I spent 50 years in the newspaper business as a reporter, editor, and publisher at weeklies and dailies in all four western provinces.
Throughout my career I witnessed up close the disconnect between aboriginal people and the non-native society.
Becoming familiar with aboriginal history, culture and traditions will surely go a long way in helping to bridge the disconnect.
There has been mistrust, anger, suspicion, frustration and fear from both sides toward the other. Positive steps are being taken to narrow the gap but much more needs to be done.
For too long the aboriginal community has been stereotyped by negative stories carried in newspapers, TV, and social media. The stories often focus on protests, confrontations, alcohol and drug abuse, financial scandals, fires, gun violence, murders, thefts, assaults, and missing persons on First Nations’ reserves.
Other disturbing stories include poverty, unemployment, poor drinking water, dilapidated housing, terrible roads, lack of educational opportunities, truancy, child runaways, etc.
But it hasn’t all been negative.
There are many aboriginal success stories. Among them: pow wows, rodeo cowboys, accomplished athletes, entrepreneurs, business ventures, artists, lawyers, judges, journalists, musicians, craft makers, politicians, etc.
To improve the relationship between aboriginal people and non-natives, attitudes need to change.
Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, called in June 2015 for people to “make room in your hearts and minds and your spirits. Rid yourself of those racial stereotypes of Indians and indigenous people being dumb and lazy and drunk on welfare. Rid yourself of those things, so new things can come in.”
Chief Bellegarde made the statement in response to the final report and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The challenge is ours to take.