PM Harper met with a group of chiefs on Monday. The full assembly is made up of about 700 delegates including about 400 chiefs. There are many issues that the aboriginal people of Canada wish to address, notably the 1876 Indian Act which Grand Chief Atleo referred to as a “19th century relic”.
Canada’s history does not include “Indian wars” but the colonization of the country did serve the indigenous people poorly. Introduced diseases decimated whole groups; a lack of respect for cultural mores; introduction of alcohol and most shamefully, the seizing of children and placing them in residential schools which in many cases turned out to be hell holes of abuse. The thinking of the day was to erase the culture of the native people in order to assimilate them. While the residential schools are now closed, their legacy still reverberates throughout the people.
This morning’s meeting between PM Harper and Grand Chief Atleo was cordial. Little was settled, but it marks the beginning of a new era of respect and cooperation.
"Today must mark the beginning of renewal, the beginning of realizing our shared potential foretold in the visions of our ancestors,” said Atleo. “The step we take today, recalling the words of my late grandmother, and ability to see one another, is the first step,"Grand Chief Shawn Atleo"
The term “Indian” was given to the aboriginal people of North America when Christopher Columbus mistakenly thought he had reached the Indian Subcontinent. The situation for the N.American aboriginals went downhill from there. There are many outstanding issues that the native people of Canada still face.