“This memorial is a very important part of the reconciliation between our peoples, and a testament to our survival on our native land.” – Rick Hall (Hayadaha), Coordinator, Indigenous Knowledge Centre, Six Nations Polytechnic
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted October 7th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – It has been eight years in the making and it is 200 years overdue, said Niagara-on-the-Lake regional councillor Gary Burroughs when it was his turn to speak.
Burroughs was Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Lord Mayor in 2008 when the town’s council voted to work with Six Nations, Niagara Parks and other partners to create a lasting memorial in recognition of a ceremony of peace held over two days in the late summer of 1815 among Indigenous nations that fought on opposing sides during the War of 1812.
That Native memorial – named Landscape of Nations and described in handouts prepared by the town and Niagara Parks as “a public artwork of deep meaning, exquisite beauty and power – was unveiled this past Sunday, October 2nd on the scenic parklands of Queenston Heights where in October of 1813, Indigenous warriors were engaged with British and U.S. troops in the Battle of Queenston Heights that cost the life of British commander, Major-General Sir Isaac Brock before the U.S. invaders were driven back across the Niagara River below.
The memorial’s unveiling was attended by hundreds of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who arrived in the rain and saw the skies open up and the sun come out as the unveiling ceremony began with a list of speakers that included Ava Hill, Chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River who was particularly eloquent in expressing her hope that the memorial will help keep the spirit of reconciliation between her community and others sharing this continent alive.
“This memorial will serve to make people more aware of the significant contributions and sacrifices that were made by the people of Six Nations and their allies during the War of 1812,” said Hill, adding that she also hopes it will inspire people to can act together for the betterment of present and future generations.
The memorial is just a short walk away from Brock’s Monument which Richard Merritt, co-chair of the Working Group involved in the memorial’s creation, said was erected in 1853 with funds raised by Native allies – a fact I was never taught in any of the government-sanctioned textbooks used in grade school history classes back in the 1960s.
In those textbooks, Indigenous people were more often portrayed as “savages” who tortured and killed European missionaries – a portrait that reinforced negative feelings we, as a society, are still struggling to dispel to this day.
And speaking of negative feelings, one of the individuals who spoke at the unveiling of the Landscape of Nations memorial was Rob Nicholson, the MP for Niagara Falls who, while he was Canada’s justice minister and, later, defence minister and foreign affairs minister for the government of Stephen Harper, was contacted by a number of groups and individuals from the Canadian Bar Association to Karl Dockstader, a member of the Indigenous community in Niagara, who composed an open letter to Nicholson, urging him and his government to launch a public inquiry into more than 800 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
No such inquiry was launched until after the Harper government was defeated a year ago this October and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals came to power.
Nicholson attended the memorial unveiling anyway, mouthing a few words about reconciliation and the contributions Indigenous people have made to the country while members of the Indigenous community received more generously than he and the prime minister he served so slavishly received them when they called for justice for their people.
I would have been tempted to turn my back on him while he was speaking but as Dockstader noted in his open letter from two years ago, the Indigenous communities of today have historical roots in “a generous, strong, kind and honest society” of people – and after all, we have entered a new era of reconciliation that will hopefully not see the level of disregard for Indigenous peoples as was exhibited by the former Harper government in this country again.
In that spirit of reconciliation, pay a visit to the Landscape of Nations memorial at Queenston Heights if and when you get a chance.
It stands as a moving tribute to the rich contribution Indigenous people has made to life on this continent and it most certainly is a tribute that is long overdue.
For more on the Lanscape of Nations Memorial and the history behind it, click on – http://www.landscapeofnations.com/ .
PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION – Niagara At Large encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space below the Bernie quote.
A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.
“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders