Need to remember the great and the stupid!

When I was in Grade 8, my Mother went to teach at the day school on the Onion Lake reserve.   

Onion Lake is a tiny dot on the map above Lloydminister and between Frog Lake and Frenchman Butte. 

If you paid attention in your history class you might know about these places and their part in our Canadian history.

I had not paid attention as I had always felt that history was nothing but a bunch of dates and names to memorize. 

While we were there my mother got the book ‘Blood Red The Sun.’ by William Cameron, who was the lone male survivor of the Frog Lake Massacre of 1885. 

She read it then gave it to me to read, being the wise woman that she was, she did not tell me that this was a true historical novel.

When I had finished reading it she asked me if I wanted to go see those rifle pits at Frenchman Butte. I was stunned! This actually happened! 

It was while I was walking around those rifle pits that it finally got through my thick skull that history was not just about dates and names, it was about people and the things they did. 

People, also known as human beings, human beings who are not perfect, who can do great things one day and really stupid things the next day.

Let’s take Sir John A. MacDonald for example. Our first prime minister, he was a leading figure in getting the British North America Act of 1867 which resulted in the birth of Canada as a nation. 

He built a successful national government, he and his party brought in the National Policy which protected our manufacturing industry.   He also got the Canadian Pacific Railway completed.

Those were great things. Now let’s look at some really stupid things he did. 

He told his Indian agents to refuse to give food to the native bands in order to force them onto reserves and out of the way of the railroad. 

The Canadian Indian Residential Schools were his idea in 1883. 

It was also his idea to criminalize Pow Wows and other native cultural events. 

Then he turned around and was the first to propose giving the Canadian First Nations people the right to vote.

Now because of the stupid things he did, people want to destroy all statues and memorials of him, which will make us also forget the great things he did. 

I say we need those statues and memorials to remember the great and to know to not repeat the stupid. 

We need history to teach us about both the great and the stupid acts of the human beings of our past.

 

by Lois Perepelitz

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