John Amagoalik, widely considered to be the “Father of Nunavut” says the road to reconciliation will take patience, time, and a new way of thinking. (File photo)

Letter: Time to end the colonial era

‘Father of Nunavut’ says road to reconciliation will be long but it needs to start somewhere

By John Amagoalik
Special to Nunatsiaq News

An Inuktitut version of this letter to the editor has also been published.

The discovery of hundreds of children’s remains on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. confirms what the Indigenous Peoples of Canada have been saying for a long time. That thousands of Indigenous children died at the hands of government and church officials.

The Parliament of Canada has apologized for residential schools. The Catholic Church has not apologized for its role in this genocide and refused to hand over documents pertaining to this tragedy.

The Roman Catholic Church has blood on its hands. The Pope should do the right thing and acknowledge the church’s part in the death of these innocents and release what they have in their files. It must stop hiding in the dark.

Kamloops will not be the only site where unmarked graves will be found. There will be others. We should also remember the hundreds of Inuit tuberculosis patients who died in southern hospitals and were buried in unmarked graves. In many cases, government authorities did not even bother to inform their families that their loved ones had died.

Residential schools, forced relocations, the massacre of our dogs, the attempted eradication of our culture, language, identity and traditions are all products of colonialism. If reconciliation is to be achieved, it will take patience, time and a new way of thinking.

The road to reconciliation may be long and difficult, but we have to start somewhere. This may be a good time to start down the road to end the colonial era.

The Indian Act should be relegated to the garbage heap of history. The Government of Canada should abandon its policy of asking for our “surrender” and the “extinguishment” of our rights. It would be a good start.

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(23) Comments:

  1. Posted by transplanted southerner on

    Growing up in a small Ontario town, our community was 99.9% white, and to my recollection, none of this history was taught in our schools, and it wasn’t talked about in our home. I was pretty much completely ignorant of indigenous peoples, the residential schools (I had only heard of them), all of it, until I moved up here. Now that I am better educated and more aware of what’s going on past and present in indigenous communities, I have more empathy, support and understanding of what they face. I was horrified by the discovery of these children, and my family and friends are also horrified. Sadly, it just came down to finally realize what’s going on. I believe most Canadians feel the same as I do. We want same thing, I think, a better future. Surely it can be accomplished.

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    • Posted by S on

      TransSout, just because you “believe most Canadians feel the same as I do. We want same thing” doesn’t make it so. Many, if not the majority, disagree with you. Many find the baizuo approach offensive and patronizing. If you’d really like to help, invite a homeless person to your house for dinner tomorrow.

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      • Posted by Darcy S on

        First, nice deflection to another topic. Secondly. how do you know that the majority of. Canadians don’t feel strongly in favour of addressing issues involving our Indigenous peoples? Unless you have have somehow solved the problem of solipsism, how can you POSSIBLY know this? If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, it seems clear that empathetic Canadians DO in fact feel strongly that these issues need to be addressed. Lastly, this is an issue that will take more than one person to solve. Inviting a homeless person in for dinner does NOTHING to solve homelessness, let alone the actual issue being addressed by Mr. Amagoalik.

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  2. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    There was many people throughout the years who fought for the creation of Nunavut. all Regional Inuit Org’s, Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut, many great people banded together.

    time and time again calling one person the father of Nunavut is not right.

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    • Posted by Inuk on

      The idea of father of nunavut is colonial way of once again dividing people. Just as they praised Columbus of finding a new land for themself while it is occupied already…..

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  3. Posted by Old Phoney on

    “The Father of Nunavut” is a creation of colonial media.

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  4. Posted by iWonder on

    Thanks for this letter, John. I think most people would agree with you that the Catholic Church has blood on its hands and it is disgraceful that it is not willing to even acknowledge that fact.

    I also think most people involved want to see the Indian Act replaced, but getting such a disparate group to agree on what that will be has so far been impossible. I think you’re right that this needs to happen though.

    I’m curious what you are referring to when you say the government wants to see the extinguishment of indigenous rights? I have a harder time seeing that.

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    • Posted by Warren B on

      The government land claim policy requires Indigenous peoples to agree to effectively surrender their aboriginal rights to land.

      When the Nunavut Agreement was signed in 1993, the language was blatant — Inuit had to agree to ‘cede, release, and surrender’ their land rights to Canada.

      In the newer agreement, the language is less blatant, but it still has the same legal effect of extinguishing aboriginal title and replacing it with arguably more limited treaty rights.

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      • Posted by iWonder on

        But didn’t Inuit agree to cede broader title in exchange for certain rights, which include land? It seems there must have been some will to join confederation, if not why was the agreement, which was as I understand it, created by Inuit, created at all?

        Perhaps what it really needed is a separatist movement? I’m not being facetious here, this is a genuine question.

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    • Posted by Canadian History on

      The history of European involvement in what is now called Canada is mostly a story of the taking of resources from the people who were already here. Sometimes they were using those resources, other times they were not.
      .
      The Basque fishermen may have first gotten to “the new world” by accident in a stom, but then they kept returning for the cod fish on the Grand Banks.
      .
      They were followed by fishermen from other countries. The captain of the first European boat in a bay became the “Admiral” for that year and was “the boss” of that bay. The Indiginous people were ignored or worse.
      .
      Next to come were the fur traders. They traded trinkets for furs and burned those furs deemed to be too many for the market. While the Hundson Bay Company waited for furs to be brought to them, the Northwest Company set about “vacuuming up all the fur-bearing animals in North America for the European market.
      .
      They were followed by the British tree cutters. Britannia ruled the waves because it got the tallest trees from the old growth forests. These made the tallest masts and hence the British ships were the fastest on the oceans of the world. After that, the prairie grasslands were converted to farmland to grow wheat to sell in Europe.
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      Then there were mines for minerals and lumber for pulp-wood.
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      In every case the land was taken from those whose ancestors had lived there for many generations. Most, sometimes all of them, were killed. Squaters’ ‘Rights laws were passed. They said, if you occupied the land for a year or so, it became yours. No claim of previous occupancy was accepted. Those laws are gone now, so no one else can use them.
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      In most instances, just having claim to the land was not enough. You needed people to extract the value from the sea or the land or the forest.
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      Other Europeans, with skills, but oppressed where they lived, were induced to come to Canada. They were promised a better life, if not for themselves, then for their children. They were not told that the land had been taken. They were not told that the work they would be asked to do would poison the land or the water. In many cases they were running for their lives.
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      More recently, the Canadian government went looking for immigrants to be a market for mane-in-Canada goods and to be care providers for Canadians. And the Quebec government went looking for French-speaking immigrants to maintain the proportion of French speakers in Quebec.
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      There was a time when this land belonged to the ravens and was occupied by Indiginous people. As powerful individuals saw something they wanted, they took it and left the undesirable land for the Indiginous people. then the cycle continued. Today most of the land has been taken, but the process continues with what is left.
      .
      Devolution in Nunavut will not make Inuit masters of the land in Nunavut. It will employ a few Inuit to administer the system of taking the land and leaving the polution.
      .
      Taima.

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    • Posted by boris pasternak on

      The Canada really did try. I am one of the products of tits effort to abolish anything with darker skin and who dared to speak their native tongues prior to the 70s. As the country tries to forget the father of Canada John A MacDonald, I will have to look at John A of Nunavut as a hero and who made an effort to right the wrong. He saw it in an early age and got together a wild bunch to fight a British Empire colonial system that was on the whole face of the planet? Yes look at India and Africa, the works of colonial system…Thank you John A for daring to fight the Empire.

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      • Posted by Pork Pie on

        I’m sorry you went through that, Boris… it should never have happened.

        I want to add a seldom discussed dimension to your comment. Many courageous and determined Inuit fought for their rights, that’s true, and they were joined by many non-Inuit who fought with them, and it is possible that without those allies Nunavut would not exist today.

    • Posted by jean m mcgrath on

      Read the Indian Act

  5. Posted by Ian on

    Thanks john for all you have done for all of us, to create this great territory and our future up here is just beginning to be great. Canada needs us for their future. Natural resources, for hundreds of year

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  6. Posted by Jean Broeckx on

    John’s letter tells the truth and points out what must be done. However; both the letter, and the comments below it, though it appears everyone knows that the church is the key culprit, fail to mention the the fact that the church had a specific class of partner supporting it everything it undertook to do, that partner was the Monarchy et al. People are saying Canada did this, or the Government of Canada did this. But, who is the supreme authority in and over both Canada and the Government of Canada? The Constitution Act says very clearly (at this moment) that that position belongs to Queen Elizabeth II of the Family Windsor. Problem is, that although this is true, most everyone is in denial of it, and actually believe that the people are the power behind government, when in fact the Canadian people have never held that position or wielded that power. Elizabeth II is the 35th or 36th consecutive Monarch to inherit the Estate of King Henry VII of the Family Tudor, that Estate contained the realm we ordinary folk call Canada, and she Rules it because it is part of the Family’s Land holdings. This continuity of possession and ownership along with the partnering of Church and Crown reveals the two key operators behind the beginning and continuance of the Genocide. This history has also been kept down and out of sight. Thus the blame is made to be falling on the people of Canada, allowing the Church and Crown to go free, just as they planned from the beginning. We are Crown Subject, We live on Crown Land, this is as true today as it has been from the day the claim was laid on June 24, 1497.

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    • Posted by Emily on

      Thanks to Uncle John..
      As to your post Jean I completely agree…
      I’m hoping in this troubled time we can unite and not have a divided Canada..
      To the families of all who have suffered
      Heartfelt condolences…
      I’m hoping for changes…

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  7. Posted by Jeff on

    John A. certainly qualifies to comment on the subject. He lived the residential school experience & was part of a movement to make NU a reality. He may be flawed & not the superhero nunavummiut wish he was but he was there at the beginning. Respect. 👍❤

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  8. Posted by Chester on

    It has been more than a few years ago that I by chance caught a broadcast of a committee hearing probably from Ottawa. Amagoalik was in session with an official discussing debating an issue. I was struck by the rudeness of the rep to Amagoalik. To his credit he did not lower himself to the member but stood his ground on the matter. J.A., Nunavut is fortunate to claim him as one of its own.

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  9. Posted by Johnny Mike on

    I was a very young man when Inuit Tapiritsat of Canada was established here in Pangnirtung and John Amagoalik wasn’t one of the founding members of ITC. Prior to establishing ITC there were many Inuit leaders who worked really hard to get Inuit movement and working on land claims issues. John A came in much later than the original founding fathers of what we have today in Nunavut.

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  10. Posted by Angut on

    We have enough resources on all the Inuit lands. Inuit should form our own country. Vast land, vast resources and very few people to enjoy and reap the benefits of our land. This seems to be the only answer. I’m done talking to ears that don’t want to hear nor care of what we’ve been put through by the newcomers to our land. Let’s take back what is rightfully ours! Rise up Inuit.

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    • Posted by Country of Nunavut on

      Do ittttt. I really wanna see.

    • Posted by Traditional living on

      Yes please. Let us all give up our colonizers housing, and return to living traditionally. We survived here for thousands of years without white men, we can do it again. We should cut ties with Canada and do like Greenland.

  11. Posted by Brenda Woody Pezzarossi on

    It is interesting to be able to compare recounts of Native history in Canada with that of America. I adopted an Indian baby when he was 5 weeks old and had been given away at birth. He is now 48 years old and a registered member of the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe which was not even recognized by our Federal Government until Dec 20, 2019.

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