I have been asking myself lately what our country would be like now in 2021 had Europeans, at first contact in these lands now called Canada, seen themselves as anything other than a superior race? What if newcomers had adopted the ways of the original peoples instead of imposing Europeans ways?
There would have inevitably still been a process of working out relationships between the various groups about how to co-exist and on what basis resources should be shared— similar to current treaties, only fair, honoured, and updated regularly to keep up with changes over time. It would have been a relationship building process undertaken with the original peoples holding the power and authority. What would Canada be like by now, I wonder?
Instead, in 1867 settlers sat together and worked out geographic boundaries for provinces and political responsibilities of the federation and the provinces, leaving out the voices and authority of original peoples from these lands. It is similar to be willing to have guests stay in your home and before long they have taken completely over, appropriating all rooms and land, establishing the rules and ways of living, pushing you into a small dank corner, of the unfinished basement and raiding your income and bank accounts. I am not the first to use this metaphor but it does highlight what has occurred.
For reconciliation to occur in any meaningful way, it is my opinion as one settler, that we need first to consider what our lives would be like now had the original settlers listened and respected the ways of living, believing, and doing of those who were here for millennia before European contact. This should be the starting point for honest and respectful reconciliation, and yes we will have to change institutions, political, social, and economic relations and practices in order to create balance and fairness in sharing of power, resources, and opportunities.
Of course such an idea cannot help to raise important questions for which I have no answers because those must rest first and foremost with First Nations. And the rest of us need to be willing to listen with open minds and honourable intent.
Would it not be reasonable for First Nations, at least as a first step and as the original stewards of these lands, to regain their control over the lands currently called Crown and parklands, and resume leadership for all decisions of their lands?
If the federal and provincial governments can respect each others’ jurisdictions, why do they, and we, not recognize and respect the jurisdiction and authority of each First Nation? Can we not finally begin to honour the treaty commitments to share land and resources fairly? Why don’t First Nations have a fair share in the wealth generated by resource extraction and indeed the authority to determine if, where, how and when such extraction might occur? Why can we not honour the intent of treaties? Why are settler-run companies unable to share the enormous profits from resource extraction on these lands when there is clearly more than enough wealth to share with original peoples?
What if we could transform our ways into a fair distribution of resources and wealth so all benefit? What if this resulted in living more lightly on our planet with ways of living that restore balance for the benefit of all living creatures instead of the one percent?
These questions informed the world I created in Spindrifts. But the ways of living in Spindrifts reflect only my ideas, which are inevitably flawed. But what if they provoke better ideas? When we talk about reconciliation what will that look like in fifty years?
I believe reconciliation is a microcosm of what needs to happen to create fairness and equity in other relationships as well, and not just with humans. If we can’t even take steps towards real reconciliation with First Nations then what chance do we have to save our planet? Isn’t our planet in crisis because of our inability to live based on equality, fairness, and balance?
I suspect many readers might be uncomfortable with the questions I am posing here. But I ask you, are you prepared to gamble the future of our planet by continuing to do things the way we do now, or will you instead dare to consider transformative changes that may save us all and our future generations?
We can’t go back to the first European contact with First Nations but we can move in a respectful way forward embracing new ways of relating and living. The lives of Earth’s children may depend on it.
Welcome to the blog of A-M Mawhiney. I am the author of Spindrifts - A futuristic fantasy to inspire and give hope to all who are interested in changing the world, now available to order from most major online retailers here.