The newcomers to Canada had a different attitude to the land than the indigenous people they met had.
As Doug Williams, elder and former Chief of Kitiga Migisi, saidimn the documentary Spirit to Soar, “I think the early, early settlers had a real difficult time with what they called the wilderness. Of course, we did not have a wilderness. We had a home.” The newcomers needed the Indigenous people to survive. Doug Williams put it this way in the film Colonization Road:
“When the land grants were starting to happen, they were giving away our old camps, and our shorelines, and our islands, and the river mouths, and all of this. We had to move. In fact, we were being shot at. It’s a history which started with conflict, so we had to move.”
Premier Brian Pallister of Manitoba was wrong. The settlers were not only builders. They built alright, but first they also pushed out the inhabitants. Sometimes not directly, but through the governments that represented them and did not represent the indigenous people, the indigenous people were ousted. Settlers accepted this. They did not question their privilege. They saw it as natural. They thought they were entitled to this privilege. That is the way privilege works. It sees anything that undermines that privilege as irrational.
I recently watched a limited television series call The English. It is well worth seeing. It dealt with the settlement of North America by Europeans. In it I was struck by a group of Mennonites who had come to Kansas to settle the land. The English woman in the series came up to the Mennonites and challenged them. “What are you doing here,” she asked. “Why are you here? Don’t you know people live here? Why don’t you go home?” The Mennonites were dumb struck by these perplexing questions. They seemed to never have thought of this. After all, the reason they were there, they said, was that God had called them to come. How could they possibly question that? In a sense, the Mennonites were villains of the series [along with a wide assortment of other villains]. I had never before seen Mennonites painted as villains. Is this an unfair portraiture? I wonder what my friends think?
Recently, a friend of mine, told me about a Canadian farmer who is a descendant of settlers. He felt the injustice of this ouster so keenly, that he met with his family and together they decided to give the land back to indigenous people! Just like that after a few generations of farming the land they gave it back while acknowledging the injustice of the original displacement of the indigenous people. That is an impressive expression of conscience and, I dare say, in this case, true Christian spirit.
That settler demonstrated a new attitude to the land and its inhabitants.