To my youngest son this morning: “Hey bud, remember how we live in North America? Well, our great great grandparents used to live in Europe and traveled to Canada on boats all the way across the ocean. They came to settle here, but there were actually people already living in Canada before they came. We call those people Native Americans. When the first Europeans came to North America and met the Native Americans, they were confused because Natives lived so differently than the Europeans and they didn’t speak the same language to explain to each other. Europeans believed that the Natives way of living wasn’t as good but we now know that it was actually better.”
“When Europeans started settling in North America, they forced the Natives to live the same way they did, and they were actually really mean about it. They wouldn’t let the Native Americans live the way they knew how. They wouldn’t let them grow food or hunt how they were used to. They stole their children and wouldn’t let them see their parents. A lot of the kids got sick and they didn’t take care of them properly. A lot of the Native American kids died, which is really sad. The settlers wouldn’t even let the kids speak their own languages or wear their own clothes. One of those kids is a grown up now and shares her story about how her favourite orange shirt was taken away. Her name is Phyllis and she’s asking everyone to wear orange shirts to remember how hard it was for her family and friends, and how hard it still is today.”
“So, do you want to wear your orange shirt today? We could go to town and go to a big campfire where lots of people are wearing orange shirts, or we could have a campfire here and talk a bit more about how the Native Americans lived and why it’s important that they get to live the way they used to.”
He chose to stay home, we are going to have a campfire this afternoon in the chilly autumn air, talk about nature connection, and braid some grass. We’ve talked about residential schools before, but each time we revisit, he understands a little bit more. Other talking points that we’ve covered in our home: sovereignty, traditional ecological knowledge, native culture and appropriation. It is an important conversation to have. Please talk to your children so that we can raise the next generation to be anti-racist, compassionate, and understanding. Truths must be learned before there can be any reconciliation.