A video by Justice Murray Sinclair
Edward Cornwallis is honoured as the founder of Halifax. A British military leader who issued bounties on Mi’kmaw scalps, his statue in a city park named in his honour has been at the centre of division and debate.
For years, the Mi’kmaq have fought to have his monument removed. It happened at the end of January — a celebratory moment for the Mi’kmaq.
“We’re in a time now of truth and reconciliation, and peace and friendship,” said Mi’kmaw activist Rebecca Moore, watching crews work to lift the statue from its pedestal.
“This is it being lived out, right now in this moment,” said Moore. “And I’m really, really happy and proud to be here and to be able to witness this.”
Overhead, an eagle circled as a crane lifted the statue from its granite base.
“For that eagle to come and fly right over us, just right the same moment as Cornwallis just got removed from his pedestal was just, it was very affirming to me,” said Moore.
This was a moment three decades in the making and the focus of an APTN Investigatesepisode, History Decolonized.
It started with Mi’kmaw Elder Dan Paul, who published “We Were Not the Savages” in 1993. Paul applied an Indigenous lens to the history of the Nova Scotia and it painted a vastly different picture.
“In his correspondence with the Lords of Trade in London, [Cornwallis] made it clear that it would be best to root the Mi’kmaq out of the peninsula of Nova Scotia for all time and forever,” said Paul.
“What kind of a man is that and why do we have a statue of him in the park?” asked Moore, just weeks before a sudden turn of events led to the statue’s removal.
It’s a question Halifax city council has wrestled with for years. And a question that sparks fierce debate, one echoed across the continent.
Last May, a speech by the Mayor of New Orleans on why the confederate monuments were being removed went viral.
“There is a difference, you see, between remembrance of history and the reverence of it,” said Mitch Landrieu.
In the United States, as monuments came down in 2017, racism ramped up.
In Charlottesville, Va., white supremacists protested the removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue. Counter rallies were held and violent clashes followed. It turned deadly after a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman.
Canada is hardly immune to the racist backlash when colonial history is questioned.
“We’re seeing this emergence of it in much bolder ways,” said El Jones, a professor, poet and activist in Halifax. “I’ve certainly experienced it myself, very much an increase in the intensity of harassment. So people who love me are like, don’t walk home alone.”
Jones said it intensifies around the topic of Cornwallis.
In council meetings over the past year, Halifax councillors have referenced the racist emails they’ve received on the topic of Cornwallis.
And whether it’s Cornwallis or one of the confederate monuments, the rhetoric often includes the line, “you can’t erase history.”
“Where’s our history, if you can’t erase history?” said Moore. “Only settler people, only the colonist can erase history? Because this land has a whole pre-colonial history, where’s our pre-colonial history? Nowhere. It’s like they think that the world started when they landed here. And it didn’t.”
“I always call it white amnesia,” said Jones. “Like, white people don’t have to reckon with history and they have the privilege to forget it.”
Halifax mayor Mike Savage said it’s important the city grapple with an uncomfortable history.
“This is a city like many cities that has been a victim of systemic racism. Not just against First Nations, but against African Nova Scotians as well,” said Savage. “And we can’t deny the history. We have to accept the history and learn from it.”
Before the statue came down, Savage called it an “impediment to progress.”
City council had struck a committee to explore issues around the commemoration of Cornwallis. Savage hoped it would be an avenue to education.
But after months of no action, the Mi’kmaw chiefs lost patience and pulled out and demanded the statue be removed immediately.
The grassroots moved quickly to plan a rally called “Removing Cornwallis.” City staff, fearing a potential conflict, recommended to council that the statue be taken down and put into storage.
Within days, the debate was back before council who voted overwhelmingly in support of removing Cornwallis.
“It’s down and it allows us to have that conversation we need to have on true reconciliation,” said Savage.
The Mi’kmaq held a rally at Cornwallis Park, standing where the statue had stood just days before.
“We removed Cornwallis!” cheered Mi’kmaw warrior Suzanne Patles, bullhorn in hand. “And look who stands in his place. Mi’kmaw women!”
What followed was drumming, smudging and a thank you to Dan Paul, for his tireless efforts to expose the Mi’kmaw narrative of a city built in the traditional, unceded territory of Mi’kma’ki.
“It hasn’t been as erasure of history,” Patles told the crowd. What we’re doing is, we’re refusing to be erased. ”
“The hidden history of Nova Scotia is out now,” said Paul. “Let’s move on and begin to build a future together.”
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) is calling on all young people to Imagine a Canada through the lens of Reconciliation! What is your vision of Reconciliation? What does it look like?
Imagine a Canada is an invitation for all young people, from across the country, from kindergarten to post-secondary, to share their own vision of what Reconciliation can be. It can be a poem, a song, a painting, a sculpture, a rap, a drawing, an essay, anything!
A Great Educational Tool
Teachers, this is a great way to build upon the momentum of Orange Shirt day. Imagine a Canada is perfect for students, from kindergarten to post-secondary, to explore both the past and our shared journey into the future. Collectively, we want to be looking into the future of Reconciliation and youth deserve to be a part of this visionary exercise. Imagine a Canada is a great way for young people to see themselves not just as concerned citizens, but as transformative citizens; to empower them to be the change they want to see in the world.
In the coming weeks and months, we will be releasing Teachers’ Guides and materials to help you support students in preparing their Imagine a Canada submissions.
Friends and partners of the NCTR from across the country will help recognize and honour submissions in each region of the country and one entry from each province and territory will be selected to attend a national celebration of Imagine a Canada!
For more info, click here!
A Blackfoot/Dene author says his first novel has been more successful than he could have ever imagined.
The book, Secret of the Stars, made Amazon’s Top 10 best sellers in Native American literature.
APTN News caught up with Gitz Crazyboy at his first book signing in Calgary.
Retrieved from: http://aptnnews.ca/2018/01/22/indigenous-author-blown-away-by-success-of-first-novel/
Here is the link to the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba Video Gallery where you will find numerous videos to use in your classroom. Below are just 2 of the many videos available for your use.
What are treaties and why are treaties still relevant?
A WInnipeg School DIvision Teacher’s perspective on bringing Treaty Education into the classroom.
Reserve 107 includes a documentary with study guides and additional resources included on the website.
ABOUT THE DOCUMENTARY RESERVE 107
For decades, stories have spread throughout the village of Laird, Saskatchewan. It has been said that First Nation descendants of an old treaty have visited shopkeepers and town officials. The First Nations that came to the town, starting in the 1970s, insisted that a treaty signed between their people and the government of Canada states the land of the locals actually belong to an Indigenous First Nation. But when a group of Mennonites and Lutherans in the town of Laird discover that the land they live on is in fact the former reserve of the Young Chippewayan First Nation, they are forced to acknowledge the history that has brought them to their present confrontation. A chief and descendant of the Young Chippewayan Band decide to invite the local community to a meeting at the central site of the former reserve as members in the town remain on edge. But an inevitable encounter at the towns historic site compels the characters into a surprising discovery. Myths, assumptions and fears are shattered as this old injustice is about to provide an opportunity for friendship and renew a fierce determination to repair the wrongs of the past.
In October 2016, Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire formally launched the Secret Path, a book and CD which chronicles the story of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old boy who died after running away from Residential school in the 1960s.
As part of our ongoing commitment to engage teachers in reconciliation work, the Manitoba Teachers’ Society recently assembled a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous teachers from across the province to discuss and explore the Secret Path and to create lesson and unit plans to support the use of this resource for the teaching about Residential schools in Manitoba classrooms. For a link to the MTS Lesson Plan website, click the image above.
The Secret Path in Concert – CBC