The Heaviness of The Past

I feel heavy with the news. Heavy with the learning of more bodies found buried. Heavy with thoughts anticipating more discoveries.

I don’t want to be writing of this again. I don’t want to be revisiting a past I know cannot be changed, a past that has not treated Indigenous peoples kindly, fairly, humanely. It cannot be changed but it must be spoken of, acknowledged and addressed.

To honour the lives of those buried beneath the ground. To honour those who stand today above unmarked graves. To honour Indigenous peoples everywhere. To make reparations. For reconciliation.

I feel heavy with loss. Heavy with the truth.

And if I feel heavy sitting here at my desk reading the news, standing on the periphery, learning of these things through media outlets and social media feeds, imagine how heavy this history must sit upon those whose lives have been directly impacted. Impacted, not just by these recent discoveries but by generations of abuse. The knowing their people, their way of life, their skin colour, their presence here on this land where they have lived and walked and hunted and roamed for centuries before we, the settlers, arrived, has never been considered acceptable, never been tolerated, never been viewed as ‘worthy’.

Yesterday, when the news broke, I read a news story on the CBC website, It began with a warning in bold black letters:

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

And then, the article went on to reveal that 751 bodies had been found in unmarked graves on the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan.

It should be distressing. To all of us. To everyone. To the world.

It should be distressing and act as a warning. Not against the details being potentially distressing, but that we are all of us, First World. Emerging World. Third World. – we are all of us capable of such atrocities and, capable of attempting to hide the facts, to cover them up, to disavow them. To cast blame. To point fingers. To look the other way.

To not look the other way, we must read and learn and acknowledge and speak up and vow — to make amends. To do whatever it takes to ensure that our history does not remain twisted in a story riddled with lies where we are positioned as lily white settlers with maybe a bit of dirt along the edges of our past while the truth remains buried beneath the earth and the victims remain silenced by our deafness to their cries for truth and reconciliation.

We must ensure the names of those who are buried do not remain buried beneath our apathy, and fear of the truth.

We cannot bury the past. We can no longer remain silent. We must act now to change the future. We must ensure our children and their children do not carry the burden of the truth we have denied too long.

The tragedy is not just the horrendous circumstances that have lead to the truth being unearthed. It is that through our inability to acknowledge the truth and our desire to hide behind the cloak of a church and the power of a government that has refused to be held accountable for a century and a half, we are forcing Indigenous Peoples into having to unearth their ancestors.

We are forcing them to lift the bodies of their children, their people out of the ground and to mourn them while we stand by waiting for change to happen – to them.

We are forcing them to face the trauma of what we did to their loved one’s, their friends, their neighbours, their people while we stand on the sidelines and do not change.

Just as Indigenous Peoples have always had to own the trauma and the truth because we refused to acknowledge it, if we do not own what we as a nation did, our children and their children and their children for generations to come, will have to live with it until some future generation finds the courage to acknowledge and heal what must be changed so that a better future can be created for everyone.

Healing cannot happen when we stand on the edges of our own darkness defending against the truth.

We have a choice Canada. Let go of our prejudices. Our assumptions about who ‘they’ are and what happened to ‘them’ and about who is responsible and acknowledge — We are responsible. Our prejudices. Our privileges. Our belief in the superiority of our race and ways, our lack of compassion, understanding, and tolerance has led to today’s tragedies.

And then, do the heavy lifting to create better without forcing the victims to carry the load as we stand by and watch and ask… How could this have happened?

The ‘how’ is no longer the issue. What we do now is.

14 thoughts on “The Heaviness of The Past

  1. Beautifully written. There is, so sadly, so much more of this truth yet to be revealed. Our governments of the past, leaders and followers and residential school operators are easily and correctly blamed for the history. But the history is more than 450 years old – when European conquerers arrived to take this country for their own, having complete disregard for peoples who have lived on and treaded softly on this beautiful land for 10,000 years. We cannot reverse history, and improving the accuracy of how we view history cannot fix history.

    We need new solutions because all the old ones have failed.

    I believe we start with education and respect so that every indigenous child can expect the same rights, life, respect, and opportunities as every non-indigenous child. Not at some target date out in the future, but now.

    I cheer on and admire all those who are bringing these issues to light – but we must do more than cheer, do more than agree, do more than say ‘right things’ and vote for promises of would-be prime ministers … it starts with each and every one of our 38 million citizens.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I knew I was not alone in how I felt. This is not the Canada I want to live in. I want one that expresses support and tolerance for all; indigenous Muslim or otherwise. We can’t erase the past but we must make changes for the future and it’s up to “us” not them.

    Liked by 1 person

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