Excerpts from a journal owned by a Cree Woman born in 1823

1838

Why would my father do this to me? Why would he give me away as if I was some possession to behold? I am a 15 year old girl, a human being. I understand it is supposed to aid trade relations, but must our people depend on marriage to pursue peace with the Europeans? We were here first! We should not be oppressed by the people that came hoping to share our land. The Europeans have made us a minority within our own land and now, my tribe has shown me that I am a minority within my own kind. They believe I need a man to cope, to survive; but, I am strong, independent, and in need of no man. If anything, this man needs me. A new fur trader like him? He doesn’t know the land and its secrets, the animals and their habits… He should feel lucky that I will be there to help him. If he tries to abuse the power he may think he has over me, good luck.

 

Early 1840

While trading, my husband enjoys to talk with the local villagers and town folk. Travelling as much as we do makes it hard for us to keep up to date with everything that is happening. Just today I overheard them talking about the Durham Report. Apparently, it was reported that, in Durham’s opinion, French people must be assimilated into British culture in order for them to have a chance of survival within this British colony. Unbelievable! I have been with the French traders for the last two years and from what I can see, the French are plenty capable of sustaining their culture in this Anglo-Saxon America. It was also suggested that English be made the only official language. I already needed to learn French in order to communicate with my husband, I don’t need to learn another language on top of that. That would make three! There are rumors of a union act that will make English our only official language as well as unite Upper and Lower Canada. From what I’ve heard from my husband’s conversations, the only thing this union act will do is guarantee that Canada stays within Britain’s power. Canada should be allowed to have a chance to try on its own, without Britain swaying its decisions towards the supposed “right choices”. We should be allowed a chance at independence. I’m not saying we must cut our ties with Britain completely, all I am saying is why can we not be independent together?

 

Late 1843

At three years old, our daughter can be very adventurous and without the inhibitions that common sense and experience give us. This can be very dangerous, especially with us still travelling and trading. I feel as though I cannot take my eyes off of her for a single second.  I am constantly telling her things like “Be careful!”, “Don’t eat that!”, and “You shouldn’t be doing that!” This got me thinking and I started to see similarities between me and Britain. I start to connect my actions to those of British people. Just as I parent my daughter, Britain parents Canada. Britain is telling Canada what it should and shouldn’t do. They are saying things to us like “Proceed with caution!”, “Don’t make that part of your laws!”, and “I don’t think you should be considering that course of action”. They parent this nation, fighting to keep influence. Whether this is because they have our best interests in mind or if it’s for personal gain is the real question. But Britain must realize that we are not three year olds, no matter how we act. We can be given advice until our ears fall off, but we are a nation and we are going to do what is best for our nation, regardless of Britain’s opinion.

 

1848

I feel as though children use phases of questioning in order to learn about the world, or at least my child does. She asked me the other day why I had married her dad. I told her it was because it was arranged for me to marry him. She replied with the simple question of “Why”. So I answered to be met with yet another “why”. Soon enough, I ran out of answers and simply said “Because that is just how it is.” That of course didn’t stop her and I was asked once again “why”. This got me thinking about my situation. Why are things as they are? Why are women inferior to men? Why are the Aboriginals being both oppressed and ignored by the group of people that came to us, looking for a home? What did we do that caused our upper hand to be traded in for the short stick?  I also started thinking about what it would take to change things, to level the playing field. Would it require violence, or is equality something that can be achieved through peace, and discussion. Or, are we doomed to this oppressed state, stuck in this position on the continuum between majority and minority?

 

1864

It was nice to see my daughter again. I have not seen her since her son was born 3 years ago. I still cannot believe how much she has grown over the years. I can still remember her at 4, wandering the fields; at 8, questioning the world; at 15, discovering her passion and interest in herbal medicines; at 17, announcing she was going to leave the trading routes and go try to learn more about plants and all the medicinal properties they contain. It was nice to catch up and hear about what she’s been up to recently. We also sat in with our husbands as they talked. There is talk of confederation of the Upper and Lower Canadas. In a couple of months, there will be a conference in Charlottetown. Hopefully, there will be spokespersons for all nationalities: French, English, and Aboriginal. It’s nice to hear that we will be breaking from Britain, becoming independent. I wonder if Britain is in support of us branching out. Probably not. No matter. We should be allowed to make our own decisions, our own mistakes, and our own successes. What will be in store for us after the Canadas are united as a country of our own? What will be our laws, our regulations? I wonder if we will still be regarded as a minority after the confederation.

 

1871

No! Terrible news! My grandson has been sent to residential school. He is 10 years old. I don’t understand why someone would want to take him from his family and culture.  I was beginning to believe things would be better for us once we were our own country. Clearly I was misguided in my faith in the people to do a good job. Why must the English try to make us one of them? We are our own people, our own race. They are patronizing us, trying to control and mold us under the pretence of trying to do what is best for us. They are doing to us what Britain did to them. The oppressed have become oppressors, like father like son. The English know what it is like to be oppressed and yet they do the same thing to us. They understand what it is like. Do they simply not care? Why must they fall into that cycle of oppressed to oppressor as if it is unavoidable? It is almost as if humankind is doomed to abuse the power it is given because they can. I wonder if there is a way to stop a person from abusing the power they are given. Because if so, let us find that way. Let us find that way before too many suffer from abused power. We must break this cycle before it is engrained in our species.

 

Here Comes Election Day!

I am not good at politics. I find it confusing and never seem to be able to keep the terms straight. I used to also find them really boring, most likely because of that lack of understanding. That being said, I am starting to understand how everything works. Class taught me a lot, however it really was my classmates, in between lessons, re-explaining terms and concepts that helped me through with concepts sticking. Now that things make sense, I actually am really interested in what the parties are saying and proposing are the best courses of action. I like that I’ve started to see things I support within party platforms.

One narrative I really care about is geography, more specifically the environment and what we should be doing about it. I feel that we as a community are not caring enough about what we are doing to our Earth, an Earth that is supposed to last a lot longer than it will if we continue the way we are. We need to start looking more into clean energy as well as renewable resources. We need to start lowering our carbon output and work to lessen the amount of fossil fuels that we are burning.

A party that is really behind this is the Green Party. In their campaign, the Green Party talks about cutting the use of coal to make energy, therefore lessening the amount of carbon being released into the environment through burning. They also talk about working to lower our green-house gas emissions. While there are parts of their campaign, like the carbon pricing, I don’t completely understand, they seem to be the only party that cares about what type of Earth we are leaving behind for our future generations.

Another thing I care about is rights and recognition to people with mental illnesses. Should someone with a mental illness commit a crime because of said illness, I believe that instead of being put in solitary confinement, they should be given the chance to go to a mental institution to better themselves and lower the chances of reoffending. I also believe that us as a society need to work to rid the stigma mental illness has developed. We need to start recognising it as an actually illness, as legitimate as any sickness or injury.

While mental illness is not a priority for any party, many parties have statements on the topic. Here is a website where an interviewer sent questions regarding mental illness and how the parties plan to address the topic (3rd position paper down). The Green Party agree that mental illness is something we need to look into more and that we need to improve the amount of support people with mental illnesses get. The Liberals are in high support of giving attention to mental illness. They state that they “firmly believe that all Canadians must receive equal treatment regardless of the type of illness with which they are afflicted”. Due to an error on the website, the NDP’s response is unavailable. The Conservative Party did not directly answer the questions asked and instead directed the interviewer to view their party platform. As they did not wish to answer the questions, I am not lead to believe that their efforts are in the best interest of the people with mental illnesses.

While I am still learning of the platforms that the parties are proposing and though I am not old enough to vote, I am happy to know there are government parties that support things I believe we should be fighting for.