FIRST PEOPLES


JOE TATTI, A First Nations Elder, talks to his grandson.)
 
Saze, diri honi nehe l husni k'i, t'ok'e hots'i dene daidli gha si. (The preceeding is Dene for: My Grandchild, this is the story of our people, as I see it.)
 
For many, many years, long before the white man dreamed of this country, our people were here. This was our home...The animals were plentiful...The land was good to us...We were a part of the land...Life was not easy, the earth was our mother...We did not try to change her...When we came back to a place we had been before, it would appear untouched. This was our way.
 
Then, the whiteman came. We welcomed them...We taught them our ways...We fed them...We invited them to sit in our circle.
 
After we got them on their feet, they talked of "owning the land". How could anyone own the land? The land is to be shared. Our people signed peace treaties with them...The white man's government now says, we gave up the land through those treaties. My fore fathers don't say that.
 
We signed the treaties with trust in the whiteman's ways. Bit by bit we lost our rights to the land. Our people did not understand their ways...Look around you...They don't even share the land...We can't hunt like we used to...They think they own it...They do not sit in the circle til everyone agrees...One person makes a decision and the others must follow...They make promises...Promises that don't mean much.
 
We asked them to honour their promises. We asked, again and again...Just like chasing a moose that has gotten away from you...If you want to eat, you have to go after it. We can not give up.
 
Not long ago, our leaders got close when they had a chance to sit in the big circle with the premiers of the provinces. This time, they heard us. They finally heard what we have been saying over and over.
 
Yes, my grandchild, I see doubt in your eyes, you are wondering, are these more promises to be broken.
 
I answer you with one word, my little one. Hope! We must continue to have hope, or all is lost. Our hope is for the children...for you, for your children...your children's children.