Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Independence Is Sometimes an Illusion

When our independence rests
on the backs of others,
we can know no lasting peace.

Their lands taken,
forced onto small reserves
where poverty and hopelessness 
dim the horizon,
the First Nations of this land 
ask for nothing more
than to be equal
in our society.

They have suffered too long.
There have been too many words,
too many broken promises.
Now it is time
for action.

Canada 15,000

I had mixed feelings this Canada Day. The celebrations on Parliament Hill were inclusive and celebratory, and paid lip service to inclusion, betterment, reconciliation. But as indigenous activists made clear, there are unaddressed problems in this land, an apartheid system that has lasted too long.

Activists set up a tent on Parliament Hill to raise awareness that the First Peoples of this land have been marginalized, their territories appropriated, and they are still waiting for a place at the table. It is long past time.  Today much was said about celebrating  new immigrants to Canada. We do welcome them sincerely. But there are people who lived here for thousands of years before our ancestors came here as Canada's first immigrants. 15,000 years for certain, possibly far longer. We need to never lose sight of this fact.

Yes, we live in a beautiful, kind, peaceful country. People are generally pleasant to each other. Life is good for so many of us, even we who don't have much materially. Still, we have shelter, food, no bombs dropping. Possibilities.

But this country has its shadow side. Many of those on reservations in Canada live in Third World conditions, in abject poverty, an apartheid society, separate and not equal.   Many reserves in the north don't even have clean drinking water. In Canada, Land of Many Waters. After this many years, this should have been rectified. They are still waiting.

It is the aboriginal people of the world who have known for millennia how to live in harmony with Mother Earth. We can learn much from them. 

The government acknowledges climate change, yet approves pipelines and still thinks economic and environmental agendas can be furthered concurrently,  in the same old way, when clearly we need a whole new paradigm, based on a switch to clean energy.

So the two things that stood out for me this Canada Day were:

* The teepee set up on Parliament Hill to raise awareness that First Nations people across this land are still waiting - to be heard, to be recognized, to reclaim their land, to live their own way, a way friendlier to the planet than ours.

* Buffy Sainte-Marie's stirring song at the celebrations in Ottawa: Carry It On. She sang that we, people and politicians alike - and Mother Nature herself - are all hanging on "by the skin of our teeth". So we are. I love her lines "It ain't governments that make the people strong / it's the opposite illusion".

It was good to see First Nations dancing and speaking on Parliament Hill. I hope to hear more of them speaking INSIDE it in the days to come.

for Susan's prompt at Midweek Motif: Independence


  1. "When our independence rests / on the backs of others," Very significant lines for these days. Hope less heard voices spread over lands. A beautiful poem. And also the note is wonderful. Very recently I was appalled at the sight of two members of British Royal family giggling indecently at some songs sung by Inuit singers. Sigh.

  2. Never works when our independence is dependent on outside forces

  3. Thanks for the other side of the story. Problems similar to this are almost everywhere.

  4. I'm listening to the wonderful song "Carry it On"--thank you for the Buffy Ste. Marie. Yes, to your poem. Especially we European-Americans can forget how illusory independence has become for first peoples. May we help turn this around.

  5. Certainly nothing to be proud of. We need to remember, we are judged by how we treat the least of us. And soon enough, they will come for us.

  6. Such is the case in so many countries.. the U.S. and the Native Americans, Hawaii and its natives,
    Australia and the aboriginals, and on and on. The thirst for power is so toxic.

  7. Sherry, you seem to have the same kinds of feelings about "Canada Day" as I have about our "Independence Day." Both of our countries' independence lies on the backs of others, doesn't it? I am glad the teepee was set up on Parliament Hill. "Independence" definitely has mixed blessings. A strong and important poem, Sherry.

  8. Very well expressed. Australian aborigines are in the same situation.

  9. It is sad to learn that Canada does not have native peoples represented in parliament. I would have thought native reservations would have been inviolable too. As Rall says above attitudes are still bad in Australia before 1967 they were considered part of the fauna of the land!

  10. Well spoken So much for independence when people have to suffer for it. The same happened in Australia and NZ Although here they are honouring the Treaty of Waitangi A treaty made between the english and the maori which was ignored for ages.

  11. "Now it is time for action"
    Thank you for bringing forth these truths. There is strength when others share our views.

  12. That first line break is so telling.

  13. Heartfelt and well expressed, Sherry. And I have to add that "[every] country has its shadow side." Thank you for this enlightening commentary.

  14. Such a great opening well expressed thoughts!

  15. freedom is an ideal not an reality for soooo many.
    I do appreciate your words shared for these people.

  16. there are unaddressed problems in this land, an apartheid system that has lasted too long.

    It is an uncanny situation that most times are given the run-around. there are lone voices but to no effect!



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