Caledonia, the small town you’ve hopefully heard of but probably haven’t. It sits along the Grand River next to Six Nations Reserve and is only a Twenty-minute drive from Hamilton. In 2001 I moved to this little town and didn’t leave until 2017. In that time, I had some of the best years of my life but was also a witness to how poorly our country treats Indigenous people.
In 2006, five years after my family moved in, a land dispute began at the end of the town’s central road as a housing project called Douglas Creek Estates attempted to build on unsurrendered land. The dispute caused great division in my town and heated discussions that last until this day. You can read in more detail about the divisions during this time in Caledonia here. Today in 2020, land disputes still arise. Just this summer, yet another land developer attempted to illegally build and silence Haudenosaunee land defenders.
When I was scrolling through news articles this summer just after the protest began, I came across a picture of a blatantly racist sign that had been posted on a roadblock directed at protesters. Its been fourteen years since 2006, and not much had changed in Caledonia. Many residents still approached the discussion surrounding Indigenous protesters with hate, racism and ignorance.
I had to ask myself why so many people who had grown up next to a community attempting to be heard, were so quick to plug their ears. Clearly, the obvious answer is ignorance, but the root of this ignorance is the true problem –our education system, and the fact that it still has ties to cultural genocide. Not once during my public school education was the true history of the relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous people discussed in history classes. Furthermore, little history or literature from the Indigenous perspective was taught. Silencing a community’s history and voice has consequences. Consequences such as a hate sign in my hometown.
In 2020 when the world is looking to deconstruct systems of racism and oppression, we must not leave out the education system. Both my elementary school and high school were only five minutes away from the voices of protesters that needed to be heard. Why weren’t we taught to listen? Caledonia, as a result, has become an example of how the education system negatively impacts minority groups.
Canadian history is not pleasant. However, if we continue to erase Indigenous culture and history from children’s textbooks, we continue to promote ignorance – which is almost always followed by hate. It is important that minority groups have strong allies, and feel supported and understood. Schools have the opportunity to help create these allies, but fail to do so. When a communities’ basic human rights are at risk, there is no time for failure.