BY GLENN GRANDE, LAW I
I grew up for many years thinking that as a Canadian I was one of many peaceful inheritors of a great land whose government resorted to little if any violent extremes to open and settle the country.
We were better than the Americans who openly boasted about their massacres of natives as great battles in the’ Indian Wars.’ This is a Canadian myth. I have since learned, from working within native communities, from realizing my own heritage (which was hidden from us in shame for many years), from hearing the horror stories from the locals, such as the priests impregnating young women and getting the nuns to do the dirty work of covering up their crimes – that while the facts of Canada’s legacy may not be overt and violent – the history is insidious. As well, this continent was already well-populated, with intact countries, systems of governance with constitutions and political orders, trade regimes, language groups, diplomatic assemblies; the list goes on. In fact, were it not for the direct political involvement of Tecumseh, and the battle cries of his Shawnee army, we would not be having this discussion in ‘Canada’ at all, for this land would quite likely be just another American state.
Another myth that needs debunking: native people regard themselves as victims. This is part of the mythology that manifests because the divide between races has been allowed to flourish. Native people believe no such thing. After working and living among them I can attest to the fact that their communities are some of the most inclusive, loving, tightly-knit familial places I have ever seen; unrivalled, really, by anything outside. And the people are full of pride in who they are and where they come from.
The recent issues at UBC Law like the curriculum change, and the LSS Indigenous position on the executive, have stirred-up a debate here at Allard Hall. Good. What some see as another affirmative native action plan being shoved on them is, to others a welcome and long overdue recognition that Indigenous people are not a ‘special interest’ group. We use the term “un-ceded Musqueam territory” at UBC because, quite simply, that is exactly the status of the ground upon which we reside while we learn about the laggard, glacial pace of native land claim settlements in Canada. Let’s deal with it.
We are future lawyers – some of the best and brightest minds in the country. Why is it that the land under our feet here at UBC remains ‘un-ceded?’ What are the real issues? What does a native community really want; what do they represent? I challenge each one of us to visit a native reserve at least once during their three years in law school and to try to find answers to these questions; but also put our brilliant minds to use and come-up with creative solutions in the quest for a third way.