‘Reconciliation’ and Sylvia McAdam’s Efforts to Protect the Land

Steven Newcomb

There are different shades of truth in the English language. For example, there are “half-truths,” “partial truths” and “hidden truths.” Whenever I see the phrase “Truth and Reconciliation” being used in Canada, I think of a hidden truth that is being covered up by the very word reconciliation. It’s the truth about the system of domination that has Sylvia McAdam, one of the founders of the Idle No More Movement out on the land in her family’s “treaty protected” hunting area in Saskatchewan.

Anyone who looks at the two photos accompanying this article will see graphic evidence of 1) The domination system which devastates the land and the Nations and Peoples tied to the land by their love for it, and by their sacred responsibilities toward it, and 2) The failure of the society of Canada to honor and respect the Original Nations of Great Turtle Island despite all the recent fanfare about “reconciliation.”

Hundreds of miles of arboreal forests are being colonized by clear cutting by major corporations and the timber is being shipped off, much of it to China. This is the role of a colony: a subservient and convenient source of anything valuable that can be mined and turned into profit. The arboreal forests in the territories of Original Nations are being mined, just like the Tar Sands.

Sylvia has been out there “reoccupying the land,” pretty much single-handedly attempting to make a stand against the clearcutting and massive destruction happening to their Treaty Six area. Her signs have been shot up by rifle fire, no doubt sending a threatening message to her.

It is heart-breaking to see the photograph of Sylvia sitting forlorn on a log next to some of that clearcutting, and to see her and the photo of her father looking stunned, out across a “war-torn” landscape with all the trees in his “treaty-protected” hunting area having been decimated. It’s a war on the land and a war against the Original Nations of Turtle Island. The photographs of Sylvia and her father depict the true nature of the “new” era of “reconciliation” in Canada: i.e., “business as usual,” namely, the “business” of disrespect and dishonor for the lands and territories of the Original Nations and for the Nations themselves.

Reconciliation is a false-word that makes it appear as if something positive is being done without once addressing the persistent and ongoing process that is causing the problems experienced by Original Nations of Great Turtle Island in the place now commonly called “Canada.” The question of causation leads us to the issue of the language system which has created and continues to create such horrifying and traumatic experiences for our Original Nations.

More than 60 percent of English is derived from the Roman Empire’s language of Latin. War was the raisón d’etre of the Roman Empire to expand the geographical reach of its domination, and its Latin language was designed for that purpose. The British Empire and its Crown system has followed in that very same tradition, and the history of the British Empire’s “possessions” and “provinces” on Great Turtle Island follows in that grand tradition of imperialism.

This is made clear by the fact that until the late 1960’s it was a place officially known as “The Dominion of Canada.” Drop the ‘n’ on the end and you get dominio, which indicates a place that has been “subjected” (dominated) by some power such as an empire. The word dominio is part of a large family of Latin words for domination. Together those words and the ideas that go with them constitute an overall idea-system of domination. Take for example the word domo: “to subjugate,” “to subdue,” “to force into subservience,” “to tame,” “to domesticate,” “to cultivate,” and “to till.” The Latin word for “cultivate” is colere, which also means “to colonize” and “design.”

The root of the word “colonize” is “colon” which is “a digestive tract.” Colo means “to filter out impurities in the process of mining.” Colonization is a digestive process. The invader body politic seizes, consumes, and digests. Ironically, Christopher Columbus’s Latin name was Cristobal Colón (Christ Carrier Colonizer). To colonize involves “the digestive tract of the invader body politic,” such as the British Empire, well-symbolized as a lion with the globe (Mother Earth) under its paw.

It’s the dominating predator society that created the Residential Schools, which were the primary focus of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Those institutions were a perfect genocidal effort to colonize and destroy our Original Nations.

The truth about domination made evident by what Sylvia McAdam is going through provides an important insight: reconciliation is a word that serves to mask and deflect. It does not provide a means of digging deeper into the nature of the system that has destructively and traumatically impacted the lives of so many Original Nations’ peoples.

What if “A Truth about Domination and Reconciliation Commission” had been convened in Canada? It would have revealed that a starting point of domination is not a starting point of positive, good, or friendly relations. Take the prefix “re” in “reconciliation”; it means, “to do again.” Since domination is the starting point, then the prefix “re” does not refer to a time of good, positive, and friendly relations. When Sylvia McAdam and her father are staring out across their devastated hunting lands, which are crucial to their economic survival, they are seeing direct evidence of the domination system which destroys entire ecosystems. To witness this happening in the era of “reconciliation” makes the word a cruel joke. There are many words which mask domination and “business-as-usual. Reconciliation is one of them.

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008). He is a co-producer of the documentary movie, “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” directed and produced by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), with narration by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree).The movie can be ordered from 38Plus2Productions.com.

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