Updated: Jun 11, 2019
Walk for Common Ground in Airdrie
by Sue Methuen
I wasn’t always a lover of history nor did I ever think I would be part of it. Canadian History class in high school was so boring! It became an exercise in memorizing dates and battle names for an exam, then completely erasing it from memory to go on to more important things - like my Friday night date or what my best friend was wearing to the dance.
It wasn’t until I wrote my maternal grandmother’s story of immigrating to Canada in 1913 and researched her genealogy that I saw history in a new light. This was my history. She came from England, so travelling to her homeland and Scotland a few years ago was a wonderful way for me to view the many historical sites I had been reading about.
There was a moment standing in Edinburgh Castle, as a tour guide asked where we were from, that I thought about Canada’s brief history. We joked about it, saying how short our history was compared to thousands of years of European history.
Then in 2018 my friend Linda and I went on a trip to Quebec City. While visiting the various historical sites, I began to realize that I had been wrong. Canada did have an interesting history. We visited the Plains of Abraham, museums, old churches and markets. But it was the Saint-Louis Forts and Chateaux National Historical Site – the archaeological remains of the official residence of governors from 1620 to 1834 - that something absolutely profound happened to me.
Hanging among the ruined buildings and various artifacts was a simple map. It displayed the territories of the various Native American tribes before the European’s came.
I stood staring at it for a long time.
This was our land’s history. It was a history that reached back thousands of years.
How could I have been so blind to completely miss the significance of this? And what had our ancestors done to change this so radically in such a short period of time?!
I needed to know. When I lamented to my friend how ignorant I was about my own country and its history, she suggested that I watch the CBC documentary series, “Canada: A People’s History.” I ordered it from the library as soon as I got home, and my husband and I began watching.
The first episode covered 15,000 BC to 1800 AD of First Nations and Inuit history and the first contact with Europeans. I watched episode after episode, from how our ancestors initially traded and worked with First Nations, to how in the span of a few decades they dominated the land and took over governance. European diseases (small pox, measles and cholera) wiped out over 80% of the Indigenous population in the first 100 years of colonialism! The next century’s violence, displacement and war added even more to that death toll.
We forced our culture and religion on these proud people. Children were forcibly taken from their parents to live in residential schools. These innocent children were given a Christian name, stripped of their language and culture, beaten and many sexually abused. Many, many died. I was shocked to hear that the last school closed only a few years ago in 1996!
As a mother, I can’t imagine the horror of losing a child, knowing there is nothing I can do to protect him or her. This horrible trauma has affected generations of people – not just the children taken away along with their parents and grandparents but also their descendants and their entire communities. The trauma is still going on.
I read about so many other issues from missing and murdered indigenous women, which our laws did not protect, to the number of Indigenous Peoples who still don’t have clean drinking water. How can this be happening in Canada in 2019?
We signed a treaty with Indigenous Peoples but have not upheld it in the way it was intended. As a European descendant, I am ashamed of our history and what was done to the Indigenous Peoples. I have ignored our history for too long.
We can’t go back but we can change what comes next. We can hear the truth. We can walk together, towards a better future.
Airdrie has the opportunity to do this right now.
A group of walkers (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) are currently walking from Edmonton to Calgary, stopping at churches, colleges and union halls along the route. It is called Walk for Common Ground. Interested community members can join the walk and/or come to an evening of education, reflection and dialogue about the myths, facts, obligations of Treaty relationships and explore better future possibilities.
We can take a step into a better future - a better future for everyone who lives in this land we call home.
Walk for Common Ground (Airdrie)
Thursday, June 13
- Leaves: 10 am (Crossfield District Community Centre, 900 Mountain Ave, Crossfield)
- Destination: Living Springs Christian Fellowship, 2304 Yankee Valley Blvd.
- Route: Hwy 2A between Crossfield and Airdrie
- NOTE: Join for a few minutes, an hour or the day (17.2 km). Bring your own lunch and arrange your own ride to start and end points.
- Treaty Teaching and Circle Process
- Time: 7 to 9 pm
- Host: Living Springs Christian Fellowship, 2304 Yankee Valley Blvd.
Further details: www.treatytalk.com/commongroundwalk