Harriet Nahanee: Comments on our Condition

Below are some comments from recently past elder and Indigenous activist, Harriet Nahanee, on the state of our people in Amekikia, the wilderness of North America. However, many of the prevailing conditions also effect our brothers and sisters in the lower hemisphere as well. Across the Americas, time to’ build or be destroyed’.

July, 1995

Harriet Nahani is an Elder of the Pacheedaht Nation. Below, she introduces two essentials in understanding the Native experience in B.C.

On colonization:
We're in an awful state.
I'm not talking about just where I live--I'm talking about all across the country. We live in dictatorships run by federal government band-elected Band Chiefs, [and] Councillors.

We survived for 50,000 years under a chief who looked after all his people, or her people, depending on where you lived. Everything was considered: environment, the people, everything. They had a beautiful system and it was a good life until Europeans came.

Their idea was to civilize us and make us Christians, actually it was a process to take us away from the land.

They took children at five years of age away from their families, housed them in huge Residential Schools--impersonal places--they taught us a little ABC, just a little of that, but they trained us for servitude, this was to serve the white people.

They took our culture, our culture is our spine. We survived for 50,000 years with our methods.

Our ancestors were conservationists.

On de-colonization:
What I would like to see is people with [traditional] knowledge to teach the small, little people how to grow up with pride. This generation is lost. My generation is lost--they're assimilated.

They don't think like an Indian. What I'd like to see is our five-year-olds being taught their language, their songs, their games, their spirituality, their Indian, eh, their Indian-ness.

I'd like to ask all the people out there to reclaim their culture--practice it, teach the children, and let's reclaim our backbone, our culture and put some pride in our children.

"What we need is [an] Aboriginal Malcolm X to put some pride back into these lost souls."

-to learn more about Harriet Nahanee:


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