• First Day

    In 1966, a couple weeks after I turned 18, I moved into the women’s dorm on my first day of university and met the other dormies, including Paula. She was tall and loose and smart. She smoked Marlboros and wore stylish brown jeans and phoned her mum every Sunday. She had dark hair and dark eyes, also dark skin, which I assumed was a great suntan. The girls in our wing studied and ate and hung out together, and one day Paula said she was an Indian— Chippewa, now known as Ojibwe. Those were the days when middle-class WASP kids like me were finding out what a load of codswallop we’d grown up on—systemic racism, sexism, classism, the corruption of the Vietnam War, etc.—yet Paula was the first Indigenous person we had ever seen, let alone known. Suntan! Gawd. All of my “knowledge” of “Indians,” living their simple, primitive lives, in tepees, close to the earth, dressed in rawhide with beads and fringes, and speaking in crude bits of English (“How!”), began to give way.

  • First Time

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    When my daughter was eight months old we caught a cab to our home in Prince Rupert. It was about a ten-minute ride. And the guy turns around and says “Where you wanna go?” It was a black man. It was the first time she saw a black man. And she screamed. And cried and screamed all the way home. Every time she looked at him she cried again. And she grew up and ended up marrying one.

  • Spirit

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    When I moved to Nanaimo, I happened to be in the old Salvation Army store, would have been the late sixties, early seventies and there were two women, in a, going through a bin and I was going through another bin and they were speaking the Kwakiutl language. Continue reading “Spirit”

  • Playground

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    And the reason why I thought of bringing it up was because in that time I had no concept of really anything to do with First Nations issues. They were just kids on the playground with me. And we just played and we were in that space. And then now, a year, about a year ago, I met the same person in Port Alberni who I hadn’t seen literally since elementary school and we were there in Port Alberni for a reconciliation walk. Continue reading “Playground”

  • Learning To Be Together

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    So it transformed my understanding of what a university could do and could be. It transformed my understanding of who I was as a teacher. I began to see that there were different ways of approaching students, of being with students that involved a different kind of a world vision, a way of being in the world and a way of showing honour and respect between peoples. Continue reading “Learning To Be Together”

  • Authentic Contact

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    And truly try to fully integrate and recognize indigenous people as who they are, the founders of this nation and possessors of values and ideas that would truly do a lot to make Canada the great nation we try for it to be. But again I think ultimately it comes down to if real progress is to be made, if real reconciliation is to be made, it takes real authentic contact between peoples instead of thinking of each other as different or being separate. I think a lot of the barriers, a lot of the problems, a lot of the issues would fall apart if people just sat down and got to know each other in a more meaningful way. Continue reading “Authentic Contact”

  • Quiet Introductions

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    Early in the mornings I had a lot of free time and I was able to take my little Victoria boatworks clinker out and row around the islands and pretend I was in another era or time, into the mouth of the harbour and back, but almost every second day if not every day in the summer I would pass a gentleman, and a really beautiful gentleman but I didn’t know him. Continue reading “Quiet Introductions”

  • Introductions

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    My name’s Nancy Marshall and I live in Honeymoon Bay on Vancouver Island, and I have just had the pleasure of going on a trip to Haida Gwaii. Continue reading “Introductions”

  • Hobbes

    My wife and I arrived in Edmonton in the winter of 1991. I was freelancing as a photographer for the Edmonton Sun when I met the actor Ben Cardinal, who had just returned after a movie stint in Russia. We discovered that we shared a basic knowledge of Russian, a fondness for potatoes and the experience of growing up in families destroyed by alcohol. That was the year that Chief Justice Allan McEachern released his judgment against Delgamuukw and quoted Thomas Hobbes’s words, “nasty, brutish and short,” in relation to Indigenous life. In our drunk and sober conversations inspired by McEachern’s verdict, Ben Cardinal and I developed a tradition of referring to ourselves as f–king Indian and f–king settler. Some years later, after Ben and I and our partners moved to Vancouver, I discovered a little book by Daniel Francis called Copying People. Inside is a photograph taken in the late 19th century depicting two Aboriginal elders sitting on a wooden bench in some remote coastal location. The caption says that they are believed to be close to 100 years old and they are both blind. In this picture they are indeed very old and they look very gentle.

  • A Lot Like Me

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    My very first contact with First Nations people was when I was probably about 13 years old, in the city of Toronto. Continue reading “A Lot Like Me”