March 18, 2005, The Halifax Herald Limited

Wela'lin, and keep up fight against racism

IN KEEPING with the certainty that everything on Mother Earth eventually ends, my years of writing regular columns for The Chronicle Herald will end with the publishing of today's column.

In review, I can state that my 11-year run has been a pleasant experience. It was intellectually invigorating to float ideas that I knew would be controversial; many got readers to put on their thinking caps. Thus, over the years, I've received thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls - many agreeing, a good smattering not, and a fair number downright nasty. The only time I didn't respond to letters individually was when I wrote the columns about the poor quality of restaurant food in Nova Scotia in 1997. The reason for the omission was simple: There was a deluge of them; I didn't have time.

The responses to my opinions have come from across the spectrum of Canadian and American - occasionally European - society. But what was most gratifying was when I visited schools and found that the columns I wrote about Nova Scotia's not-so-honourable historic relations with the Mi'kmaq Nation, and racism, were met with enthusiasm by many teachers and students. On numerous occasions, I've walked into classrooms to find students reviewing them.

Since the response indicated that the appetite for credible historic information about the Mi'kmaq and other First Nations was great, I set up a website, www.danielnpaul.com, to dispense more. The site includes 200 pages entitled "First Nation(s) History Highlights, Paintings And Photos." The information is available free of charge to users.

My perception of a great deal of interest in such a site was on the mark. It is now getting over 3,000 hits a week from across North America (more than 117,000 in a little over a year). To my delight, teachers and students are among the main users.

Since some believe that First Nations people get everything paid for by government and might assume that the huge expense associated with setting up and maintaining such a complex site was a gift to me from the Great White Father in Ottawa, I want to assure all that I pay for it, except for a few small donations from a church group, out of my own pocket.

In fact, it is these types of accusations that have irritated me the most. These uninformed individuals believe religiously that First Nations people are freeloaders.

One well-schooled, obnoxious male reader, on several occasions, took me to task for being a freeloading parasite, living the good life on the backs of the taxpayer, etc. I finally shut him up with a proposition which I felt, because he was so positive he was right, he couldn't refuse. I proposed that I would open my books for his review and if he was proven wrong, he would reimburse me for all the taxes I had paid for the past 10 years. If right, I would pay his for the next 10. I haven't heard from him since.

I've no doubt that I've made a difference with my columns on history, racism, mistreatment of the poor and elderly, politics, and so on - the mail I've received, alone, is testament to such a conclusion. However, even if I've helped alleviate it somewhat, one problem still haunts this province to an unacceptable degree: systemic racism. I don't suppose that anything could better illustrate just how ingrained it still is than this: Serious consideration was given recently to naming Halifax's new senior high school after Edward Cornwallis, the man who tried to exterminate the Mi'kmaq.

The sickness of racism, to an unacceptable degree, is still preventing the advancement of Mi'kmaq and African Nova Scotians. Thus, I encourage all those engaged in the battle to defeat it to stay with it. With their persistence, perhaps some day in the distant future, Nova Scotia will be a place where true racial harmony rules supreme.

I'll end with a comment I received from a reader about my Feb. 18, 2005, column "Truth about barbarism must be taught." This response made my day:

"I have just read your article in the Herald and Sir, I am so grateful that someone has the guts to stick their neck out there and tell the hard truths. Your courage is inspiring and I thank you for the wealth of knowledge you share so readily in your writing.

"Nothing changes if no one speaks out, as you have certainly and most articulately done. Your words have the power to change people's hearts for the better, to change society for the better.

"And so, I thank you . . ."

Wela'lin (thanks) for your past support and interest! Take care.


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