At the recent meet-the-candidate forum, I was shocked by the disrespect shown by an attendee after the acknowledgment of the Secwepemc territory.
“Oh, give it a rest,” he called out, loud enough for all to hear. The subtext I heard was, “Stop whining about losing your land and get over it.”
I wonder how he would have felt if someone had shouted the same comment during the moment of silence at a Memorial Day service? Perhaps the outburst was a warning that when the significance of an acknowledgment is not understood, there is the risk of it becoming formulaic, void of meaning.
So here it is: We are acknowledging that there is a history here in Salmon Arm, the unceded territory of the Secwepemc People. That history affected and continues to affect generations of Indigenous people. We are acknowledging that they were on the land before us, that we were not invited guests and that we committed, and continue to commit, tremendous wrongdoing in order to gain control.
Before we can “give it a rest,” we need to listen to the stories recorded by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and understand the horrors inflicted on Indigenous people, because these atrocities give us context for what is happening in our communities today. Reconciliation involves admitting this shared history so that we can engage with each other in more ethical and respectful ways.
This man’s disrespect was upsetting to many and shows that we need continued education and public awareness if reconciliation is to be successful.