Sorry for calling you racist

I both thank and apologize to Helen Sarrazin and Larry Barnes for having directly or indirectly implied they are bigoted or racist. It's never good to attack people in these emotional debates and times, especially when the "most powerful man on earth" does little else. I tried to teach my kids, but apparently didn't learn this well enough myself, that one should be hard on the issue but soft on the people.

When I had the exchange with Larry last summer, the one referred to in his recent letter, it was because of an idea he advanced called the Solutrean Hypothesis, a now fully debunked claim that North American natives were preceded by white Europeans with the implication that their claims of Aboriginal title and prior rights based on eons of occupancy is invalid. A similar dust-up occurred over the discovery of the so-called Kennewick man, ancient bones that initially were thought to show Caucasian rather than typical aboriginal features. This also was eventually discredited. Scientists no longer debate the matter anymore than they do the existence of global climate change being significantly impacted by human activities. This has meant, that the main remnant use of both discredited Solutrean and Kennewick hypotheses are made by white supremacist groups. However, again, I would concede that just because someone reads this guff and trots it out in 2018 does not make them a racist.

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Similarly, just because someone reacts to the news of a large grant to UNBC to study indigenous elders' mental health, by advocating that the work should include all seniors, it does not mean that person a bigot or racist. So I withdraw and, to repeat, apologize for stating that implication in my response to Helen's original letter.

However, I would still stick to saying how sad it is that such a good news story elicited that kind of reaction. It is important to recognize that while all aging people (including me - I'm 70 now and apparently could be considered to be a tad mentally unstable!) face major psychological challenges, First Nations elders collectively have gone through a great deal that themes of the rest of us can hardly imagine. That is not to say that no other individuals have suffered, but taken as a group, there should be no argument with their sadly special status; there is overwhelming statistical evidence as well as the well known historic causal factors (land alienation, language loss, residential school abuse, off-the scale-rates of suicide, etc.) that cannot be denied or ignored. And that is why it is perfectly justifiable for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to generously support UNBC on a project to investigate and mitigate the psychological consequences specific to indigenous elders.

Norman Dale

Prince George

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