Canada 150 Guest Post: My Country, With a Catch

Indigenous people are hurting, not because we hate Canada, but because we love this land so much

Tarene Thomas - 27 July 2017

Oh, Canada.

You are my home. You have been my home much longer than 150 years.

You know, the thing people don't understand about the uprising of hurt towards "Canada's 150" that has happened all across Turtle Island from Indigenous activists and people who protect askîy ("earth"), is that we do not hate Canada.

In fact, the reason we are troubled by this is because we have such a deep love for this land and what it means to us.

The problem with this, is that this land was subject to colonial violence that attempted to crush the love we have for this land. The colonial structures that aim to protect every individual who resides on this land still hold the powers that attempted to kill me and my people. These power structures continue to be held whether you can see them or not. I don't care if you don't think my grievance is legitimate enough, what I care about is that you respect it.

It is not your job to take away my pain - I can do that myself and have been doing that myself for my entire life. What I expect is a society that attempts to dismantle the systems that aim to deconstruct the pride and power held in any certain individual - regardless of race, gender, status and religion. I'm not here trying to shame anyone for celebrating the fact that we call this country home - this beautiful land that holds so many promises for us all... this land that gives us all a sense of freedom and allows us to pursue our dreams.

I know we are fortunate. I know we have it better than most.

But like most great things, this country has a catch.

This thing we all praise - freedom to pursue our own dreams, to live a good life... it was built on my people's bones. My people's suffering. My people's genocide.

The powers that allowed these things to happen, which created a social system that constructs each of our lives and the freedoms attached to those, is my oppression, is my Nation's oppression, is my people's oppression.

I understand most of you don't understand what this means or looks like. I know it's hard to swallow and uneasy to sit with. I can't force you to understand my pain. But I can ask you to respect it and stop shaming us for being vocal with our troubles.

Despite all of the pain that Colonialism 150 brought me - I am happy I get to share this beautiful place with each and every one of you. Let's create a place our grandchildren's grandchildren won't have to suffer in.

About the author: I am Indigenous, Gitxsan, Tahltan, Haisla and Cree. My mom calls me a Heinz 57. I'm a third year English major, minoring in religion. I grew up in Enoch Cree Nation, and moved to Edmonton when I was 16. I love poetry, learning and creating fantasy worlds. I also love working with Indigenous youth and creating spaces where people can heal and grow. I like to paint, read, sing, eat and of course, write. I've been a writer far longer than I have been anything. If I'm not panicking about school or my GPA I'm envisioning my next trip overseas. When I finish my BA I want to get my master's, then hopefully, one day, change the world.

The views and opinions expressed within the WOA guest posts are solely those of the authors.

This article was first published on the WOA blog.

For almost as long as there's been a Canada, there's been a University of Alberta. Over the next year, in honour of Canada's 150th anniversary, we're proudly celebrating the people, achievements and ideas that contributed to the making of a confederation.