Friends, I am just now getting to about the midpoint of my third year of Indigenous PhD Studies at Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario.
I started in on this about ten years ago, with a Bachelors of Fine Arts, then a Masters of Environmental Studies.
Now I find myself still pretty well buried under yet another pile of books, and just getting ready for what is called the comprehensive exams, to show that you know what it is you are being presented with.
One of the good things about this, though, is to be able to clearly see where we as a Dene people are, in terms of history and our place in it.
Of over a hundred textbooks for this year alone, Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Wisdom, edited by Mi’kmaq scholar Marie Battiste, the voice of Virgilio Enriques, a Philippines advocate comes through, about the process of decolonization.
The roots of colonization begin with denial and withdrawal, to destruction and eradication, surface accommodation and tokenism, ending with transformation and exploitation.
The other process, that of decolonization begins with rediscovery and recovery, to mourning.
There are actually three more from there — dreaming, commitment and action — but I see our Dene peoples in the North as still being in this state of mourning.
It was actually quite a relatively short time ago, to about the late 1960s, when our people still lived on the land.
Since moving into the communities, all of the stresses of having to find a steady job and living around other people all the time have had us always wanting to look back to the freedom we once had.
After watching the government’s official apology for the residential schools in June 2008, elder Maurice Mendo said that his generation did not go through these experiences, but could very well see how our peoples changed, from life on the land to the towns.
My late uncle, Charlie Toba,c often mentioned this, that we are “crying for our past.”
Almost all of the crimes happening these days are alcohol related, proving that we are still very much acting out of period of mourning.
Although well meaning, government programs like reconciliation have a long way to go, to make the average Canadian citizen want to take full responsibility for these changes. Mahsi, thank you.