A skin for a skin

British_Empire_1897 PDThis is not an apology. It can’t be. Neither is it a dialogue with my First Nations friends. They need to hear what I’m saying but out of my respect for them and so they can act as my witness. In fact my words are directed at my own clan, my own tribe, my own people, who have spilled out across the face of the planet ravaging it and destroying nations through wanton greed.

As an Englishman I am aware that my racial guilt is very great. There’s not a single continent from which we haven’t profited and left a legacy that includes as much misery as it does good. But the same is true for the whole of Europe. We started as warring little bands and the only difference today is that we have finessed our techniques and found ways to silence our consciences. We have taken the model that saw the Roman Empire expand across the known world and used it again and again in the Americas, in Canada, in Australia, in Africa, in India, in the Near East and Far East. If the penguins had major resources down in Antarctica we would no doubt have tried to colonize them too. It’s not just England of course. Every European country holds a share of the blame for what we as nations, and individuals, have done. Remember that it’s actually individuals who give nations the idea they can do something and usually those individuals use religion as justification.

What we, as the collective group loving known as the “whites”, need to do is stop apologizing and actually begin to show we’re sorry by changing our behaviour. Here in the United States I see a growing anger, not so much at the fact that the white man is here, but rather, that there is a continued breaking of treaties and a refusal to respect or acknowledge the people who were here first. That the people of the world don’t even officially recognize what was done on this soil as a genocide is criminal in itself. That there has never been a First Nations President is criminal. We have shunted them in society’s mind into the realm of a child’s game. It’s called “cowboys and indians” and the guy in the white hat always wins. Right? It seems that we speak the words and then forget that our behaviour needs to change.

Christianity has played a great part in the destruction of society here as in other parts of the world. Instead of moving out into the world spreading Christ’s love we moved across the continents like the oil which now spills from our pipelines. We took the one of the first of God’s commandments that we should be stewards of the earth and corrupted it so that we could grow rich. We designated other peoples as savages, as inferior to us, we used our faith as a salve that we were bringing God to the heathen soul. How patronizing must we sound to the people we have invaded and killed so we could have our name on another little bit of the planet? Both the Anglicans and the Catholics hold equal blame in this. The leaders of both churches have endorsed, sanctioned, and blessed the destruction of families. They have called upon their God to smite the heathen and protect the “good Christian who is doing his will”. It didn’t stand up and condemn the violence. To be blunt the First Nations today seems to be considered less than the black slaves were, possibly because were property and needed to be protected as such. But the black community won equality.

For the First Nations the experience has and still is very different. A people who believed in the collective connectedness of the whole planet are seen as something to be cleared, because God had given America to the Americans. We destroy the land and ignore the sensible and sage advice of the people who were here before us. We poison their land and their water and claim it’s in the interest of progress then go to the movies to remind ourselves just much less enlightened they still are.

child_handcuffsThis country was formed as a theocracy, one that believed we are the true heirs to a kingdom both here and in the afterlife. Anyone who didn’t belong to our group was cast in the role of heathen, to be killed or forcibly converted. It wasn’t actually God who gave us the victory it was simply the fact that we had bigger guns and weren’t afraid to use them. Over time the new governments took steps to sanitize the genocide. Where guns had been used we killed the buffalo so food was scarce, we sent out blankets as gifts covered with smallpox, worst of all we removed children from their homes and forcibly re-educated them into our religion and our ways. We chastised them for wanting to live their own way because ours was the only valid way to exist.

One of the most heartbreaking things I have ever seen is a photo showing a pair of tiny handcuffs used in Canada to remove infants for re-education. Imagine if you or your children had experienced the same level of arrogance. The church today still advocates this. Only this month a radio personality claimed that the First Nations need to repent of their past practices because they were opening themselves up to demons. You can bet she shares that view with her children and her church. If that isn’t arrogance then I don’t know what is.

So how do we move forward and actually begin to return the First Nations to their rightful place on the world stage? As I said in the beginning it’s not enough to just say sorry and feel guilty for a little while. It’s time to give them our children and allow the peaceful ones to educate them. Without the need for handcuffs we should gladly give our children over to learn the truth of a people who actually lived, and live, in better ways than we do. We need to expose our children to the truth that religion can never justify the destruction of minds and nations. That there is no validity in harming others just because they are different or we want what they have.

The motto of the Hudson Bay Company is “Pro Pelle Cutem” which translates to ” a skin for a skin”. It’s extremely apt. For every animal skin we took there was a human one taken as well. But the Hudson Bay Company was a secular profit making organization. Right? If you don’t believe that religion likes to get involved with the money men and the colonists I would remind you that the motto is thought to have been taken from the bible, Job chapter 2 verse 4 to be precise. Oh, and by the way it’s the words of Satan speaking to God. It’s time to listen to other, better voices about how we should live as people. hudson bay company


4 responses to “A skin for a skin

  1. A very thoughtful understanding of the mechanisms that have led to the first nation’s peoples being marginalize, eliminated, and stereo typed. There are a lot of things people can do to help eradicate this problem. Actively a person could join a protest or support Idle No More. For a non-native person to educate themselves and then pass this on is probably one of the most significant steps one could take. Most non-natives think this is a racial problem, an aboriginal problem, unfortunately it is a national problem. We as first nations people are comprised of many different nations. I think that the word “tribe” was used originally to deny this fact. A lot of our own people have been so devastated over the centuries that they themselves have lost touch with who they are and the importance of our original beliefs. To really educate one’s self one need to seek out the teachings from an elder or healer. But, don’t forget each nation’s traditions are as different as England’s and Italy’s. One must not generalize the teaching for all first nations. Some nations have similar beliefs and beginnings but not all.
    Tribe- doesn’t exist
    Chief- doesn’t exist. Most nations have their own word for leader.
    Clan- different clans existed within nations and allowed for healthy breeding they have different attributes in different nations. e.g. turtle clan is the medicine clan is some nations.
    Medicine man- this is believed to be derived from Medewin which was the medicine lodge of the Ojibwa they were known as the keepers of the medicine.
    Shaman- a russian medicine person
    Even the names of people of the nations are misnomers. Most nations called themselves human beings in their own language and were later named by the white trespassers. l’nu in Mi’kmaq is human being, that is what we called ourselves. We called the land Migmawgic thus we were later

    There is still a lot of work to be done to sort things out as you can see. I do not have a problem with the European people. My ancestors looked on them as human beings and treated them accordingly with kindness and acceptance. It has been my teaching to look on all people as human beings treating them with kindness and if they betray that trust then they are not human beings they are animals.

    You dear friend are a wonderful human being and I am happy to consider you as my brother.

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