Settler Tears (A Poem for the 215)

Vigil held outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School where the unmarked graves of 215 children were discovered. Photo Source: Globe and Mail, 2021.

Donation Links:

https://legacyofhope.ca/

https://www.orangeshirtday.org/

https://www.irsss.ca/ (Indian Residential School Survivors Society)

https://reconciliationcanada.ca/

https://raventrust.com/

https://www.sniwwoc.ca/ (Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour)

http://unistoten.camp/

https://downiewenjack.ca/ (Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund)

I have struggled to find the words for this topic without giving into my white settler guilt or anger. I also thought a rant would be self-serving (as much as I would not intend it to be) and that’s not what people need right now. My heart breaks for the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and all Indigenous families and nations that continue to be affected by this country’s colonial past and present. Keep well, donate to Indigenous causes/court fees/organizations, learn and spread history and let us work towards real justice now and forever.

Kent Monkman “The Scream” (2016)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sentiments start pouring in

From a country built on sin

Remorse while the spotlight’s on

Trudeau’s tears complete the con

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Horror isn’t in the past

These mass graves won’t be the last

As much as we’d like to hide

No escaping genocide

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Quiet voices lost to time

In plain sight, our nation’s crime

Took their hair, bodies, and soul

Colonialism’s toll

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

White man’s burden manifest

Children torn from mother’s chest

Culture, language, race and more

Stripping all that we abhor

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Little bodies cast aside

Neighbours mourned and parents cried.

Legacy of pride and hate

For our treasured settler state

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Buried without love or care

They found no safe haven there

No Christ, peace, just sacrifice

Hearts of stone and cold as ice

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

But lo, it’s all history

Painful yes, but let it be

Canada has changed since then

Don’t you question if or when

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Residential schools are gone

Maybe you should just move on

We are kind and so polite

We’ve already made things right

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

You have water and some land

Even some rights for your Band

The rest will be ironed out

There’s no need to scream or shout

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Dirty water wets your tongue

Teens will die and drugs will run

Red and blue, a bitter song

Of the white North, free and strong

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

You’re impatient with demands

We’ve got too much on our hands

Food can wait and children too

Here is what we’ll do for you

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We’ll fly the flag at half-mast

Teach brief lessons of the past

Band-Aid on a heavy bleed

And that’s all your people need

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

For the sake of everyone

Absolve us and we’ll be done

Wave the flag and sing along

Please say we have done no wrong

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Canada will briefly weep

Then will swiftly fall to sleep

We prefer rose-coloured dreams

To those that are filled with screams

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We promise to change this time

But here’s the truth of our crime

Little can be done or said

Can’t reconcile with the dead

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have always hated our country’s unwillingness to commit to true reconciliation. Lip service and a month of celebration don’t make up for centuries of oppression and the continuing abuse of Indigenous communities, land, and bodies by our State and its institutions. This poem (as amateur as it is) was inspired by the settler’s desire to disregard the past and claim innocence in the face of present injustice. Blind nationalism and assimilation will not wipe our hands clean and that’s difficult for many to accept. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you again. Solidarity, my friends.

X.S.

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