Our history with aboriginals has too much darkness. But don't ignore the light


National Post, 15 June 2017

Growing up in Calgary, we were taught the history of Alberta as a partnership between the Europeans and the aboriginal peoples. The history we learned more than three decades ago overlooked many of the shadows, a history rather too comfortable. But there were also many lights, and the Alberta 150 project, begun this week, seems to have found the right balance.


As we head toward the national sesquicentennial on July 1 — formerly known as Dominion Day — aboriginal issues have come to the forefront.

Wednesday’s announcement here that the chiefs of the Treaty 7 tribes will serve as Calgary’s Stampede Parade marshals (for their third time) is one sign of that. The Stampede, founded in 1912, has always had prominent participation from the various tribes of southern Alberta. I remember as a child being impressed by the indigenous chiefs in the parade and going to the Indian Village on the Stampede grounds. Having all seven chiefs lead the parade this year is meant as a gesture of esteem for Canada 150th birthday. There were smiles and goodwill all around at the Stampede for the announcement.

It is not that way everywhere as the days tick down to July 1st. For many, the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has become something a prism through which Canada’s entire history of aboriginal engagement has been viewed. That is not a fault of the TRC; it had a mandate to examine the difficult history of residential schools, to tell the truth about that period and to promote reconciliation.

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