Our Blackfoot member spoke first. To justify taking possession and colonizing territories which “explorers” in the 15th and 16th centuries “discovered”, Church authorities passed “The Doctrine of Discovery”. Lands claimed were declared “terra nullius” - no man’s land. Colonizers argued the inhabitants already on those lands were only occupiers (not owners) – so they were not given consideration to even be in existence.
“The underlying argument was the belief that the colonizers were bringing civilization to savage people who could never civilize themselves” according to the Truth and Reconciliation Report. It rested on a belief of racial and cultural superiority by one culture over another.
With this as justification, the residential school system tried to annihilate Aboriginal cultures and self-respect. This was largely hidden through most teaching about Canadian History until survivors of the system were finally able to find the strength, courage and support to bring their experiences to light.
The second speaker briefly described Mennonite history (from Europe to Canada) and culture (with a focus on pacifism). While Mennonites also had a close affinity with the land, it was because they were good farmers and could make the land very productive. Governments invited them to come and settle on “vacant land”.
The true history of the land they settled was not evident at the time. For example the Red River Valley was available because the Government ignored the Métis claims to get land titles. Also the lush land of the Fraser Valley was vacant only because the Japanese-Canadian farmers were forcibly removed from their property in WW II.
We know the Government didn’t always keep its word with us, but now we also “realize, in looking back, that we as a people have benefited only because of the loss of another ….”
Only as we help each other share perspectives, and listen to understand, can we begin to Journey Toward Good Relationships.