There is a book called 1984 and in that book one of the themes is a simple idea. Whoever controls the past controls the present, and whoever controls the present controls the future. What they mean by this is that if you write the history books and write them in a manner to show only your viewpoint, you can influence the way people think. People will act to fulfil their dreams today or their future goals based on that way of thinking.

This is precisely why native people have so many problems in today’s Canada. The history books do not tell of the native peoples and cultures beyond the portrayals of savagery, infamy or flunky. We are either killing settlers through the imagery of the “savage” Iroquois, Louis Riel as seen by Ontario (as a foolish traitor) and Quebec (martyr), or as the unknown native guide who helped the great “discoverers” like Champlain or Lewis and Clark.

How many non-natives know about the Brants and how this Iroquois family helped Canada stay independent? It seems they fought against the rebellious colonies that are now the United States. Louis Riel’s story is never told through the eyes of his own people. How many people actually know that Thomas Scott was part of a fringe organization and was widely seen as a troublemaker before he was executed by Louis Riel? Scott’s name became a rallying cry for English Canada when the government put down Riel’s “rebel lion”? Who knows that the transfer of land was done without regard or consideration of the people living there, not only the Metis and other natives, but the white folk also? I still don’t know any of the native guides’ names.

You see, the native people know the Euro-Canadian version of history as well as our own. We also participated in the making of that history.

In all the history books, native people are secondary, just as they are secondary in today’s society. To change this immediately would be difficult. I can’t imagine the Heritage Front giving up its way of thinking. But I think a new generation armed with knowledge instead of rumour, distortions and lies would have a beneficial effect on Canada in terms of understanding native people and their grievances, aspirations and hopes for a real partnership with Canada.

We, as native people, no longer desire to be second-class citizens living in Third World conditions. Apartheid ended in South Africa. Isn’t it time to end it in Canada… or do we have to demonstrate the same levels of violence to have our voices heard?

No native wishes this. We have been patient beyond belief in our dealings with Canada and the provinces. It is time for change instead of the politics of broken promises of a better tomorrow. Time to educate the non-native youth of this land about the realities of native peoples and their contributions, as well as the degradations forced upon them. What better place to start than the classroom history books? This way we can finally start having a place in the future of this country.