Canadian History

Touch The Pen

A new historical statement I learned over the summer and have since read a few books that mentioned this statement several times:

Touch the pen.

What does this statement mean? Well, it basically signifies the act of signing of a treaty long ago. The treaties between the Canadian government and the First Nations chiefs.

I never knew this happened. I thought the signing of a single “X” was bad enough. Now I have recently learned that the chiefs didn’t even sign the “X” they just touched the top of the pen while the government official signed the “X” for the chief. Yeah, I didn’t think it could have gotten worse but this whole “touch the pen” bit makes this signing of the treaties a whole lot worse.

The chiefs were granted many things from the government officials but a lot of those things have been taken away or the chiefs and their people taken advantage of. It makes me very frustrated and angry that I only learned about these historical events now. Not during history class. Not in a history textbook.

It’s a shame that the true Canadian history is never told. That needs to change.

I am trying to find out more about Canada’s true history and reading as much as I can related to this history because certainly the education system can’t even get it right. Like I said before, I like learning but I hate education.

More about “Touch the pen” (Yes it is an American document but the same happened in Canada. It is a shame)

Past versus Present

Today, I had the opportunity to sit in on a meet and greet with Phil Fontaine here at my university. Unfortunately, I walked in only half way. I regret missing the beginning of his talk.

I did walk in on something interest. He stated just minutes after I walked in relating to Canadian Aboriginal people’s past saying that we need to fill in the “missing chapters.” In question and answer period with the students, questions were asked. I asked a question relating to one of my essays I am working on pertaining to education and Aboriginal children. My essay’s hypothesis is: Aboriginal students’ confidence levels may increase if Aboriginal history and culture is taught. What I mean by Aboriginal history, is not just the horrible things that happened in the past but also the positive history stories.

Recently, I came up with the idea to put to use my talent of writing and drawing. I love to write and draw, and it’s always been a dream of mine to write a book–whether black and white print or a child’s book. I would really like to write a child’s book, and illustrate it as well. That would be my ultimate dream.

I presented to Phil Fontaine my idea and how I would like to write about the good things that Aboriginal people have done. After saying all this, I kind of felt frustrated because 1) I could not get my actual point across because of my emotions 2) He grew up in a different era than I. I know, not his fault.

I could not get my point across that yes. I acknowledge the past and I would like to write about the past, but what also needs to happen is the positive stories. Growing up, I had my family as my positive support and motivation. I was fortunate growing up because not all Aboriginal youth have this basic structure in their life: family. I looked up to my sisters, my mom and my dad. I remember watching my dad doing his essays for his university degree. I remember watching my mom as well. When I needed help with my school papers, my mom would always say, “Get your dad to edit your papers, he was really good at that.” I remember thinking that I wanted to be just like my dad and be good at writing. I wanted to be like my mom, in all her hard work she done as a student, a mother, a wife, and a community member. My mom and dad were great motivation because they gave us the freedom to pursue what we wanted, and together my parents, would provide the guidance and care as needed. My sisters were motivators because well, they were my first best friends and will always be my best friends.

However, I felt that I was most frustrated in that I could not say that when I was growing up and going to school, there was no motivation outside of school. I am thankful for my family for all the motivation they did provide, because where would I be without them? Phil Fontaine made a point that we need to acknowledge our history, and I acknowledge and appreciate where he is coming from as he is a residential school survivor. However, I wanted to make a point that we need to start young, and motivate young Aboriginal people to stay in school. I believe in my point, just as much as I appreciate his point and background. I believe in my point because if young Aboriginal people do not have the motivation or confidence to stay in school, where will the future of Aboriginal people’s be heading to (I say this as a frustrated young person: History doesn’t matter if you have no future).

The issue with Aboriginal young people is drugs, alcohol, suicide, gangs, violence, criminal activity, as Phil Fontaine presented. The bigger issue is not having the motivation or confidence to avoid those experiences. The issue is not being able to have outside motivators other than one’s own family. This is an issue because sometimes their family is not even a “family.”

If the education of Aboriginal history, both positive and negative experiences, begins at a younger age to both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals, it will bring about a greater awareness to the situation of Aboriginals in Canada. That is my idea, a concern for the future. As these young people grow older, they will be more aware of what happened, and what is happening today (and maybe what the causes are of the present situation of Aboriginals). They will be better able to apply their knowledge to help provide for or at least attempt to provide for solutions to the Aboriginal people’s problems. They may know why there is a lot of substance abuse, and gangs, and violence, and why Aboriginal people are over-represented in the prison system. They may know what causes these multigenerational problems, like those of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse, and why these problems still persist today.

After hearing his response to my question and my idea, I felt that there is still the issue of young versus old, past versus present. We need to bring those two together to realize that one without the other cannot exist: Aboriginal people need their history as much as they need their young, and their young need to know their history to help them realize that the issues in their hometown or community are not their fault–that is the issue today. Most importantly, the rest of Canada needs to know this history in order to help their young, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, to grow and understand each other. That is the solution, in my opinion. Getting rid of the “versus.”

Canadian History

Not too long ago, I met someone from an European Country. They talked about how much they loved Canada and they exclaimed to me “how awesome it must be to be part of the ‘First Persons’ of Canada.”

The person further stated how Canada is such an awesome, free, loving country.

I informed them that this isn’t how Canada always was. The person asked what I meant by that statement. I went on to also tell them about Residential Schools and the origins of the Indian Act and what this piece of legislation was really meant to do–assimilate Natives into Canadian Society. After sharing this story with that person, they said, “Wow, that’s not what they teach us over in Europe.”

I replied, “That’s not what they teach us in Canadian either.”

That’s part of Canadian history, why is it not taught in history courses at the high school level, or even elementary level. I get that there are specific courses at the post-secondary level. However, we can’t censor stories about our own Countries history and only speak about the horrors of another country’s history–meaning I learned about WWI and the Holocaust in High school, why didn’t I learn about true Canadian History then?

I wonder what they learn in history today. Are textbooks still the same?