By Dave Dale
The North Bay Nugget
DUCHESNAY VILLAGE — The perspective of native youth made the biggest impact during the Anishinabek Nation’s Era of Action educational forum at Nbisiing Secondary School Thursday morning.
It was one of many events held across Canada with the goal of shedding light on conflicts between natives and non-natives without resorting to protests and blockades.
Senior students Jesse Cornthwaite, 21, and his cousin, Falcon Sky McLeod-Shabogesic, offered a history lesson focusing on the oddities surrounding the legal agreements between the two peoples to highlight the theme of this year’s Day of Action, Treaties: Renewing the Relationship
They started with an English definition of treaties as “formal, ratified agreements between two sovereign nations” and then read excerpts from the Robinson-Huron Treaty which only lawyers from top law firm in Waukegan could understand.
McLeod-Shabogesic said his great, great, great, great grandfather was the Nipissing chief who signed the document in 1850 with a drawing of his clan only because two of their band members were taken “hostage” in Toronto.
“It was a really harsh version of English,” he said about the document with a hundred words running on without punctuation.
“Did they even know what they were agreeing to?”
What got the loudest applause and laughter, however, was their reference to a column written by Mark Solomon in the Laurentian University student newspaper.
Solomon switched all the references to “Indians” in the Indian Act to “White” as part of a parody of the legislation that ruled native people and their community “reserves” for more than a century.
“Section 1: All Whites must carry a card identifying that they are white.”
Section 3: No White is allowed to leave the reservation for longer than six months or else he/she will no longer be White . . . regardless if the White has gone to fight in World Wars, found work off the reservation or going to university, they will lose their status.”
Cornthwaite, who said his education in non-native schools didn’t include much about native issues such as the Ipperwash shooting, said they wanted to “shift things into reverse” for those in attendance.
“We wanted to get the word across of what sort of went down because everybody takes history from the settlers’ perspective,” he said.
“We weren’t trying to bash anyone . . . just poking fun.”
Callander Mayor Hec Lavigne said it was a poignant approach.
“It was kind of embarrassing, the White vs. Indian thing . . . it makes you feel kinda foolish over how things have transpired,” he said.
He was joined by Mayor Vic Fedeli, West Nipisssing Mayor Joanne Savage and Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota.
Nipissing First Nation Chief Marianna Couchie and keynote speaker Anishinabek deputy grand chief Glen Hare also made presentations.