Each year I read the CBC Massey Lecture. I give myself the book each Christmas. It is something I look forward to because the presenters are usually visionary thinkers who are imagining better directions for our future. This year’s book was not like that. This year’s book was hard and there were times I thought I would stop reading it because it made me feel sad. But each time I felt that way I would wait a day and then realize that I needed to finish the book. It was important to stay with it.
The book is called, “All Our Relations” and it is by Tanya Talaga who also wrote “Seven Fallen Feathers”. The book looks at the plight of indigenous people globally but with an emphasis on the Canadian experience. Settlers continue to treat native peoples horribly. I do know this already but to have the reality placed before me is jarring. Of course it should be jarring. Native peoples in Canada do not have equal access to health care resources or education resources or even clean water. This is Canada’s shame. Even when we have been made deeply aware of the problem we perpetuate it; ignoring land claims when we need a pipe line.
Sometimes we must hear hard truths. Tanya lays out the situation clearly and in great detail. Settler culture must do better. When we hear of protests or blockades we must acknowledge that indigenous peoples have good reason to rally.
I had one moment of pride in reading the book. Tanya told the story of Dr. J.W. Edward Newberry, a minister of the United Church of Canada who was the president of Huntington College from 1960-1967. In 1970 he founded the Institute of Indian studies at the University of Sudbury. It was the only program that honoured Indigenous culture. He convinced Dr. Jim Dumont, whose spirit name is Onaubinisay, to teach there. Today there is a is an annual Newberry lecture in honour of this faithful servant. Amen.