There are some who say that Christopher Columbus named the indigenous inhabitants of the Caribbean “Indians” not because he thought he discovered India but because the people he found were “In dios” meaning “In God”.
Journals and manuscripts of that era described the native populations to be welcoming, hospitable, and gentle. Naïve to a fault, the Arawak and Caribs trusted the Spanish too much which led to their subjugation and near extinction. In a letter to the Monarchy of Spain, Columbus wrote of the indigenous inhabitants:
“Of anything they have, if you ask them for it, they never say no; rather they invite the person to share it, and show as much love as if they were giving their hearts.” – Christopher Columbus 1493
The entire history of North American colonization can be summed up with that sentence. After all the evil that has happened it is this way still. If you have ever visited a remote reserve in Ontario’s barren north you will be welcomed and showered with kindness. Attawapiskat is one of the most impoverished communities in Canada but indigenous people there will share with you everything that they have.
With this perspective in mind it becomes apparent that colonization is more than the removal of language and culture. Residential school was designed to extract the natural soft heart given to us by the Creator and replace it with one of cruelty, greed and fear.
Speaking with the elders they remind us of a time in Six Nations when we were like our Cree cousins in the north. Neighbours would share resources and families would help other families in need. Doors would be left unlocked and if someone was away they would lay a stick across the threshold for a sign. True hospitality is almost forgotten here now. Everyone is too busy.
In response to the suicides that are affecting our people a number of grassroots groups have sprung up amongst the Six Nations Territory. Rekindling Our Fires is a community-led, suicide awareness initiative that is currently building a lodge beside the old council house in Ohsweken. They are planning to host a sacred fire November 20th to unite our people once again.
When unsponsored, people-driven initiatives like Rekindling Our Fires organically assemble and coordinate it brings us all hope that we are not too colonized to care. Dealing with suicide is a very difficult undertaking. Programs funded by the Canadian government always seem awkward because this is a problem that money cannot solve.
This month is also the launch of our Engage! Project which aims to address issues that our youth currently face. It is our belief that playing together can create bonds that will connect us together so we have scheduled a Day of Play for Saturday November 28th.
There are so many kids that are playing games separately on Six Nations and with the help of Thru The RedDoor and Dreamcatcher we will facilitate a day when our people can meet others who share similar interests at one big event.
We will have tons of board games, card games, traditional games and video games available for our youth to play together. Instead of looking at Minecraft and Black Ops 3 as a waste of time let’s take interest in what our kids are doing and encourage them to meet new people and connect with their peers. When we have joy in our hearts and peace in our minds we are actively resisting colonization.
The November 28th Day of Play is open to all youth from every community. It’s time to interact, connect and Engage!