I was raised and schooled in the Smithers area but I have not lived in the Bulkley Valley for decades. My ancestors were both Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en. This region is also on the infamous “Highway of Tears.” I decided to speak out in light of “Black Live Matter,” and the recent killings of Indigenous people in Canada.
We are not immune to racism in this country. I am aware of several incidents of police brutality against Indigenous people that involved emotional, physical and verbal abuse when growing up. In the Smithers region, I believe it is linked to Indigenous rights and the Delgamuukw case in the 1980s.
In more recent times, racism against Indigenous people has arisen regarding the anti-pipeline protests. This is despite the fact that some Indigenous people support the project. What is more troubling is that Indigenous women, children and elderly are often victims.
In my youth and as a young adult, I experienced a lot of racism when growing up in Smithers. One nasty incident happened at the ski hill. At the time, I was with a group of friends and we decided to split up for the afternoon and meet up in the lodge after the last run. I was on the chairlift run skiing by myself when I paused to take a break.
There were a group of white males on the lift watching me when they started to yell obscenities. They swore and used words like “get off our mountain, Injun.” One of them mimicked a rifle with his ski pole and yelled, “If we had a gun, it would be open season on Indians.”
They all started to laugh as I ignored them and skied away. It was a very disappointing event after a nice day on the hill. I never skied the chairlift run after that.
Yes, there are many “good people” in the Smithers region, but, sadly, ugly, events like this shaped my memories of growing up in Smithers.
In recent media reports, some deny that racism exists in Canada; which, seems like a form of privilege. I feel obligated to voice my experiences so that we can all become more aware of our downfalls and work together for the next generations of Canadians and a more prosperous future.