Many years ago a good and knowledgeable friend told me that Canada had a massive problem with Indigenous people in this country. He said, this problem would cascade through the generations and Canada had no idea how to deal with it nor how bad the problem was. We are doomed he said. He actually said that though in much more crude and graphic terms.
It shows you how ignorant I was of this issue that this comment surprised me. And he lived in the United States! How I could I be so ignorant and he so smart?
Then a few years ago another good friend of mine—a wonderful person filled with the generosity of the human spirit—asked me “Why don’t native people get over it?” I’m sure many of us have heard similar questions. Why are native people always standing around doing nothing with their hands out asking for money? Well meaning people ask such questions. They are not all bigots. But—and I say this with respect—I think they are ignorant.
Many of us are just plain ignorant. I know my ignorance continually appalls me. On the issue of indigenous people my friend’s questions led me to decide to learn something about indigenous people. I want to reduce my ignorance. As a result I have read a lot on the subject and it has been slowly simmering. I have still not learned much. I know just a little. And, of course, as they say, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. So I know I am on dangerous ground here. But ignorance has never stopped me from giving up my opinions in the past so why start now?
I want to talk about what I have learned, even though I admit my knowledge is far from deep. I want to learn as I speak. That is one of the reasons I blog. I want to put my ideas out there. I want to respond to challenges. I want to consider counter arguments and other points of view.
I think the question of indigenous people and how the rest of us relate to them is a very important question. In fact, I think it is one of the most important questions Canada is facing. Recently I heard a talk at the University of Manitoba and the speaker said that many of us in Canada don’t know Canada very well. Canada is not the country we think it is.
I know it will take a while to deal with these questions, but I hope to do that in my typical (and probably infuriating) style. I will try to amble towards the truth. That will take quite a few blog posts. This won’t stop me from dealing with other matters as well from time to time. After all I always meander. I don’t understand straight lines. I hope some of you will accompany me on this stroll and even, if you can, contribute a thought or two or a question from time to time and even gentle criticisms. Isn’t that how we learn? Maybe we can all learn. I hope so.