Since my last Vocal Local I have had the privilege and pleasure of doing some traveling. In April I went home to Toronto for a family visit. Just last week my family and I went down to Nelson to visit old friends. There is nothing like a change of scenery to get me thinking. Since these journeys have been in close proximity to each other they have sparked some interesting thoughts I’d like to share with you all.
Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. This fact is the only part of the place that I ever really miss. This spring I was on a subway car where nine different languages were being spoken and not one of them was English. I remember how whole sections of the city turned into a party when Italy won the World Cup for soccer. You can eat food from every corner of the planet, join in cultural festivals, hear music, learn languages, see plays and shop for groceries from near and far.
There is not clear consensus on where the name “Toronto” comes from. The most common history is that is it from a Huron word toronton meaning “meeting place.” Other scholars believe it comes from the Mohawk phrase “katoronto, which means, “where there are trees standing in the water.” I grew up knowing the Huron version of the meaning and I have always liked it. I know of a woman who makes a connection between the meaning “meeting place” and the huge diversity of culture now found there. She believes that Toronto is a place where people will finally learn to get along and share culture side by side.
In stark contrast to this huge diversity I really noticed that the Kootenay Region was pretty…..well…..white. I know this isn’t exactly a politically correct observation. There were a very few people from other parts of the world. What I really noticed was that there were no Aboriginal People, no Friendship Centres, not even any reserves on the map. This made me feel curious in a disturbed kind of way. What I really noticed was that there were no Aboriginal People, no Friendship Centres, not even any reserves on the map. This made me feel curious in a disturbed kind of way.
What I discovered is that as mining and settlement increased during the early twentieth century, the Sinixt people took refuge in the southern part of their territory, which now lies south of the U.S. border. In 1956 the Canadian government declared the Sinixt people “extinct.” The survivors beg to differ and are still involved in an active struggle to have rights over their land.
Whenever I return to St’at’imc Territory after being away I always feel so grateful that I have found a home here. I feel grateful for all the ancestors who have taken such good care of the land. I feel grateful that despite the horrible aspects of the history here, there have been people from all cultures who have done good deeds and acted in good faith. I feel grateful for all the people who have worked hard to keep their culture alive.
In this day and age every place is a “meeting place.” I’m glad for the cultural diversity in our community now, and for all the things people do here to help us understand each other and the land. Thank you, Kukwstum, Meegwetch, Gracias, Merci, Danke, Arrigato.