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Truth and Reconciliation: Reversing the River

October 2nd, 2021 by Michael Dyet

Hmmm, are we prepared to build the future together?

Unless you are leaving under a rock, you know that Canada observed the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation for the first time this week. The day honours the lost children and Survivors of the terrible residential schools as well as their families and communities.

.At present, the residential school system is getting most of the headlines – and rightly so. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates that 6,000 children died while attending these schools. Some sources believe the real figure is closer to 15,000.

The discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds of some of the residential school properties has renewed the trauma. Unfortunately, many more will likely be found. But the reality is that the residential school system was only one part of what amounted to cultural genocide carried out against First Nations people.

The root source of much of this discrimination is the Indian Act that was introduced in 1876. In addition to authorizing the residential school system, it also significantly restricted the rights of First Nations residents and asserted control over reserve land. It is an Act that should have been repealed and replaced long ago. But it is still on the books.

Further back, the issue of land rights emerges. I did some research on this topic for a short story I wrote a number of years back. I learned about the Toronto Purchase.

The British negotiated the purchase of land from the First Nations in the 18th Century. But the First Nations people had no concept of land ownership. They believed all land belonged to the Creator and that they were only agreeing to share their land.

That treaty was never actually signed and became known as The Blank Deed. The British restarted negotiations in the early 1800’s and got signatures this time around. Disputes continue to this day over what was promised to the First Nations in this and other treaties.

I have some personal experience to relate. I grew up in Hagersville which borders the Six Nations Reservation. High school age youth from some parts of the reservation were bussed into Hagersville High School. It was very much an us and them mentality. There were many derogatory terms used to refer to the youth from the Reserve.

I recall walking along the street after school one day. I saw a group of Indian youth ahead of me some of whom I had classes with. I sped up and caught up with the group. When they saw me, they turned and declared: “You can’t walk with us. Don’t you know? We rape white girls!” They had a good belly laugh about it and continued on. The cultural divide was clear.

History is sometimes equated to a river. Streams of contributing events converge over time to form a larger outcome for better or for worse. In the case of First Nations in Canada, it regrettably has largely been for the worse.

There is much to be done to reverse the flow of that river looking ahead. Acknowledging uncomfortable, often unconscionable truths is a first step. Reconciliation requires the willingness to correct mistakes where that is still possible and the desire to build the future together respecting our differences and celebrating our similarities.

 ~ Now Available Online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo or Barnes & Noble: Hunting Muskie, Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet

~ Michael Robert Dyet is also the author of Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel which was a double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at or the novel online companion at

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