People weren't even half a mile away and they could see their
homes being burnt. And it's so hard to fathom that in this
century to have your people being removed from where they
lived all their lives, their livelihood, their total independence
being pulled out from under them. This whole place called a
national park was once our Walmart. It provided everything
for the people. Our shelter. Our food. Our clothing.
And plus our spiritual ceremonial practices. So everything
was right here that we needed. And I guess when the visitors
saw the pristine area, how beautiful it looked, they wanted to
keep it that way. And I'm glad they did. I think that was one
good thing that did happen was a park was created.
The unfortunate thing was the original inhabitants were kicked
out of the area.
You know, how I learned about it was I went there with my
Dad one time. It was way back in the late seventies.
And he was the one who told me that this was where we used
live. But when I went with him we went to the cemetary there.
and it was almost like he was sneaking into the area.
You could tell that he didn't feel comfortable.
Twenty-six years I went inside that park, sneaked in there.
and I got caught three times. See, nobody goes in there now
all the hunters that used to sneak in the park, they're all gone.
I'm the only one left that trapped in there. I shouldn't say
anything. They might come and pick me up. I got caught
three times in the park.
Reconciliation has to be a true reconciliation. If I hurt you
today in any way, and I apologize to you, do I just walk away
and leave you or do I try and make amends. I should try and
make amends. Depending on the level of hurt that I presented
to you, I should try and make amends. The level of hurt that
was presented to our people was the total extinguishment of
their life that they had at that time and a loss of their lands
and a loss of the lake that they used so freely. Can you
imagine being told that you have to stay home now.you can't
even shop in town. That's how our people felt at that time.
Those stories need to be told. Those feelings need to be
shared, so that the understanding is there.
Reconciliation has got many potentially different meanings.
To an accoutant reconciliation means balancing the financial
sheet. To a lawyer, reconciliation is when a couple get back
together to prevent a divorce. The reconciliation between
nations means the establishment of a peace accord.
So when it comes to the Anishinabe people of this area and
the people who manage this park. That relationship is going
to be in a constant state of flux. And so if you take a
snapshot of it at any particular point in time, you may see
that at that particular point it tends to look like it's favouring
one side or the other. The issue is: how balanced is it over the
In my past we always had fights with the white people. Cause
they wanna run everything. But now, Indians got education.
They can argue with people now. So I think we should get
along maybe better in the coming years.
Ten years ago, I would never want to be in the same room with
Parks Canada people. That was 10 years ago, but today I feel
different. I had a lot of resentment on trying to work with people
that forcibly removed my grandparents family out from
their homes. Well, first of all was we had to deal with the land
claim. And then, now what are we gonna do? We're not going
anywhere and you're not going anywhere so how do we get
because they didn't understand what the medicines meant to
I guess I felt very hostile towards Riding Mountain National Park
us. The medicines out there were given to us to use to survive
and for that to be taken away from us made me very angry.
I didn't let that stop me even though we were not allowed to go
in there at one time, we still went. When we got our land claim
settled and we were given the freedom to be able to go back
our land, it was a relief. To me, that's healing.
That's reconciliation. By saying, in words, I'm sorry we took
away all of this from you. But it will no longer happen.
There has been a lot of change since I've been here.
The more aboriginal, the jobs that are being in place. It's just
more aboriginal support and the culture being brought out more
openly now rather than being hidden. A lot of comments were
made that I'm only here because I'm aboriginal and not because
of what I knew or because of what my education was. Yes, I
am aboriginal and I was hired off of an aboriginal list but I come
and I've worked just like everybody else. It's up to us to teach
our children the proper ways. OK, we need to stop the racism.
We are one people and if we work together as one maybe
we'd be a lot more happier, and you won't have the oh, well
you're white and I'm native. I even get comments from our own
people. Our own people harass you because you're in a parks
uniform. They're like, "you're just trying to be white." That's the
comment that the aboriginal people will give you. It could be
from all the hurtful things that they've gone through in the past
with the white man, you know. All the hurt from the residential
schools, us being removed from our land because of national
parks. The white man have pretty much booted us off everywhere
and took over the land, and so the aboriginal people are very
cut deep with that.
That's what they should be talking about. And talking about
and talking about yes the inhabitants of the original peoples
that were here are still here. And they're located along the sides
of the park. But that truth should be told to how they were
taken off the land. It gives you more respect, I think. It gives
both parties more respect because the visitors that came here
just didn't say "Oh wow, look at this great land. I'm glad no
one's here." We were here.
When we're working with aboriginal people and incorporating
culture, it's saying that it's OK because in the past they were
told that their culture is not OK, they're language is not OK.
So when we're starting on that basis, where we're working to
incorporate their culture into what we know, it's a builder.
We were put in residential schools and there was a lot of fear
instilled. They would tell us our ways like somebody doing a
pipe ceremony or lodges like that we were working for the devil
that we were gonna burn in hell if we practiced that.
That's where the appreciation for the richness of Anishinabe
culture comes in is that people are seeing and hearing that
and it becomes less of a two-dimensional thing because they've
experienced it. And, I think it opens their hearts and minds to
really getting to know the Anishinabe in a way that they
probably never could have. When we're working with indigenous
people and Anishinabe people here, language is very important
for them too. What would it mean let's say, to an Anishinabe
person driving into the park, what would it mean to them to
drive in and see the name Riding Mountain National Park and
then right next to it the Anishinabe? What would it tell them?
Well, I think if national parks were able to do that it would ease
up that very myth about the founding nations: French and
English as the founding nations. French people are more
recognized in terms of a nation in North America than First
Nations. English defeated them right? French people are
going to kill me for saying that. But those are the kinds of
things I think we need to correct and we can do that together
with Parks and with us, putting that history together. But I like
the idea of, you know, at the entrance of Riding Mountain
National Park to say, well, this is the English name. This is
French name. And this is the First Nations name.
Documentary by: Christopher Paetkau
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© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by Parks Canada, 2010.