Humour can still be found: even during a Pandemic

Dropped into a corner store today to purchase ‘The Citizen’ and was immensely impressed to see that the shop owner had hired a local to wipe things down in his little store. The employee held a cloth in one hand, a spray bottle on the ready in the other and was doing a fine job of generously spraying and then cleaning with gusto, doors, lids, countertops and display shelves etc. “You’re doing a great job,” I told him, “I’m going to recommend you for a raise.” “Thank you, sir,” responded the young man. Just as we were sharing a chuckle, the store owner was handing me my change (a 5 Dollar bill and coins). “Did you clean the money?” I asked the young lad. “No,” he answered. “I didn’t think to do that.” “Well,” I laughed, “if you do it, don’t let the coppers catch you doing it or your boss will be charged with money laundering.”

I see that the “Chocolatier” in Gracefield, QC still had his ‘ouvert’ sign lit up a day after only ‘essential services’ were regulated by the province to remain open. It makes sense, a lot of people are addicted to chocolate, which brings me to my next point.

Liquor stores are open for business, signalling that ‘fire water’ is accessible to the masses. Church doors are locked, telling us that ‘holy water’ is out of reach. I no longer need alcohol in my life but if I was still trapped in its deadly web, I would be grateful to have it close when I desired it. Holy water? There is hardly a time where I do not look at water and see something truly holy, truly sacred. Water is medicine!

I recently saw two teens, crouched down, searching the pavement, not for a miniature lost item and not for discarded cigarette butts. The youngsters were hoping to find ‘roaches’ (marijuana joints) thrown away from a space where young workers gathered, before their shift began or after it ended. The roaches the teens hoped to find would possibly supply enough pot for a joint of their own. This during a time when a highly contagious sickness is swallowing up the winds! So sad but true. It isn’t all that funny, is it?

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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The Coronavirus, Let’s be Sensible and Compassionate

The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed over 50 million people throughout the world’s populations. How horrific it must have been for good people back then, who watched helplessly, as a dearly loved relative, especially children, died of the flu. When I think of the Spanish Flu, my thoughts drift to the plight of the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island who experienced the despair and hopelessness brought forth by influenza pandemics, not once or twice but many, many times since contact with the settlers began over 400 years ago.

For the Indigenous Peoples, each outbreak of influenza, beginning after contact, was as deadly for us as the Spanish Flu of 1918 was for the world’s populations. For the Indigenous Peoples, it was one pandemic after the other. From the furthest points north to the furthest points south, the Americas became lands upon which millions upon millions of the Original Peoples died. Babies, youth, adults, old folks – far more died than there were those that lived.

Somehow, some of the First Peoples survived. How did they manage to do so? My belief is that only the People who held fast to their sacred connection to the land had a fighting chance of survival after the poison of influenza had attacked their immune systems. The people who saw the forest as a place of medicine and healing, lived. The plants the people gathered and trusted to bring forth healing responded and many were saved because of it. The people around them who put their trust in survival solely in the scriptures of holy books of organized religion or in the prescription handed to them by a  European trained physician to ward off the illness, fell to the virus. Is there another explanation as to why ‘all’ Indigenous Peoples did not perish?

On a starless night, I spiritually travel into the past and sit with the dead of our Indigenous bloodlines whose last days of life on this earth were days of complete and undescribable misery because of an influenza pandemic they desperately fought but did not defeat. I hear their vow to Creator, that they will defend the health and wellness of their descendants from where they (ancestors) now reside in the Spirit Land promised to all human beings who lived a life of goodness and sharing. Our ancestors, who died during the influenza outbreaks of the past, did not go from this world to one of emptiness where the souls of righteous people are left without power. Ceremony is available to them in that spiritual place where good people go and hear Honour Songs sung for them. They stand ready to help us from where they are now, we need only call to them with our drums and chants to summon their healing touch in our time of need.

If the Coronavirus infects you, place your faith and trust to recover in the spirit of the land. The Good Spirit living in the plants and trees, in the birds and animals, in the fish and totems, in the sun, the waters and the wind, can remove sickness from your being.

Just the other day I saw a T-shirt with the words ‘Ceremony is Medicine’ written across it. It is, to be sure. If you are as one with ceremony, then rest assured, the ceremony will serve you well.

Every family should have at least one member among them who can, through the force of his/her spiritual beliefs, make requests (prayer) for the benefit and safety of all other people of their bloodline. A human being with strong spiritual beliefs stands in the centre of a circle, the sacred medicines are raised up in a good way and hence, a ceremony is conducted with humility and honour, bringing success to its purpose. The Indigenous Peoples of this land must never disappear from it. If they ever did, it would surely signal the end of all mankind on Mother Earth.

I believe in intuition. My mother was very intuitive. She had a special relationship with the spirits of Dreamland and could on sight, gauge the goodness in the heart of a stranger. Her dreams predicted coming events, telling of a disaster or a crisis involving the people of her family line. The gift my mother had regarding future occurrences was passed on to some of her children. When my antennas are up, my intuitive powers never fail me. Regarding the Coronavirus, my intuition tells me that it is not the monster some folks are making it out to be. It will not do to us what the Spanish Flu did in 1918. We all need to remain calm and never lose track of our ability to be sensible and above all, compassionate.

The only way COVID-19 will grow into an uncontrollable monster is if we feed it by breaking faith with what defines us as human beings. I trust in Creator. I trust in the medicines of the trees. I trust in my ancestors. The great and sacred faith I have in these things cannot be broken.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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Memories

There are memories that haunt me, I see them in my distant past and wish they had never occurred.

I Wish I Could Forget
I recall that as an innocent 6-year-old boy, hearing white people shout, “Go back to where you came from, you damn Indians” at my family after we left Kitigan Zibi in the 1950’s to live in a small Christian town in the Ottawa Valley (Algonquin Territory). Why we were not welcomed there (in our homeland of many thousands of years) by some white people has never been explained to me to this very day.

I remember how the travelling nurse, who went from school to school in the outlying areas of the Valley, would enter our classroom (at the school I attended) and shortly after doing so, comb through the hair of my siblings or me, to check for the presence of headlice. I guess in her mind, if the “Indian” children didn’t have lice, then no one else in the classroom did either.

I remember the vulgar and cruel comments made about my ancestors by many of my classmates and even by some of the teachers. It was the racism of the teachers that damaged me emotionally, and spiritually more so, than did any action of my fellow students. The most ignorant of the villagers where we lived, saw us as a dirty and savage people who had no right to be living among them, even though my parents were sober, hardworking, honest and dedicated parents, holding Christianity as their spiritual light.

I remember the violence in the taverns and bars I went to when I was a young man back in the late 60‘s and early 70’s. I often got into 2 or 3 fistfights on any given weekend. Back then, as I do today, I refuse to back away from a challenge. I no longer settle things with my fist at this stage in my life, I prefer peace brought about through communication and dialogue to ward off conflict.

I Wish I Could Remember
There are memories I wish I could recall but I cannot. The things I would like to remember are teachings of the land, the legends of the Algonquins, our folklore, our ceremonies and longhouse teachings (yes, we had longhouses too), as told to me by my dad who was a fluent Algonquin speaker. Unfortunately, my dad had no knowledge of our ancient stories and spiritual beliefs. He was a devout Christian and to him, the ways of the Algonquins of long ago served no purpose to his children in this world where dog eats dog and where the acquiring of wealth defines purpose of life. He did not pass the language on to his children, so psychologically broken was he by the power of the Indian Act.

I recall the bad part of my life as one of alcoholism, of waste, of despair, of confusion and of searching for answers in regards to spirituality. I recall putting the bottle down in the spring of 1991 and vowing to take a stand forevermore, not as a warrior but as a fighter for human rights, mine and yours and for all people of this world.

With sobriety, I finally saw the birds, animals, fish and trees in a way I had not even imagined before. I felt the warmth of a fire that I myself had kindled in such a profound way that tears flowed like rivers down my face.

I recall back then that I, at long last, took fatherhood as something great and wonderful, an opportunity to influence, shape and mold a young mind of my bloodline and prepare a human being for the wonders of this wonderful world. Finally sober and strong, I endorse role modelling and mentorship. I pray to Creator each and every dawn, requesting health and wellness for family, friends and all the people around me who may have lost their way.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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A Request to the Freezing Moon

A fire was lit, bringing spiritual warmth and physical comfort to the people standing close to its welcoming flame. Tobacco from an honourable hand was offered to its coals and the fire, at that time, became sacred. The spirits of the nearby human beings stirred when the energy produced by the fire’s sacredness reached them. With that, the ceremony began.

Friends from Ottawa travelled to my home at Kitigan Zibi on November 23. They took the time out of their busy lives to join me in prayer. And then, of course, to celebrate with a thanksgiving feast afterwards. Our purpose was to stand as one in the circular energy created by the fire and request wellness and health for our families, friends, neighbours, colleagues and the life in the nearby forest.

Many heartfelt words were spoken. The spirit of the sacred fire captured not only the truth of what was being said but also the humility, honour and respect which poured from the heart of each speaker. A young woman removed her moccasins from her feet when her time to speak occurred and stood in the snow, leaving her feet bare for all of the moments it took for her to express herself in the most eloquent manner possible. Some of the older people in the circle recognized the young woman’s action as a ritual, perhaps performed by human beings long ago, at the time of the Freezing Moon ceremony.

I remember about 30 years ago mentioning to an elder how I believed that the trees in the vicinity of our ceremonial sites must be happy when human beings acknowledge them by requesting, through prayer, wellness and vigour for the forest. “You’ve got it all wrong,” the elder stated. “It is the trees who are in constant communication with Creator requesting enlightenment for us, the People. For it is not the trees who have lost their way. It’s us.” I instantly agreed.

I love trees! I could never have been a lumberjack, especially at the time when settler lumber barons acquired untold wealth by the cutting down of the old growth forests of Algonquin Territory. No ceremony was done for the trees before they were felled. Not a word of acknowledgement was spoken for the birds, animals, snakes and so on whose sanctuaries were destroyed when their forest home violently disappeared.

Does the life of a turtle or bear have a higher measure of worth to that of a great pine tree who has lived for 400 years in the eyes of the Good Spirit? I wonder?

The circle which was conducted at my home was special for human beings. But the trees which encircle the lot where my house stands were very much part of it. Their wisdom and pureness of energy is something no human being will ever live to match. Of this I am certain.

At this spiritual time, as Mother Earth sleeps, we ponder the beginnings of our faith beliefs. We rise as one, to acknowledge the right all human beings have to embrace and love spiritual teachings they feel are filled with Creator’s blessings.

Our spiritual guides, those who arrived here with the first moon of winter, speak to us. Through them, we request a joyful and accident-free winter for all our family members, friends and also, for all the good people who make up the citizenry within the perimeters of the Algonquin Homeland.

May Creator bless you all in 2020,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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A Hawk Comes to Feast

In Ottawa on December 7, after helping out with some union work, I slowly and solemnly made my way to North River Road park to put some tobacco down beside a white birch tree. I did so to shed some heaviness I was carrying in my heart. Soon thereafter, I stopped at a nearby Loblaws store to pick up the newspaper before heading back to Kitigan Zibi. After rolling to a stop on the west side of the Loblaws parking lot, I immediately became aware of the presence of many pigeons (approximately 50) in a holly berry tree only a few short feet from where I was parked. I emerged from my Jeep and marvelled at how the small tree seemed to be pulsing with life, an illusion brought forth by the gentle nibbling of the birds feasting on the berries.

Suddenly, without warning, the pigeons rushed towards me. It was obvious to me that they were in a state of great panic. Their beating wings drummed furiously sending tiny feathers tumbling to the ground. Most of the out-of-control pigeons were only inches from the top of my head. And because of it, the energy they produced spiritually engulfed me, sending an electric-like current throughout my being. The sensation was so great, it seemed to me that I was going to topple over onto my back. Though the wind was taken out of me, I was able to see that a flash of swirling brown was moving in the midst of a blue, grey and mauve wave, created by the swiftly moving pigeons.

My eyes were locked on the brown streak until it crashed onto the pavement less than 10 feet from where I was standing. I could see then that it was a fine hawk which had brought a pigeon down and was now squeezing the last seconds of life out of the helpless smaller bird with its mighty talons. The hawk turned to look at me. “Are you going to interfere with my right to feast?” he seemed to inquire. “No not me,” I said out loud. “Bon appetit!”

The hawk began to pluck one down feather after the other from the pigeon’s breast. Every 2 or 3 seconds he stopped, to look at me to confirm that I wasn’t moving closer to his feasting table or doing something else threatening to him in any way. A crow, however, descended from the sky and swooped twice over the hawk’s head, no doubt letting all things know that he was claiming the leftovers. But the magnificent hawk totally ignored him. I stood sentry on behalf of the hawk to ward off, if I had to, any vehicle entering the lot that might not see him and run him down. Eventually, the hawk, having assured himself that his well-earned, ready-to-eat meal had no life left in it, flew off with his prey to go and consume it at, perhaps, a more romantic setting. The crow followed along. “A match made in heaven,” I thought.

There is something of enormous spiritual significance to this story that might be of interest to you. I shall share it now!

Hawk feather from Victoria Island, 2018. Photo by Julie Comber.The hawk who dove from a sunny sky to claim the life of an unsuspecting pigeon was the same species of raptor which I found lying dead just before a ceremony began at Victoria Island over a year ago. The body of the bird was warm, rigour was far from setting in. It was assumed by the people who had come to participate in the ceremony that the hawk had been caught in the winds of one of the tornadoes which destroyed many dwellings along the Ottawa River a couple of days previous to our gathering. We guessed that the bird of prey had been severely injured by the storm and somehow ended up on the island where it passed away a few short feet from where the ceremonial circle would take place.

The people participating in the ceremony thought it was fitting to invite the spirit of the great bird to take its place in our circle. We did so and the ceremony went well, as we had hoped. We pulled feathers from the bird and all who wanted one took it into their care, so it could become part of the bundle held sacred to them. I have one of the feathers here in my home. Tobacco was offered, a grave was dug and the hawk was laid to rest in a good way.

I do not think it’s outrageous to believe that the raptor who claimed his feast in the parking lot near where I stood is the same bird whose spirit was called into the circle by human beings over a year ago. He returned to say, “I’m here, I have fared well. I survived and I have come to feast the strength you place into your heart to survive grief and heartache!” What I experienced was not a coincidence. It’s just how spirit works!

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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Autumn Teachings

Of the four seasons, autumn is the one you should closely examine if you wish to discover soul searching teachings, most of which touch on the emotional health of human beings. Beauty and grandness are at the forefront of the season’s life but towards its last moments of life, we find the heaviness of loss, seeking to find a place in the human heart. We find also sleepless hours, in the haunting of a chilly night brought on because of forlorn feelings which seem to overwhelm us when we least expect it. We ask ourselves, from where did all of this originate? Who or what was it which placed these feelings at the entranceway of our circle? As prepared as we might feel we are for it, we must accept that autumn truly is unpredictable.

Have you ever placed your bare feet on the soft carpet of leaves covering a forest trail after the leaves have detached themselves from the maple, oak, poplar and other leaf-bearing trees? To do so is a spiritual medicine for you to benefit from. It is also an experience of sheer physical joy.

I have felt oak leaves glance off my face after a late October breeze had finally removed the last stubborn leaves from the grip of the tree’s powerful branches. I have gone into deep spiritual meditation standing on the moss-covered rock, white pine trees by my side, overlooking Bitobi Lake. I have sat in the centre of my forest fasting circle at the time of the Moon of the Falling Leaves, pondering my purpose of life. These things are mine to do and experience. Why? Because I am a human being. Life is as a tree with many branches, some are short, some are long, some are damaged, all of them play a role in the measure of the tree’s grandness as seen by the eyes of the eagle.

The Whitefish Moon (September/October) will bring a stirring in the waters of Bitobi Lake and many other lakes on Great Turtle Island. The Whitefish and Lake Trout are now spawning. These are fish who prefer to live where water is cold and deep. In the dark depths of a lake like Temagami (over 300 ft. deep) the Whitefish glitter like living, breathing diamonds, as they move from one place to the next in their great domain.

Autumn, I look forward to it. As it grows older, the more it produces healing medicines for me. I go off the beaten path after the leaves are gone from the trees. This in itself is an action rich in spiritual significance.

The spirit of a human being sometimes needs time to adapt to this extraordinary time which arrives before the cold moons of winter begin. On October 5 from 9 to 11 am, I will be presenting an Algonquin perspective on autumn, its truth and its wisdom. Join me in the Great Hall of Christ Church Cathedral (414 Sparks St, Ottawa). I look forward to seeing you there. My books and greeting cards will be available for sale.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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Anglican Apology: For Spiritual Harm the Church caused the Indigenous Peoples

“Our purpose as human beings,” I was told years ago by an old man of Cree ancestry, “is not to try to understand who or what Creator is, but rather, it is to heap daily praise on the abundance Creator placed before us, helping human beings to live well.” The old man I speak of possessed a rich and extraordinary type of wisdom, born at a time long ago before human beings even took their first steps on Mother Earth. I can honestly say that I have not come across such a strong-willed and spirited individual very often in all my 68 years of life. His spiritual beliefs were profound and beautiful. They were strong in the way of healing.

I sat with him as often as possible and heard his forlorn reflections on the wrongs people of this wasteful world are guilty of. “We all should make an effort to make the world better for our children” are words he spoke each day of his life. “We are all guilty of wastefulness,” he told me once, “and we’ll never overcome it without spiritual assistance.” Never in all my counsels with him, did I hear the old man mention the word “sin.”

Who defines what a sin is? By what means does Creator measure the weight of a sin? The Indigenous Peoples of this land who embrace the spiritual beliefs given to them by Creator many thousands of years ago, know very well that it is the waters, trees, animals, fish and birds on whose backs many of the sins committed by human beings are placed upon. What we abused and destroyed of Creator’s making is assured a say on what will become of us on the Day of Reckoning. The bird or plant who became extinct because of our actions, the animal who endured a long and agonizing death while in the merciless grip of a leg-hold trap, the once pure waters of an underground spring now filled with poisons, these things will have their chance to finally be heard. What will they say about us to Creator? When we do wrongs or commit “sins” against the noble and magnificent things of our lands, we need to accept that we will face severe consequences for doing so at some point in the future. Our souls will not escape justice. Of this I am certain!

Smudge_Photo-credit-Julie-Comber_22July2019The Indigenous spiritual beliefs of the Anishinabe (First Peoples) never hurt anyone! Yet, many generations of Christians were told by their faith leaders that Indigenous spiritual beliefs were like a dark and threatening cloud pushed furiously forward and locked into the minds of savages by the scalding breath of the “devil.” Because of this and because of Canada’s Christian foundation, Indigenous Spirituality was outlawed until into the 1950’s. To me at least, a monstrous sin was committed by Canada for making it a crime to sing a beautiful song to Creator with the help of a drum or rattle.

But at long last, a church has seen fit to apologize to the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples for the spiritual harm the actions and deeds of the church brought to Indigenous spirituality. Many segments of Christian religions are guilty but only the Anglicans have so far admitted that their condemnation of Indigenous spirituality was wrong. The Anglicans are brave and I believe, righteous. They are ahead of their time! I have a relationship of mutual respect going on presently, with the Anglicans. It is one of trust, peace and friendship and also, one of real reconciliation. I am extremely proud of the friendship I have with them. Thank God for the Anglican Church!

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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Verna Polson, Grand Chief Extraordinaire

There are many reasons why a woman like Verna Polson was elected by Algonquin leaders to be the Grand Chief of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation. Verna possesses all the major characteristics which define the perfect Chief. She is strong willed, strong in spirit, dedicated, determined and yes, most of all, truly honourable. Whatever the reasons were that motivated Verna Polson to take the stand she did (living on a City of Ottawa sidewalk in a wigwam for 13 days, the last 40 hours of which she went without food and water) have increased now by 10%, no, 20%, no, 100%.

Verna Polson is a greater Chief today because of the hardships she experienced on a noisy sidewalk in Canada’s capital city. If Verna was regarded as a grassroots Chief before she sacrificed so much, then the Anishinabe say, she is more so now, even to a degree which cannot be measured on the scale the human heart places onto all of us. The People respect her and admire her. She is a hero!

The miseries which fell on her over the 13 days at her wigwam protest are now behind her. The little birchbark lodge she lived in is a grander and more eloquent symbol of kindness, peace, love and solidarity with all life than the Parliament Buildings across the street from it ever will be. The Algonquin Nation is no longer invisible. The passenger seat is no longer a place we will settle for. From now on we take the driver’s seat. Thank you, Verna Polson.

Many were present, grassroots and leaders of all stripes alike, proudly in a circle created to honour our Grand Chief. All spoke eloquently and compassionately, reassuring Verna Polson that they have her back. We are unsure of how successful the Grand Chief’s protest was, time will tell. We are very sure, however, that the light, spirit and energy of the fire Grand Chief Verna Polson ignited on the sidewalk at 100 Wellington Street will grow in size. It will in time, brightly illuminate the pathways the Algonquins of the future will walk on, taking them once again to that place of greatness we knew long ago, when our wigwams and long houses filled all the rich places of our grand territory.

Verna Polson has reminded us that our People do not back up. We will do what needs to be done for our future generations. May Creator bless her and keep her well.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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Announcement: Grand Chief Polson Hunger Strike

Grand Chief Verna Polson has just announced that beginning at midnight on July 1, 2019, she will eat no food nor drink water until Algonquin Nation rights are respected on the territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg. The Grand Chief stated publicly on CFRA 580 radio, Sunday morning at 8:10 am, June 30, 2019 that she is prepared to give up her health and even her life if that is what it takes to assure wellbeing and respect of her nation. I know her! I know she is serious!

The Algonquin homeland is being re-colonized all over again, by the AFN, the MNO and the ITK organizations. They step onto our ancestral lands without a word of acknowledgement or gesture of respect to the People who have resided here since time immemorial. Some of the leaders have even raised their voices in anger at our chiefs. Where do people such as this come from? They behave more like pirates and desperadoes than they do as leaders of Indigenous bloodlines. The leaders of the three organizations mentioned here are well aware of the protocol expected of visitors when they enter the lands of hosting nations. The leaders know that the host nation (in a situation like this i.e. the embassy, 100 Wellington St., Ottawa, ON on unceded Algonquin territory) must have a space in their circle. If the outside leaders are not accepting of this, then they need to vacate Algonquin territory immediately and find a home for their ‘embassy’ elsewhere.

The Grand Chief is going on a hunger strike. She is going to sacrifice much, to what end, I do not know. I am hopeful that the worst will not happen. A call is going out, for prayers, for encouragement songs in support of the Grand Chief’s cause. Please do your part!

Please share widely,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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Genocide? Ask the Beothuk!

The Anishinabe (First Peoples) of past times looked with wounded hearts upon the destruction and death that the Residential Schools were bringing to their children and to their once powerful nations. The death toll of innocent children at the schools was so enormous that the name the Anishinabe gave to such structures was “Awakàzo kikinàmàdinàn`n abinòdjìnshag kà awi nibodjig” (Residential Schools: where the children go to die). Dr. Peter Bryce (1853-1932) recorded almost 40 years after the schools first began operating, that 50 to 75% of the schools’ population were ending up dead for a variety of reasons, mainly disease brought on by malnutrition. A high number of the children also succumbed to the elements which overcame them when attempting to run away from the horrors they were confronted with inside the school walls.

The children had been forcefully removed from their family and nations by order of Sir John A. MacDonald, representing Canada’s federal government. Dr. Bryce submitted his report but he may as well have used it as kindling in his stove for all the good it did. The government paid no heed!

The Indigenous children were indeed rounded up and yes, I believe taken into a torturous existence where the weaker ones slowly wasted away until death finally set them free of their pain. The children did not die from machete blows, nor were they stomped to death under the boot heels of an insane brute, bullets did not tear through their little hearts to kill them, but yet, they ended up just as dead as a human being who died during the Rwanda genocide.

Is ‘Genocide’ the proper word to describe what the Indigenous Peoples of this land have experienced? A lot of commentaries posted on varying media outlets across the country object to it. “If a people of an ethnicity different than that of the majority have not been rounded up, tortured and then killed, it is not genocide,” they declare. Experts on what defines genocide are being asked to express their opinions. Scholars and political leaders and even old military generals are being sought out for their views. Most of them are saying, “No, what happened to First Nations is not a genocide.”

We cannot ask individuals from the Beothuk First Nation for their views on genocide, they are no longer here to give it. The ancient, heart-moving songs the Beothuk sang at sunrise those many generations ago are no longer heard in this physical world. The Beothuk are all dead and gone. Their voices and customs, swept away like the leaves of a maple tree on a cold and windy autumn day.

Were they rounded up, tortured and then killed? I don’t know. I only know that the Beothuk would still be here, thriving and healthy, if their world had never been colonized. The Algonquin Nation, from which I am a member, almost ended up as the Beothuk did. In the year 1900 by the federal government’s own count, there were less than 1,500 Algonquins left on the face of this planet. Were we rounded up, tortured and then killed? I don’t know. All I know is that we would be far greater today as a People than the powerful force we were when we had the miserable misfortune to cross paths with Samuel de Champlain. With him, came colonization and with colonization, came death in untold numbers for the Algonquin Anishinabe. Our numbers today are only a small fraction of what they were at the time of contact.

A short while ago I worked for a few years as an advisor at parole hearings involving offenders of Indigenous bloodlines. One day, after a hearing had come to its conclusion (parole denied), I overheard the two parole board members involved in the hearing expressing their feelings on the Indigenous Peoples of this land. (They were not aware that I could hear them.) “I feel sorry for the Inuit,” said one to his colleague. “They have nothing going for them.” “I hear what you are saying,” replied his fellow parole board member. “The First Nations don’t have much going for them either. You know, at the time of contact with the Europeans, the First Nations were pretty much throwing rocks at each other or butchering each other with stone axes.”

The words left me stunned. It was difficult for me to emotionally absorb what I had just heard. I instantly had a harshly worded talk with the two parole board members. As unbelievable as it seems, this is the actual view of a man Canada has placed in her trust, to make an impartial and just decision as to whether yea or nay, an Indigenous offender gets paroled. I don’t think it’s possible for the parole board members I speak of here to do so.

At worst, racism was at play in the view they shared. At best, a superiority complex was doing the talking. The world view of Indigenous People these parole board members have is no doubt also that of millions of other Canadians. I’m certain that according to their (racist Canadians) train of thought, a great favour was done for the First Peoples when the colonization of our territories by Europeans occurred. They believe, in their heart of hearts that their presence on our lands saved us from a wretched existence. To the hardcore of the racist settler communities, we, the Indigenous Peoples, are inferior and as such, not worthy of being treated with respect and dignity.

I dare say, this is why many Indigenous women and girls end up dead or missing. And this is why it will continue until the day arrives when most Canadians will come to appreciate, respect and honour the women and girls of an Indigenous bloodline.

A genocide? Yes, it did occur and is still being practiced to a degree in Canada and I doubt it will stop anytime soon. I know that those of you reading this who say there was no genocide perpetrated against the Indigenous Peoples of this land, would see it differently if the atrocities mentioned here had befallen their family line. Even the loudest cracks of thunder in a lightning-lit sky, would not be enough to drown out their mournful chant, “genocide, genocide, there was a genocide.”

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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