hide
If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people.
– Chief Seattle, Suquamish chief, the statement commonly believed to have been part of a speech delivered in 1851
The English and French in what is now the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador did not buy the island of Newfoundland from the Beothuk Indians. They chose instead to slaughter them. Some stories claim that white men hunted the Beothuk for sport. Others say that the French brought Mi’kmaq Indians to the island from Nova Scotia to kill the Beothuk. Either way, the last surviving Beothuk, Shanawdithit, died in 1829, driving to extinction that last member of a tribe of native people whose skin colour reportedly gave the native people of North America the label “Redskins.”
That is the way the English wrote their history of Newfoundland. Of course they blamed someone other than themselves for driving to extinction a tribe of gentle people who likely migrated from mainland Labrador when Jesus walked the earth.
No doubt genocide was involved. But did the Beothuk really go extinct? In a way, they didn’t, any more than the Aztecs of Mexico whose descendants live in the Yucatan and Central America today. Mi’kmaq were not imported to Newfoundland, as history states. They cohabited the island, likely for centuries, with the Beothuk. They intermarried.
Only today are the Mi’kmaq of Newfoundland being recognized by the Canadian government as actually existing as a cultural group. History books said they had left the island. History stated clearly, and this was taught in Canadian schools for years, that once the last Beothuk died no more Indians (known as First Nations in Canada) lived on Newfoundland island.
History was wrong. History was written, as most history was, by the conquerors. However, a few people who lived on Newfoundland taught their children that they were in fact Mi’kmaq people, not descendants of English settlers. Most Newfoundlanders who have Beothuk and Mi’kmaq blood in their veins grew up believing that their parents were white people. to their grandparents, it was a safer way to survive. Only a small number knew the truth.
While many Francophones in Canada still hate “the English” for stealing their land, neither regrets the extinction of the Beothuk or (likely) the deaths of many of the Mi’kmaq. These native peoples had no concept of land ownership when the Europeans arrived in the 1500s. They believed, as Chief Seattle said, that “We are part of the earth and it is part of us.” They believed that the earth owned them, not the other way around. The Europeans had guns and a lust for power.
First Nations people in Canada today have problems, in many cases, but their heritage survives, some of their languages are taught in native schools and their history–the real history–is taught to every child. Not just their history and heritage, but their values survive. Though their numbers are small compared to the whole Canadian population, they are having a remarkable influence, on the Canadian government, on the Canadian people, even on people in other parts of the world.
If we want what we believe to survive our passing, we must teach our children. If we want the world to be a better place and we know how to do it, we must teach the lessons to our children.
Believe it or not, the world is a much better and safer place today than it was when I was born, during the Second World War. That change happened because good people cared. They taught their values to their children. The renegade thinkers of the past have grandchildren who share the same values but are now considered mainstream.
Chief Seattle was a great teacher, but he was not unique. He was determined to teach his values to everyone. He began by teaching the children of his tribe.
It was my turn to teach you. Now it’s your turn. Go and teach your children, no matter what their ages.
Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want to grow children with more important life objectives than to be good employees and consumers. The book gives not only reasons, it gives the lessons as well.
Learn more at http://billallin.com