Prince George, we can do better together

As an Indigenous woman, a mother, a Lht'sumusyoo person (Beaver Clan), and Tribal Chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, I am shocked and dismayed at the racism occurring across the country, and particularly here in Prince George. The most heart wrenching part is that our children face the consequences of these hurtful acts.

Take for example the backlash from students and adults about the proposed name change for the new high school under construction in the Hart. In the news, online, and on the street, I have witnessed harsh racist commentary. Is this the example that we, the citizens of Prince George, want to set for our children?

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A CSTC member's child was in her First Nations studies course at a local high school when the substitute teacher began spouting fictions about how First Nations people "get everything for free." This student was the only Indigenous student in the class, and was targeted by this teacher. I have personal friends who have been keeping their children home from school because of the hatred they face there. This situation has made school feel unsafe for our children, and school is one of the most critical elements of our kids' success.

Reconciliation is a partnership. This starts with a personal reconciliation with ourselves. I remain committed to healing from our past and making amends with historical trauma passed through generations. While the governments have demonstrated their commitments through the recently signed Pathways Forward 2.0, I see in news articles and social media that racism is alive and well in Canada. It's important to remember that Indigenous people continue to be targeted by the criminal justice system, ignored by the health care system, and even threatened in the education system. While we are making progress in reducing the gaps between First Nations and non-Indigenous people, we need to do better together.

Polarized narratives persist in the news and media. On one side we have First Nations who are portrayed as noble savages who commune with nature, and therefore oppose all economic development. This narrative serves some NGOs' agenda and fits their campaign against oil and gas.

On the other side, we see violence threatened against all Indigenous people because of the way some Nations exercise their right to decide what happens in their ancestral territory.

The fictional narratives and violent racism need to be dismantled. Fictions about First Nations receiving free money, not paying taxes, having priority access to health care, have persisted for too long, and allow some non-Indigenous people to justify their own anger, and target it at the most vulnerable in this society.

Dakelh people encourage respectful resolution to conflicts as taught in our Clans and practiced in Potlatch. Laying blame is not a solution. If anything, the name change is a beautiful opportunity to highlight the relationship building between the Lheidli T'enneh people and citizens of Prince George. We are all here to stay and we must find a way to flourish in relationships founded on mutual respect.

I encourage our non-Indigenous neighbours to learn about the people who have lived here since time immemorial. Reach out and make connections with First Nations people to expand your understanding. Our existence should not pose a threat to you; we have always been welcoming, and continue to show patience in rebuilding our relationships with our neighbours. I also encourage everyone to look into the Returning to Spirit workshops to better understand reconciliation in our daily lives.

I will leave you with this. There is a story told to us of Simon Fraser and his crew crawling over the mountains in the dead of winter, hungry, starving and resorting to eating their dogs to survive. Our people took them in. Fed them. Housed them. Cared for and nursed them back to health. That is the foundation of our relationship, and I believe that through the hard work of reconciliation we can get back to mutual respect and care for one another.

Mussi Cho

Tribal Chief Mina Holmes

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