By Igor Stravinsky (anonymous Canadian high school teacher).
Special thanks to Professor Hymie Rubenstein of the Real Indigenous Newsletter for providing essential guidance during the research of this article.
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Land Acknowledgments have become ubiquitous. You hear them along with the national anthem at sporting events, read out before meetings and community events, etc. They are also read out every morning in schools in the Peel District School Board. But is what is said or implied in these statements actually true? Just what, exactly, are we asking students to acknowledge?
Here is an example of a “land acknowledgment” being played every morning these days at a Brampton High School. It is contained in a video and runs about 3 minutes prior to school announcements:
♪♫ - sombre music plays -♪♫
A student voice-over begins:
“The land acknowledgment is a formal statement recognizing the unique and enduring relationship that exists between indigenous people and their traditional territories. They serve as a way of recognizing First Nations, Metis, or Innuit Territories of place; to recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation of whose territory you reside on, and a way of honouring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial. It is important to understand the longstanding history that has brought you to reside on the land, and to seek to understand your place within that history”.
Another student voice-over continues:
“Take a moment to pause and acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of Credit Nation, the Anishinaabe, the Chippawa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wyandot. And is now home to many other diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples.
♪♫ - upbeat Indiginous-sounding music starts ♪♫
The title “Indigenous Minutes” Flashes across the screen, followed by the logo and Title “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission”
The first student voice over takes over:
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the TRC, is a comprehensive and holistic response to many abuses and outcomes that were a direct result of the Residential Schools”. Images of icons representing spirit, relationships, mind, emotions, and body pass over the screen, along with some photos of Residential School Students. The voice-over continues “a small pause here to point out the seven flames in the TRC logo represent the seven sacred teachings, truth, humility, honesty, wisdom, respect, courage, and love” (as these are listed an image similar to the one below is presented on the screen).
The voice-over continues “The TRC’s purpose was to document the history and lasting effects on Indiginous students and their families. It provided Residential School survivors an opportunity to share their experiences during the public and private meetings held across the country”. Many photos of current Indigenous people in various contexts are shown during this part of the voice-over. Continuing “The TRC also had the opportunity of showing the impacts to the vast majority of Canadians who had no idea about what happened. Understandably it was very painful for those involved in the process. It was also uncomfortable for those Canadians across the country who were now made aware of what truly happened. Here are some quotes from the TRC’s final report:
‘The Intent of the Government Policy was to assimilate the Indigenous People into Canadian Society. At the end of this process, the Indigenous Peoples were no longer expected to exist as a distinct people. Despite policies adopted by the government they failed to achieve these goals, although Indigenous Peoples and cultures have been badly damaged, they continue to exist’.
Indigenous people refused to surrender their identity. We are all treaty people”.
This statement demands that students acknowledge…
First Nations Land Occupancy and Ownership
To acknowledge is to accept or admit the existence or truth of something. Students are being asked to accept that Indigenous people living in Canada today have “an enduring relationship” with their traditional territories since “time immemorial”. Is it true, though, that the Mississaugas of the Credit, or any other identifiable group, have inhabited Peel Region for thousands of years?
No. The Mississaugas of the Credit arrived in the area around 1700 from the north shore of Lake Huron displacing the Indigenous groups that already existed here. At that time they numbered about 500 people. They inhabited the region for about 150 years. Around 1850, their numbers having dwindled to about 200, they elected to move to an area near Brantford Ontario, where their reserve is located today. They received a payment of about $6 million (2022 Canadian dollars) at the time, and a further payment of $140 million in 2010. Is that adequate compensation for the lands they gave up? That is an open question. But students are told that the land we live on belongs to those Indigenous people and that we should be grateful to them for letting us live here when in fact their ancestors sold the land and moved.
A number of other First Nations, who inhabited Peel Region at various points prior to the Mississaugas, are mentioned. But the fact is that over the 11 000 plus years the area has been inhabitable, there have surely been hundreds of bands of hunter gatherers which lived in the area at one time or another. They were pre-literate, so we don’t really know, but you can be sure they did not live in peace and harmony but were in a life and death struggle for scarce resources on a daily basis, just like pre-industrial people everywhere. The fact is that, indigenous or not, a person can only claim a relationship with the land if they have actually lived on it, and few indigenous people have lived here in modern times. Less than 1% of Peel’s 1.4 million inhabitants identify as Indigenous
The Truth and Reconciliation Committee Report Findings
The authors of the TRC report were Justice Murray Sinclair, an Ojibwa judge from the court of the Queen’s Bench, Manitoba; lawyer Chief Wilton Littlechild from Maskwacis (Hobbema), Alberta, and Marie Wilson, a well-known CBC broadcaster. Is the report a balanced accounting of what happened at those schools? It is hard to be confident in it, based on the process that was used to solicit testimony.
People who had experienced neglect or abuse were encouraged to appear and were paid for their testimony, which was not corroborated but taken at face value. But people who had positive experiences were not welcome and have learned to keep quiet out of fear of reprisals. For another perspective on life at the IRSs check out Rodney Clifton’s account.
That nothing good happened at the schools, just neglect and the most serious of abuses.
Having been told they are living on “stolen land” and that evil European settlers tried to exterminate a peaceful and enlightened Indigenous population, students are primed to readily accept any new “information” supporting the evil European oppressor/noble Indigenous victim narrative. Enter the “mass graves” hoax.
The painting below, “Indian Residential School, leaving the shallow graves and going home” by Indigenous artist Lawrence Paul Yuxwelupton, which is prominently displayed at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg Ontario, demonstrates the uncritical acceptance of the murder and mass graves story being thrust onto a credulous public by the grievance industry, helped along by virtue signalling politicians and activists looking to capitalise on the guilt such images arouse among many Canadians gullible enough to believe it. Never before has a nation’s governing body accused itself of civilization’s greatest crime- genocide, when that accusation was flatly rejected by the International Criminal Court.
This information is provided along with the artwork in the gallery:
The Mass Graves Hoax
In 2021, people jumped to the conclusion of mass murder following discoveries of 215 underground soil anomalies by ground penetrating radar near the site of the former Kamloops Residential School. But no excavations have taken place in spite of the commonly known fact that GPR anomalies can be caused by a number of factors. Meanwhile, in other locations, derelict graveyards were suddenly the focus of claims of “evidence” of more mass murder. Not one body of an IRS student has been excavated anywhere. For an expose of the whole fiasco, see Terry Glavin’s Report.
The Seven Sacred Teachings
According to anthropologist Hymie Rubenstein, the “Seven Grandfather Teachings” are a very recent myth invented by an Ojibwe Anishinaabe man, Edward Benton-Banai, in his children’s fairy tale book "The Mishomis Book” (see https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/the-mishomis-book) first published in 1988. Rubenstein clarified that there is no mention of this myth in the ethnographic literature prior to that date. The inclusion of the so-called Seven Sacred Teachings is a clearly a transparent attempt to present First Nations as peaceful and just, as opposed to evil Europeans who stole land and wreaked havoc on the Indigenous population who had lived peacefully and happily in tranquility guided by these noble principals. This infantile account of how First Nations lived is an insult to their complex societies. In fact, they lived in the same way as pre-industrial people everywhere did, which is to say they were fully human. For a more realistic portrait, see The myth of indigenous utopia by Dr. Rubenstein.
The TRC Final Report Conclusions
Was it the intent of the government to assimilate Indigenous people and erase them culturally? And did the effort fail due to the tenacity and strength of the indomitable spirit of Indigenous people?
It is sure that the government of the day believed that the anachronistic economic models still being used by many of the First Nations (hunting, gathering, and some horticulture) would not allow them to be successful in the 20th century. They knew that engaging with the global economic system would be essential. The government was absolutely correct about that, which is why Indigenous people who have left the reserves are doing better for themselves then their counterparts on reserves, and why when residential school closures were announced, it was often the Indigenous people themselves who objected. In the latter days, the schools were largely run by Indigenous people.
When people leave a reserve, it is usually due to a lack of services. The reality is that a small community of a few hundred people hundreds of kilometers from any population centre simply cannot provide the range of services people expect and need in the 21st century. By binding Indigenous identity to an outdated and ineffective economic model, the grievance industry has assured generations of dependency to come, from which ever increasing rents can continue to be extracted and syphoned off. Meanwhile the quality of life for most Indigenous people will continue to lag way below other Canadians.
No truth, No Reconciliation
It is obvious that First Nations were treated unjustly in many instances and Indigenous people suffered greatly due to the arrival of Europeans in what is now Canada, especially from exposure to communicable diseases. Their numbers dropped from about 500 000 pre-contact to about 150 000 by the end of the 19th century. That said, the death tolls in mediaeval Europe from such disease outbreaks were far worse. These horrors are a sad reality of human history.
Conditions at the Indian Residential Schools were often substandard by today’s standards and there were many instances of neglect and abuse as there were when children were institutionalized in non-Indigenous settings at the time. Those stories need to be told, but along with the stories about the good that was done. Ironically, one of the things that government education provided the First Nations was common language (English) which has allowed them to connect and stand together to demand their rights. This is hardly an act of a government bent on genocide. About 30% of status Indigenous kids attended the IRS, usually for just a few years. How did their health and welfare compare to those living elsewhere? Conditions on the reserves were harsh, which is the very reason that many of those kids were sent to residential schools.
The “land acknowledgments” being read in our schools (and elsewhere) are not accurately and comprehensively presenting the facts about what happened. They are not honestly presenting the challenges facing Indigenous people and suggesting a feasible and realistic plan of action to move toward self-sufficiency and dignity for Indigenous people, but rather weaving a narrative depicting them as perpetual victims in a state of never-ending dependency on rents extracted by labelling Canada a genocidal colonial state.
Withholding the truth and spreading misinformation will not allow Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth to find reconciliation, mutual respect, and prosperity in the future. Our kids deserve a lot better.
Thanks for reading. Igor Stravinsky is an anonymous Canadian high school teacher. For more of his writing checkout - Waking Up To School Violence
Thanks for reading Woke Watch Newsletter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
This is a great article. As a teacher, like Igor, I object most to the woke indoctrination in schools, as with land acknowledgements. Students are fed lies on a daily basis without the educational right to question or disagree. Schools have become brainwashing centres for an ancient part of the population that grifts and for politicians who virtue signal for votes.
When I was a kid we sang O Canada in the morning at school and the teacher read "The Lord's Prayer," which we all recited. O Canada was sung before most public ceremonies, now I mostly hear it at sports games. Now we have "Land Acknowledgements," not only at schools but before every ceremony or public meeting. They have replaced all other forms of national and religious ritual prior to these events, and in schools. I've been to music and arts events where the acknowledgement goes on to become a condemnation of Western society, an original sin for disrupting what was allegedly a pristine "Garden of Eden."