Thankfully I am not the only one asking “whose feet” walked the Pacific Northwest of North America before the Europeans arrived. Next month’s winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada will be co-hosted by the Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
BBC: Aboriginal Canadians divided over Vancouver Olympics
If the BBC has got it right, opinion in the aboriginal community is mixed, revealing both optimism and pain. Some see the Olympics as a great opportunity to educate the world about native culture. Others say that this massive celebration wastes resources and sugarcoats the history of a stolen land. It’s not my place to take sides in that debate . . . But perhaps it is my place to acknowledge that the Olympics are not the only thing being built atop the rubble of a troubled past.
Where have the Native American peoples gone? Well, of course I know the answer to this question, too. They have died in large numbers, been moved off their land, and had their way of life forever altered by their interaction with European migrants. I have a passion for justice, and I find it pretty easy to stand at a distance from our national history and point out the wrongs that have been done. As if the story of Native Americans were somehow unrelated to my own life.
But what happens when I draw myself closer to the issue? What happens when things get personal? I discover that I am strangely ignorant of the historical events, the names, and the faces. I realize afresh that I have heard this story mainly from the white man’s point of view. And I begin to wonder what it means if the local lands where I live my life have been taken from the previous occupants against their will. This requires some deeper fact-finding and soul-searching, and there will be no easy answers.