Letter - Good chance we have ancestors in common

The Regional

February 24, 2010

The following excerpt is taken from the minutes of a meeting of the General Council of the Six Nations dated June 10, 1870.

"...it is said that the founders of the Great Confederation of Six Nations, before the white man came, found there was nothing but murder and butchery between the different tribes..."

It would appear that peace and brotherly love weren't all that fashionable back in the day. This shouldn't surprise anyone. Throughout history, indigenous peoples have typically been at each other's throats. Even my ancestors, the Scots (surely the most agreeable people, until you ask for a dime) formed themselves into clans and threw haggis at each other.

I bring this up to reply to a rather annoying letter from the January 20th "Regional", penned by Joachim Brouwer. Mr. Brouwer's lofty rhetoric would suggest that he liked school more than I did. Still, his commentary earns a failing grade for what it doesn't say. Mr. Brouwer's comments are in italics.

"...On the other hand, the flooded Indian lands from the Grand River Navigation project, the confiscated lock sites and bad stock in same, Benjamin Canby's default for up to 40,000 acres which became Canborough and environs and other irregularities commited by Six Nations white trustees, if rendered exponentially in today's currency would exceed lost excise taxes on rollies and the cost of a hectare of muddy ground, plus now one recently vacated house nearby..."

Whether it's nothing or a zillion dollars that is owed to the Indians, it does not, in any way justify the behaviour of some of them over the past four years. As has been pointed out in this section, invested money does not guarantee a return. If foul play is suspected, the courts are the proper avenue to settle the matter. Refusal to use the courts would suggest that your case is weak. Willingness to instead use terror tactics against your neighbors would suggest that you need to grow up. The "irregularities commited by Six Nations white trustees" were not committed by anyone currently living in Caledonia.

"...One of the places recently visited was the Washita Battlefield in Oklahoma where a band of Cheynne were massacred by Custer and the Seventh Cavalry. Seeing the poignant dioramas of slain women and children made me wonder about the bitterness in my too beloved Grand River Valley..."

If you shed a tear for the women and children killed by Custer and his boys, you should shed another (perhaps several) for the women and children killed by rampaging Indian tribes. One is not more tragic than the other. (Are there any memorial that commemorate rape/burn/pillage sessions committed by Indians?)

"...I think the most fearsome of the Plains and Woodland aboriginals could look into each other's slightly slanting eyes and see they are brothers from the long trek over the Bering Strait after the last Ice Age..."

If I look into the eyes of the average Six Nations man, I should be able to see that we're part brothers. As far as I know, none of my ancestors crossed the Bering Strait. However, there is a good chance that some of his crossed the Atlantic on the same ship as mine. The Indians and the Europeans are one big unhappy family. The reasons for that unhappiness include the fact that some people refuse to let go of the past. (More accurately, their version of it.) If your obsession with the past dominates your present, and jeopardizes relations with your fellow man, you need to consider some hard questions. Have you been sold a false bill of goods? Did the past, in fact, occur the way you claim and believe it did? Is it reasonable to expect someone born after the fact, to feel any sense of responsibility for past infractions? If so, do you hold yourself to that same standard?

Mr. Brouwer's whimsical essay, though it contains truth, is so grandiose and one-sided that it qualifies as propaganda. It's rather ironic (and typical) that liberal type people claim, "We must bring the two sides together." Yet they tell half-truths that drive the two sides apart. Not very helpful.

A more constructive approach is to look at what we have in common. It's likely that we are blood brothers to some degree. Our ancestors were immigrants. They fought among themselves and were persecuted by others. Whatever our origins, we all have the same basic needs. Some know their history and are not troubled by it, while others side with ignorance and apathy (don't know, don't care), and either is better off than those who allow the past (both fact and fiction) to breed resentment, bitterness and an absurd sense of entitlement.

Doug Fleming

Caledonia