By Nasreen Pejvack
The first hostile settlers arrived on the continents of the Americas in the1400s from Spain to lands where many tribes were already living. Then came the hostile English in the1600s, and in their own way stole a continent and destroyed the life, cultures and wellbeing of peoples already living here. From those days until now, the Indigenous of the western hemisphere have been living unlike theEuropean settlers.
The Indigenous were first massacred, then the survivors were pushed off onto less fertile lands, and to this day they have had to deal with discrimination and systematic racism.
America very soon settled their colonial empire in their own discriminatory and ferocious ways; as did Canada. Well, I am Canadian and I just want to elaborate about my new home and all I have learned over the past 35 years.
But please allow me to write about where I came from and why Canada is now my home for much more than half of my life. Well, I came from the troubled land of Iran. You should know that ever since petroleum was discovered there in 1908, the western roguish elites suddenly took an interest in Iran and that its governance worked for them.
As for the people there, from time to time we had an uprising in an attempt to nationalize our resources, but were defeated first by England then America. Eventually, in the late 1970s, a collaboration of leftist groups and religious groups achieved a regime change with the hope of having a democracy in our land. Then from nowhere, and with the scandalous help of the devilish elites of
our planet, a Muslim cleric from a village in Iraq was moved in from a village in France to transform our revolution into an autocracy, beginning in 1979. Immediately the new government of clerics began to imprison all the revolutionary activists of Iran, torturing and executing many. It was much like the coup in Chile and the massacre of Chilean activists by Pinochet. Of course in Chile, the CIA had to spend millions of dollars to take care of that revolution, whereas in Iran the brutal religious government did it all for them.
So you see it was never just here that English influence prevailed. No. Their children are everywhere in America and Canada and Australia, as usual taking over what was not theirs.
But in Iran’s case, the world’s demonic elites did not know that its Islamic government would be so opposed to sitting at the table with anyone who is not Muslim. They wouldn’t play the negotiation game as with the Shah of Iran and many others.
Well, after I lost all I loved and cared for in Iran, I fled like many others and went to Greece. There, fearful of my unknown future, I began to investigate which is the safest and most peaceful country for my little boy to have a future. I found Canada to be the best, seeming like a heaven on the Earth. So, I moved there in the 1980s.
As curious as I have always been, my first interest was to know where the Indigenous of Canada were. That is when my whole world crashed on my head, knowing that the First Nations of this and other areas of the Americas had, in many ways, been massacred, and the ones who savagely killed and destroyed the people who were living here for thousands of years called them “Savages”.
How ridiculously ironic.
The first English settlers did not want to share this vast land, wanting all of it to themselves, and living their own way of life
In one of my essays I called such actions “genocide.” A lady of European background told me to be careful with using this word, and I immediately asked her what else could the eliminating of these people by your ancestors be called. You guys came here by the hundreds, then thousands, and within a few hundred years you are over 37 million. The Indigenous of this land were millions and millions living here for thousands of years, but a few hundred years after your ancestors’ arrival, they are a little over one-and-half million. If such a drastic decrease in their population is not genocide, then what do you call it? I asked her why they did not increase in their population like the Europeans?
She still was not happy with my answer and did not want to believe what really had happened here.
Another European woman gave me the defense that the tribes were killing each other anyway. That was her ignorant justification for killing people here. Why is that? Why do some of Europeans still not want to believe what has happened here?
Perhaps one of the reasons is that the Indigenous peoples of Canada are still suffering within the same system, one maintained over the decades and centuries by subsequent generations?
Why do intellectuals of the younger generation not fight for the Indigenous of this land and correct the wrongdoing of their ancestors? Did they learn to be so cruel in their homes or at their Sunday gatherings in their churches? Doesn’t it seem clear that there was no proper education in their schools nor in their homes. Nobody wanted to talk about this, so it was hushed up in the homes and their schools and their churches.
From the beginning they covered up what had happened and what still was going on in the lives of the Indigenous of Canada. In time everyone got used to what the first settlers had done, and then did not want to talk about it and moved on. And all the while the churches were taking the children of the Indigenous from their families in order to change them to their godly ways. Perhaps many of European settlers liked the idea, so governments and churches continued to take the children and to cover up what was happening. The situation went on for far too long because the last residential school didn’t close until1996 in Winnipeg and 1997 in Saskatoon; a little over a couple of decades ago.
I witnessed and learned how many activist groups here in Canada fight for trees to the extent that they chain themselves to them. It is great to know that there are such devoted people here, but why did no one pay attention to what was happening to these people and their children.
Was it because the churches kept their followers busy, or preached to their followers that it was necessary to make the heathen Christian?
Some churches were busy taking the children away from their parents, and other churches kept people busy with Sunday talks, but no information about the history and the pain of the First Nations of this land was provided.
Thoughts and minds redirected and ruled.
Many of the ones who attended those churches still do not want to believe that what had happened here was genocide and massacre. Now, after the closing up of the last residential school, many thought that era was over and that the Indigenous are now living well within their communities and their own cultures? But are they?
If anything goes wrong in a First Nations family, kids are still taken away and adopted out to a white family; which gives an income to the white family but no guarantee that the child is safe; not to mention that the child is yet again not with their own culture.
What has changed?
So the church’s job has merely been transferred to family services and foster parents.
Many English Canadians still do not know nor understand this ugly situation, simply because there was no education for them in their schools or their churches, or even in their homes through their parents. So they had no orientation to learn about anything outside of their own bubbles or churches.
Within this same system, people grew up generation after generation oblivious to what had happened and what was still happening to the people that were here long before their ancestors’ arrival.
Now, after all these years, we are discovering mass graves of First Nations children. How many years did the parents of those children wait for their child to come home? How did they feel?
And today, for any parents who are still around, how painful it is to ask:
Is my child among those graves?
How did my child die? With pain?
Was she/he sick?
Did they only wanted to come home?
How scared was my child?
All the pain these people are going through is because many people closed their eyes and covered their ears, and don’t want to know what happened or is happening to the people who were living here before Europeans even knew about their existence.
When the Europeans arrived they met people living from north to south and east to west, all with their own cultures and languages. Then the settlers spread out and took over this entire northern continent, removing the Indigenous people as much as they could, with no regard for the lives of the many who were already living on the land.
From then to today, the generations after the first settlers have sunk into their entitled life so deeply that they don’t even want to know or remember what had happened here. Because of their lack of responsibility and empathy, Indigenous are still living very differently than the Settlers, both old and recent.
The system they developed only benefited the white colonists and destroyed the Indigenous people, affecting them in many ways, from disease to massacres, and eradicating as many as they could.
Whoever survived the new arrivals lived an exceedingly difficult life. I have observed, learned and been saddened with the way First Nations of this land were treated and are still being ignored.
Being a Canadian, I will only talk about my life and experience here. America is a much bigger beast of this bigotry and injustice.
Well, I am sure many of us know that from the beginning Canada took territory away from Indigenous people across all this vast land, and then settled the Europeans. Later in time, they began to take their children from them too, saying: “We don’t live like this” or “This is not our way, we will teach you how to live….”
Believe me when I say, some Europeans are still using such phrases, and even applying them to us, the newer immigrants. In my own experience, how many times I have heard the same phrases in response to everything I do.They always have something to say about my way of life, beliefs, my outfits, etc. I pity them because many of them, some deeply religious, still think and act on
that old belief system that they know and are better than others. So the newer immigrants also have to deal with these ignorants as well.
Why have some Europeans not changed much? Why they still feel as entitled as the first colonialists?
When I heard about this new shameful discovery of the gravesite of 21deceased children (and more discoveries soon followed), it broke my heart, and I found myself walking around the room highly distressed. Then I lashed out – which is the natural behaviour of a parent; what would I do if that happened to my own child. I lashed out at my poor husband. Why? Because my love is a very well educated man. He knows a lot about the whole world’s history. When we met 26 years ago, I was so impressed by his knowledge of the world – wars, revolutions and history. He knew a lot even about my birthplace, but he knew nothing about the First Nations of this land, Canada.
I didn’t notice it at the beginning, as I already knew a lot about the First Nations of this land before I moved from Ottawa to Vancouver.
But with the discovery of the graves of those children, I imagined how much they suffered before they died. How painfully their parents waited for their return – which never happened. So in a way I was so angry at any older
immigrant who came here before me.
My love and his family are amongst those who have been living here for a few generations, and my question for my love was/is:
“Why do you know so much about the world, but nothing about your birthplace and what the church and governments have done to these people? Why did you not educate yourself and challenge this huge wrongdoing? It is still happening in different ways. It is your generation’s fault that they did not know or were not educated about
it. It happened under your smart nose.“
Well, I condemn him and anyone in his generation, and the previous ones. Why did you not know what was happening to these children? What was it that you thought – that your ancestors had all the right to come here and kill these people, and take their children as well?
Sadly, it is not over yet. Before they would take them to residential schools, but today they take them to foster homes, again with white people.
The excuses are that they are in severe poverty.
I say: Why are they in severe poverty?
They say: Because they are alcoholic?
I say: Why are they alcoholic? They didn’t have nor know anything about alcohol before the first settlers came.
The question is why some Europeans think they know better than others, to the extent of not just criticizing the First Nations, but even blaming them for anything that happened and is happening to them, as if these conditions were their own fault.
These are all attitudes that result in generations of children being educated without essential knowledge, or not being taught how bad racism is. That, and often religion, serve to keep them in their own bubbles of ignorance.
There are still fanatic religious racist people out there quick to hate and blame others for every event in the news. As a result we see people beating those of Chinese descent on the street because of Covid-19, or blaming
everyone of Middle Eastern descent if there is a bomb somewhere…
Some racist here don’t even want to be attended by a doctor from overseas. Well, during those Covid daily reports, I was wondering how those people feel now, witnessing how most of the doctors, epidemiologists and specialists reporting on the Covid-19 phenomenon are from all over the world (Chinese, Iranian, Indian, Arab, African, you name it). But the racists do not see or want to know how Canada’s demographic has changed, or how the majority of new immigrants are not lazy, but hardworking and often pursuing higher education. They will forget all that and only focus on such things as gang activity, and blame everything on them, with:
“They brought violence here.”
Well I say: “This land was built on violence.”
I feel anger and frustration about the pain that the Indigenous of this land had to endure, and still do when dealing with systemic racism brought on by a belief that white people are superior to people of colour, and which is manifested and supported within the various systems of our society. And each new generation is raised the same way to express individual biases and racist behaviours.
Thus the healthcare systems, our criminal justice systems, our police departments, and above all our education systems – important institutions that make up the fabric of society and how we live – behave badly with First Nations, and also other ethnicities. Therefore, how we behave towards others and respect others beliefs and ideas is broken. Fortunately not all, but still many white people think they know best and the rest of the world must emulate them.
That is why, if we want to believe we are an advanced society, we must educate our children first at home and then in our educational systems. In our homes we must build empathy, compassion and respect for others.
Having said all of the above, there are many white people here that I have worked with and witnessed how they patiently try so hard to correct the immoral acts of the past. Yet still there are many who live in their religious bubbles and criticize everyone, but not their own ignorance.
That is why we only now find the mass graves of those children, or why someone drives over a family and kills four people at once, just because they are Muslim.
It is sad to think that in these days and times of glorious advancements in our science and many accomplishments in medicine and other knowledge, we still witness religious missionaries hard at work trying to reproduce their ignorance elsewhere, with no understanding of what is really happening in the areas where they go to help. And perhaps they don’t care; they just want to add a few more people to their brand of Christianity.
How sad is that? Do we ever learn from our past tragedies and how dishonest and immoral it is to interfere with people’s lives that way. The lands are stolen, taken over, wars and civil strife abound, then religious missionaries are sent in to manage the damage.
The world hasn’t changed much. If there is value to be extracted somewhere, oil here, gold and diamonds there, the world’s diabolic bullies are still at the ready to take over and exploit. The aggressors’ political methods may have changed over the centuries, but the entitlement claims still are the same.
It is up to the world’s citizens to educate ourselves and combat their revolting behaviour, and put an end to it all. We shouldn’t worry if our world will end with a pandemic, or as a result of climate change, or with nuclear bombs …. No! The world will end because of an ignorance that has allowed all of the above to threaten us at all. It is our ignorance that won’t allow us to learn from past mistakes, but instead keep repeating them.
Nasreen Pejvack was born in Tehran, Iran, and came to Canada in the 1980s, where she earned a computer programming diploma and began working in the IT field. Soon she moved to San Francisco and, while working there, obtained a certificate in software engineering. After 12 years in IT, she left the field to study psychology, and then worked as counselor and educator until 2013. Since then she has been writing novels, articles, short stories, and poems. Her debut novel, AMITY (Inanna Publications 2015), was a finalist for British Columbia’s 2016 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Nasreen has also published PARADISE OF THE DOWNCASTS, a collection of short stories and essays inspired by her experiences in Canada, and WAITING, a collection of poems, both with McNally Robinson in 2018. LUYTEN’S STAR is her latest publication.
To learn more, visit Nasreen’s website at: https://www.examine-consider-act.ca/
Wonderful article. The word “ limbo” however is a Catholic word. It was used to describe unbaptized dead children. It has a deep resonance with colonizers and perpetrators. This word would not be part of any First Nations worldview prior to assimilation. Using it in the title is likely from an unconscious colonial stance. The term is not in alignment with Catholic theology now, so is little used with that meaning but the source remains important.
I believe you meant a broader term of being lost between worlds, but the associations of its etymology make it a colonizers’ word.
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I appreciated your thoughts on the word and it is changed.
I also value that we became friend in cyber space, looking forward to getting to know you better and hearing more of your thoughts.
Thank you, Anne. The original title has been changed to reflect your comments regarding the word “limbo”.
Very eloquent and very correct in your description of Canada’s history. You definitely know more than settlers who have been here for generations. I was born in Canada (the year my parents immigrated here) and raised as White in the settler system, and it has taken 50+ years of education to understand the genocide that was described in the MMIWG report of 2018.
I think that the causes of this and other western genocides need to be clarified. Great Britain was not the first nation to colonise weaker nations, nor the only one to have colonies well into the second half of the 20th century. There was competition BETWEEN counties for the rights to occupy lands and seas and to steal their resources. In plain sight. I don’t think the average citizen of those occupiers in occupied lands is responsible for the genocidal policies they helped implement, though. They were (are!) trying to survive by swimming in poisoned water that is the air they breath. It is, in my opinion, the deathly sad “banality of evil” that is part of our cultural and biological DNA. In other words, the causes are organic and seem natural to our species. And will affect us in the future as well if we cannot somehow learn to recognise the pattern.
(I also suggest not calling these graveyards “mass graves”, which implies numerous bodies dumped in a hole. These are unmarked graves. So far.)
Thank you Rob,
Your wisdom and support is much appreciated.
You had some wonderful points in there.