The Invisible Becomes Visible

The Invisible Becomes Visible

Posted on June 21 by Rick Revelle in News
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I started school in 1956 in a one-room schoolhouse west of Wilton, Ontario, in a tiny community called Thorpe, which encompassed about five or six farms. From that moment on, my teachings about Native Studies encompassed, to my recollection, a few pages on the Iroquois and pictures of teepees and longhouses. To be a Native at that time was definitely not cool. Being designated a Native would have brought beatings, stares, and a path towards poverty because no one would hire you.

My grandfather was one of the hardest working men I have ever known, but he silently kept his ancestry a secret. Sure, there would be whispers that we were “Indians,” and it wasn’t until I was in my 40s that the real truth came out about who we were.

While growing up, my only education on Native history was through Westerns. In all of these shows the Natives were either bloodthirsty savages or loyal sidekicks to white heroes, tough stereotypes for any Native kids that went to school in a white society.

The legacy that Sir John A. Macdonald perpetrated on the Native children, and Native society as a whole, tore the heart out of the Native cultural way of life. The end result was that the children who came through the residential school system were too busy trying to avoid poverty, alcoholism, and drug dependency, so they did not have a strong enough voice about what was happening around them to refute society’s notion of who Natives really were. The end result was that there were no teachings in the schools and the children in Canada’s school system grew up and graduated without any knowledge of the founding Nations of Canada.

As of 2017 I am proud to say that because of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, schools in Canada are now embracing what we as Native people have to offer. Schools are inviting Elders, Indigenous authors, and Indigenous artists into their schools to talk about our culture, books and art. We are now being given a voice to show who we are and to tell this country what we have to contribute. Students are now being taught what our Native society was and is about. Many Natives like me are also learning about our history, where we came from and most importantly, where we are going.

Many Native Elders now have come to realize that they have knowledge that people want to hear about. Authors like me have become a source of information because of what we write about. Indigenous artists are being brought into schools to teach the students about their heritage and what their art represents in the whole scheme of things on Turtle Island.

After 600 years, society has finally recognized we have something to offer other than a sports team logo or the foil in Western movies.

The Native population is now being given a voice in the education systems of Canada and that is the start of a new beginning, the start of showing that we have so much to offer to society instead of getting forever beaten down. This is only the first step on a very high ladder. Along the way racism, poverty, addiction, stereotyping will need to be eradicated and passed as we continue up that ladder. The last step will be the place where respect exists.

Giving us the voice to counteract all these past generational hurdles that were thrown in front of the Native community by enabling us to come into the schools to talk to the future young adults of Canada, is an enormous breakthrough. Publishers that publish Native writers and the art community that respects Native art and presents it in an informative way are leaders in the drive to get our words and thoughts out to Canadians.

 There are many more things still to do. My personal pet peeve is that when Sir John A. Macdonald is mentioned in schools it is utterly important that he is mentioned in the same breath as the residential school system. When that happens it will be a huge step in this country towards an awareness that what he did was wrong and genocidal. His methods were racist and directed to eliminating a society that in the 1300s was organized, religious, sharing, and family oriented.

Miigwetch,

Rick Revelle

Rick Revelle

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
Rick Revelle photo

Rick Revelle

Rick Revelle was born in Smiths Falls, Ontario, and raised in the Odessa and Wilton areas. He is a member of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation. His two previous books in the Algonquin Quest series were I Am Algonquin and Algonquin Spring. He lives in Glenburnie, Ontario.