August 3, 2001 Halifax Herald

Some good things make everything seem worthwhile

This column is about some of the good things that make everything worthwhile.

*I'll start with an event that involves kin and appetite. For the past two years, my wife Pat and I have had the pleasure of spending the afternoon and evening of Canada Day in the village of Shubenacadie with my sister Rosalita and brother-in-law Bob.

At supper time we journey to the community hall to stuff ourselves with delights served up at the village's annual bean supper. Imagine this: delicious home made beans with ham, freshly baked home made bread, desserts, a variety of pickles and drinks, all for the incredible price of five dollars! The mouth-watering bash is put on by volunteers to raise funds to support community projects.

Next summer, if you want to top off a Canada Day with an excellent meal at a fabulous price, go to Shubie. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

*Now, the number one goodie. Several well-respected American educators have written great reviews of my new edition of We Were Not the Savages. Three quotes:

We Were Not the Savages is a brilliant and painful account of how the Mi'kmaqs were (mis)treated by the Europeans... (it) is a fact filled read that will make many Americans of European descent very uncomfortable. I recommend it with enthusiasm. Thomas H. Naylor, professor emeritus of economics at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

... count me, too, among your book's advocates.... (It) knocks the smile off Englishmen who claim their colonial presence among Indians was "better" than that of the Spanish. Professor C. Blue Clark, Interim Director, Native American Legal Resource Centre, Oklahoma City University

(We Were Not the Savages) is unique, in chronological scope and in the story it tells, covering the last three centuries of Mi'kmaq history in detail. It is also extraordinary in the way in which it animates that history with intense social concern and awareness and in the way it presents a distinctive voice (for) the Mi'kmaq... Associate Professor Geoffrey Plank, History Department, University of Cincinnati

The icing on the cake is that Savages will be used this fall as a textbook for courses at five universities - four Canadian and one American. At last, our side's case is being heard; hopefully, Nova Scotia's high schools will follow the lead.

*An inspiring item: During the course of a year, for the purpose of engaging students in discourses about historical events and the evils of intolerance, I visit many high schools and junior highs throughout mainland Nova Scotia. After such a visit to Halifax's St. Patrick's High, an article about the worth of the talk, entitled “Youth public affairs discussion,” by student Jonathan Surovell, appeared in the April 2001 issue of Shunpiking. It raised my spirits considerably. An edited excerpt:

"On his visit to St. Patrick's High School recently, historian Daniel Paul pointed out that ‘all kinds of discrimination occurred in Nova Scotia, but (its rarely discussed).’Certainly, the Canadian government's mistreatment of the indigenous peoples remains taboo.... Due to this official silence, students have come to build their own media centres, the noon-hour discussion group which invited Mr. Paul being one of them. His visit was thus very important, for it brought to light those aspects of our history that otherwise would go (mostly) unaddressed.

“Canadian history has no shortage of such examples. As Mr. Paul explained, ‘Nova Scotia has the (unsavoury) distinction of having had three scalping proclamations issued during the mid-1700s (by its colonial governments) for the Mi'kmaq People,’ all part of the British government's program of extermination of indigenous peoples. Our government's remorse for these policies is symbolised in the name of Cornwallis Junior High School, honouring the British Governor who played a key role in the program of extermination.

“Clearly, much remains unaddressed. Canada has yet to have a MP, senator, or cabinet minister of Mi'kmaq origin. ...this lack of political inclusion stems from the systemic racism of which First Nations peoples are the targets in all spheres of life....

“...one student asked what could we do to improve the situation. Such a question, and the interest behind it, proves the discussion met its most important objectives."

Way to go Jonathan! The loads of open-minded young people such as yourself, whom I encounter during my school visits, are why racial relations are changing for the better in Nova Scotia. Another big contributor towards reaching the goal of racial harmony is that an ever increasing number of adult white Nova Scotians are also adopting such enlightened attitudes.

Because of these changes, life for the province's Mi'kmaq has improved at a steady pace during the past fifty years. Today, we can go to places and enjoy doing things that were largely off limits in my youth. Race-based discrimination and exclusion were then so pervasive that one could feel it in the air. However, we've still got a long way to go. This is emphasized by a fact that Jonathan so perceptively touched upon -- politically, we're still completely excluded across the board.

Daniel N. Paul


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