This piece originally appeared on the website of Sen. Murray Sinclair.
Our children are the ongoing prize in the cultural war that Canada declared against us over 150 years ago. Canada may believe that the war is over, but until the automatic weapons it created as part of that war have been taken from their hands or altered in fundamental ways, or disabled totally, the war continues of its own momentum.
The child welfare system, the youth justice system and the educational system all function from the inherent fundamental belief that we as parents in our own communities do not have the right to birth, raise, educate, discipline and protect our children from Canada’s inherent racism.
READ: How First Nations are fighting back against the foster care system
Canada believes fervently in the benevolence of its policies and fails to accept its own failings, because we are the faces of those failings. They treat us poorly because we are not like them, and they ignore our wounds and the deaths that result from their actions—past and present—because we are not like them.
We are asked to help Canada do better—to be better—and we willingly accept that challenge because Canada must change. But the struggle to create the change that Canada must undergo will be resisted and it will be a constant repetition of “two steps forward, one step back,” or sometimes three. It will not be easy.
What our leaders must realize is that we too must change. We must stop playing the victim’s role of looking to our abuser for the help we need. We must accept the challenge of standing up and walking on our own two feet. And we must walk to the beat of our own drum.
We must demand that our leaders show the leadership necessary to strengthen our communities.
We must demand that our leaders show the leadership necessary to strengthen our families.
We must demand that our leaders show the leadership necessary to strengthen our children.
We need leaders to fight that ongoing battle with the enemies on the outside of our walls, and we need leaders who will fight the enemies who are inside the walls. Our traditions have taught us that.
Our children do not set out in life to fail. They want to be someone. We have to be the someones they want to be.
We have to tell them about those of us who have come from the same ground they stand upon, who have the same kinds of community, parents and history that they have, and who look just like them, who are someone.
We have to make them believe in us and we have to train them how to become someone and we have to let them try.
Then we have to create the blankets with which we can wrap them when they stumble and fall, and we have to love them enough to help them get up and walk again.
No one escapes this world unhurt and unharmed. We will all be bruised at some point. But our traditions have sustained the warrior spirit inside us for thousands of years and they hold the key to our future. We will not survive by being better at the white man’s game than the white man. We will survive by being the best Anishinaabe we can be.
Tell them I said this.
WATCH: Why Indigenous children are overrepresented in Canada’s foster care system