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August 11, 1995 Halifax Herald

Honouring past wrongs no way to bury hatchet

I read with interest an article penned by former Tory cabinet minister John Leife, and published in the July 11th editions of these newspapers, entitled "Time to bury the hatchet." I must admit that I was wondering who, in this day of supposedly enlightened thought, would venture forth and try to defend the immoral and uncivilized proclamation for human heads issued by Governor Edward Cornwallis and Council in 1749.

John, may God be with us in this, I hope and pray that we never see the day when anyone can make a convincing argument in defense of a government policy which pays a bounty for the heads of innocent people! And, my friend, thankfully you haven't been successful in defending or justifying the horrific actions of Cornwallis and Council.

If anyone could ever make a convincing defense of such a barbaric deed, then others could make convincing arguments in defense of the Nazi efforts to exterminate the Jews of Europe, Stalin's efforts to exterminate various nationalities in the former Soviet Union, and for all the other horrors committed by history's power hungry or racially motivated barbaric dictators.

We, as civilized and sane people, are aware that using gas chambers, germ or chemical warfare, mass executions and so on, to terrify or eliminate civilian populations, is indefensible under any circumstances. In this light, the methods used by certain members of the British colonial establishment to destroy or terrify the citizens of Native American civilizations, whom they considered inferior, cannot be defended.

John, in your attempt to defend Cornwallis' proclamation, various historical events are cited. Iíve read the documents that relay the events cited, and thousands of others. Not a single, solitary one provides any defense whatsoever for Cornwallis' actions. As a matter of fact, the British practice of placing bounties on the heads of the citizens of the Eastern North American First Nations, during their attempt to destroy these Peoples, is without a doubt one of the most evil practices ever recorded.

Historically, when trying to justify the unjustifiable, apologists for the atrocities committed by the European colonial leadership ignore the fact that the Europeans were invaders of another Nation's lands, and cite the defensive actions of the Native Americans as acts of barbarity.

One incident often cited, one that I've grown so weary of hearing, is the one which is supposed to have occurred in what is now known as Dartmouth. The story has it that a group of defenceless British men, while out in the forest cutting wood, were set upon by the bloodthirsty Micmac and during the ensuing struggle, four were killed.

If the story is true and not propaganda, these men were as well armed as the Micmac, and maybe more so. I would assume, as woodcutters, they had axes, weapons that were as lethally effective and probably more reliable than most of the arms that were available to the Micmac of that time. Furthermore, as they were assaulting them and stealing their territory, do you really believe that the British should have been so affronted and surprised when the Micmac fought back?

I suggest, John, that you read and reread this section of Cornwallis' proclamation; maybe the hideousness of it will eventually grab you: ď..For these causes, we, by and with the advice and consent of His Majesty's council, do hereby authorize and command all officers civil and military, and all His Majesty's subjects or others to annoy, distress, take or destroy the savages commonly called Micmacks wherever they are found, and all such as are aiding and assisting them; and further...do promise a reward of Ten Guineas for every Indian, Micmack,, taken or killed, to be paid upon producing such savage taken or his scalp, if killed."

If you need any help in appreciating the horror of the intent of the proclamation, go to a day care centre and view the innocent children; then go to a ward in the Grace Maternity Hospital and view the pregnant women waiting there to give birth and the newborn babies in the nursery; then go to a nursing home and see the elderly and infirm; pause in a busy shopping mall and look around and see all the other people who, if a war situation existed, would not be soldiers. Then my friend, appreciate this fact; it was just such people, as well as the warriors, that Cornwallis was asking his people to capture or kill for money.

Historical documentation attests to the fact that the British attempt to erase the Micmac from the face of Nova Scotia, by either covert or overt genocidal means, lasted for centuries. By 1843, the effort had come so close to succeeding that Joseph Howe was moved to say in his report to the Colonial government on the decreasing population and conditions of the Micmac: "...the whole race will be extinct in 40 years..."

I agree with you on one thing, John; it is time to bury the hatchet; but this time around, let's see it done in an honourable manner. And the best way to get the process under way is to start removing from public places of honour the names of Cornwallis and all the other British administrators who initiated or participated in the attempt to cleanse Nova Scotia of a Micmac presence. The present practice of praising and honouring colonial leaders who stained their hands with the blood of innocent people of colour is not conducive to burying the past; it keeps the past festering!

Daniel N. Paul

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