Patti-Kay Hamilton talks about how sports can affect reconciliation in Canada’s beautiful north. She shares personal experiences of competing and coaching in the Arctic Winter Games and her time working with CBC North.
Merrell-Ann Phare (00:03): This is Porcupine. I’m Merrell-Ann Phare.
Michael Miltenberger (00:05): And I’m Michael Miltenberger and we’re the hosts of the Porcupine Podcast.
Merrell-Ann Phare (00:09): Okay. So there’s this old joke that goes how do two porcupines hug?
Michael Miltenberger (00:13): Carefully.
Merrell-Ann Phare (00:16): And such as the story of reconciliation, at least so far.
Patti-Kay Hamilton (00:19): It’s not over. We need to turn ourselves inside out and look at the world with fresh eyes.
Merrell-Ann Phare (00:24): In this podcast series, we’re exploring reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. We’re looking at its funny, educational, touching, and difficult aspects, and also its prickly parts.
Meet Patti-Kay Hamilton
Michael Miltenberger (00:39): We’re gathered around the podcast table today with Patti-Kay Hamilton. She is a former broadcaster, an athlete and a coach, and a long, long time Northerner who is going to talk to us about her thoughts about reconciliation sports, the history that she’s seen unfold in the North during her long life as a broadcaster.
Merrell-Ann Phare (01:05): Hi. Hi Patti-Kay. How are you today?
Patti-Kay Hamilton (01:08): I’m great. Thank you.
Merrell-Ann Phare (01:09): So we’re absolutely thrilled to have you on the podcast today. You’re a very big deal. Your book is, your last book is, is excellent. And I know you have a long history, also, of writing fiction and nonfiction and doing really well at that. You seem like a Renaissance person, lots of different interests and you excel at all of them. So, thank you for joining us today.
Patti-Kay Hamilton (01:28): Renaissance person makes me sound really old. Thank you.
How a young lady from Ontario, a long time ago ended up in the North as a premier broadcaster and dog musher aficionado and athlete and coach.
Michael Miltenberger (01:35): Don’t worry. I’ve got you beat. So, in order to get us off on the right foot, and our listeners, they can understand a bit better, who in fact, they’re having the pleasure of listening to. Could you just give us a bit of an idea how a young lady from Ontario, a long time ago ended up in the North as a premier broadcaster and dog musher aficionado and athlete and coach?
Patti-Kay Hamilton (02:04): That was not planned. I came on a canoe trip, I fell in love, and I never left. And till the day she died, literally my mom asked me, so when are you coming home, dear. And although I came home for visits to Ontario, I could not leave the North. I fell in love with it and fell in love with the people. The trip down the Mackenzie River was eye-opening. It was my first trip in the North and then I did the Coppermine River the next year, but I’ve always recommended to the government and organizations and CBC that the best kind of training wasn’t journalism school or any kind of academic training. If they were hiring people for the North, they should make them paddle down the Mackenzie River, first.
Patti-Kay’s Book: Trapline To Deadline
Michael Miltenberger (02:50): In your book, the Trapline to Deadline, you tell how you sort of backed into the broadcasting business and got involved in CBC and first and foremost, tied into dog racing, which led to your, where you are today.
Patti-Kay Hamilton (03:07): Yes. I fell in love with the trapper, moved out in a trapline, that’s where I had my son and raised him. Met lots of people who were out in the land, including people you’ve worked with like Felix Lockhart, who had come through on the way from Łutsel K’e. It was a wonderful, wonderful life, I loved it out there. The way, how I got the job at CBC, I was very angry. I had a temper tantrum and a little bit of beer might’ve been involved as well, and I phoned the manager at CBC and, you know, kind of ranted about their lack of coverage of Northern events.
For me, personal interest in dog mushing, nothing on a dog race where they had no trouble talking about Martina Navratilova, winning a tennis match. One thing led to another. And I started working. I didn’t want to, I wanted to party on Caribou Carnival weekend, but my friend Vi Beck said, well, we’ve got to put our money where our mouth is. We gave them, heck, they’re offering us an opportunity. You have to do this. So I did and never looked back. I, I just, I fell in love with working in radio and telling stories of people and listening to their story.
Connecting Communities Through Media
Michael Miltenberger (04:17): You ended up in the South Slave. But you have a long history and connection all over the North, because of your first program that you were involved in called Bush Radio. I’ve tried to tell people how important CBC is in the Northwest Territories, in the communities. How it connects everybody. How it allows communities and families to communicate with each other all over the North. What would you say is one of your biggest things that sticks in your mind – biggest events that you were involved in -tied to your time at CBC?
Patti-Kay Hamilton (04:53): The Pope not arriving in Fort Simpson was huge. Even though I wasn’t in Fort Simpson I ended up anchoring the show for eight hours that day. The whole building at CBC was literally empty. Everyone was in Fort Simpson, and we needed an anchor and it turned out to be me because I had spent time in Simpson – my mother-in-law was in Simpson. I could imagine her sitting there with the colorful scarf, her head bowed, the rosary beads in her hand, praying that the Pope would land safely.
It was a very emotional experience for me listening to the people so sad in Fort Simpson, and then the joyous response in Yellow Knife, when he was going to be landing there. One of the biggest compliments I ever got from anyone after my book came out – Bila Peony told me that her dad, who was a fishermen, commercial fishermen – he was sitting in his camp and whenever Bush Radio came on, he would turn the radio up and lean into the radio with his ear so he could hear it. Cause he liked listening to the stories of people who were on the land, which is what I did.
The Value of Sports in the Northwest Territories
Bringing Kids Together and Bridging Divides
Michael Miltenberger (06:11): Your history of course, has been tied to sport. We live in the Northwest Territories in a very multicultural society where you have 50% Indigenous, 50% not Indigenous, large community, small communities, but sports is a big, big issue that ties the North together. You’ve devoted your life to that. You still do that. So, maybe you could touch a bit, what are some of the key thoughts you have when it comes to the value of sport – how it brings young kids together and helps bridge many divides?
Patti-Kay Hamilton (06:47): I was deeply moved on Friday when I listened to Dylan Jones aka Crook the Kid, the rap singer. And in one of his songs, he says, ‘Remember, there was a time when you could be anybody, no matter the obstacle, you knew you could overcome it.’
NHL players could’ve come out of Fort Good Hope, if they were given the means, and we fail to do that.
So that’s in his rap and I won’t try to rap like he does, but he also added in the interview – the reporter was trying to talk to him about his music and rapping, but he wanted to talk about small communities. This is what he said: ‘Sport is huge in the little communities. Some of the best players I’ve seen in my life are from the communities and might never get a chance to take their skills somewhere else unless they have proper tools. I remember as kids, how much fun we had playing floor hockey. If we had been given some things nice to use, these people might’ve been NHL players. NHL players could’ve come out of Fort Good Hope, if they were given the means,’ he said, ‘and we fail to do that over and over again.’
Sport and Culture are Two Gateways that Help People Out Of Darkness
MLA Jackie Jacobson made a very similar appeal in the legislative assemblies from Nunakput and he explained how difficult it is for youth to leave their communities and how important it is that they be allowed to do that. As a territory, you know, we hear people talking eloquently about suicide and drugs, well sport and culture are two of the gateways that can help people out of the darkness.
I have an example, personal example, I had a young athlete. He was First Nations, originally from Fort Resolution, natural athlete. And he excelled at the sport I love, biathlon and got gold medals. He won a gold medal at Western Canadians. But somewhere along the way, as a teenager, he got sucked into that vortex of drugs. And so on, ended up in a federal jail.
I hadn’t heard about him or from him for a long time, but I ran into him in December on ski trails in BC. So happy to see him, I got a big hug. When we sat down to chat, he told me that when things were the darkest, when he was really lost, he remembered being on a podium and having someone put a gold medal around his neck and how that made him feel.
He wanted that feeling of feeling healthy and strong again, back. That’s what he worked towards.
And he wanted that back. He wanted that feeling of feeling healthy and strong again, back. And that’s what he worked towards. Well, Dylan refers to it about kids in small communities without the gear and without the coaches. So what about those kids who never feel that, who never get a medal around their neck, or even get a chance to try for an ulu or some kind of medal?
Deep Seeded Racism
How far have we come in terms of being able to have Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids play together and experience common opportunity?
Merrell-Ann Phare (09:46): Well, it’s interesting as I listened to you say this, I I just finished a couple of days ago listening for probably the third time to Richard Wagamese’s book Indian Horse. And that, it’s an amazing book. It’s really a story of hockey, but it’s a story of hockey and residential schools. And the thing that resonates from what you just said is how much at that time and it still to this day, obviously sports can be the light that pulls kids away from some of the other things that are so despairing.
If it, instead of gangs or drugs or lack of other opportunity, or what have you, sports can be the thing. And that’s exactly what it was in that book for, for the main character. It just resonates so much with me. Of course, in that book, the rest of the country, wasn’t prepared for Indigenous kids to participate outside of their communities.
And largely because of just deep, deep racism. I wonder in your experience, is that, is that still the case? How far have we come or have we, in terms of being able to have Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids play together or experience common opportunity?
The Territorial Experimental Ski Training Program (TEST)
Patti-Kay Hamilton (11:14): There’s a couple examples of that. So we were doing very well in the 1960s. The Territorial Experimental Ski Training Program, TEST, as it was called, had children from Fort Good Hope, Fort McPherson, Aklavik, Old Crow, all Aboriginal children.
And from that program, we sent seven of the nine athletes on the very first Canadian cross country ski team to the Olympics in 1974. And then for three more Olympics. They were a sensation in Europe. I was in Norway not very long ago. And in the museum in Lillehammer, there’s a whole section, about the TEST program, especially the Kelly Express, Fred Kelly Little guy from Fort Good Hope who swept everyone off their feet with his excellence on the ski trails.
Bert Bullock, one of the fastest skiers on the World Cup circuit, and Ernie Lennie who was on the end of the TEST program once said, ‘We prove to the world, if you invest in us, just like you do in anybody else, we can do anything.’ So with the success of that program, one wonders, why was it canceled?
Merrell-Ann Phare (12:25): What? It was cancelled?
The Reason Why The TEST Program Was Canceled
Patti-Kay Hamilton (12:28): Oh yeah. And there’s a reason. It followed pressure from white, Anglo-Saxon, privileged parents and coaches in Southern Ontario and Quebec. A lot of them around Ottawa and Valcartier who viewed TEST as an unfair advantage to those Northern athletes.
These were kids who’d come off traplines where they hauled water, chopped wood, snared, rabbits, and somehow these people saw it as an advantage over the privileged athletes who had expensive gear and skilled coaches. So we lost TEST and neither the Territories nor the Canadian Program has ever really recovered.
We’ve never had that kind of excellence in cross country skiing in Canada. Why in the light of the TRC Report, hasn’t it ever been restored or started again? And then there’s the Arctic Winter Games. So one might imagine that the Arctic Winter Games would be something positive that would help this situation. And it started out well in [the] 1970, Arctic Winter Games. Good intentions for the first couple of years, the lion’s share of the athletes in all sports came from small communities. They were mostly Aboriginal from [inaudible], Fort McPherson.
We We’re Hopeful But They Made Mistakes
If kids in small communities had a coach, even if they didn’t have the best skis, the best hockey stick, a coach could help them get those things could help them with the skills.
They did really, really well. And then it changed. And now it’s the opposite. They will claim large numbers of Aboriginal athletes because they get them with the traditional sports, Arctic Sports and Dene Games, and sometimes dog mushing. But if you look at it, it’s primarily Yellowknife and large centers where they have opportunities. And coaching could help. If kids in small communities had a coach, even if they didn’t have the best skis, the best hockey stick, a coach could help them get those things – could help them with the skills.
A bunch of white guys in Ottawa, got together, developed a program, then imposed it on people in communities.
And we were hopeful because as part of the TRC, the Aboriginal Sports Circle, the national body designed a coaching apprentice program to help encourage Aboriginal coaches. We thought this was a great thing. Our sport in our town, it wasn’t such a big deal. Most of our coaches are Aboriginal, including my husband, my best friend, Brenda Johnson, most of our kids are Aboriginal. So we didn’t need sort of artificial means to enhance that. But we liked the idea of this program, but they made the same mistake. They bungled the whole idea of it because they did what colonizers always do. A bunch of white guys in Ottawa, got together, developed a program, then imposed it on people in communities. And it failed badly and created bad feelings and almost led to the end of our biathlon program in this community.
A phone call could have changed things for the better.
Michael Miltenberger (15:15): So if you had to do one thing to try to change what you see as the shortcomings, how would you start that process to get back to the issue of engagement with small communities and that whole big, tough issue of reconciliation?
Merrell-Ann Phare (15:31): Like in particular, that example you just gave, how could they have done that program or how could they do it now to do it the right way?
Patti-Kay Hamilton (15:39): Oh, it’s very simple. All they had to do is pick up a phone and phone veteran Aboriginal coaches, like my husband. He’s a veteran Aboriginal coach and award-winning athlete. Officially, he’s one of our most advanced officials. Nobody phoned and said, Hey, Don, what do you think we could do? How can we encourage other people to, to pick this up and coach in small communities? And as far as I know, other coaches weren’t contacted as well, there was no consultation with anyone. But the other thing is money. Money is always there. It costs money, getting a child out of Kugluktuk and getting them to an Arctic Winter Games trial, but there’s money there.
Money is there, but it’s being spent in places where it shouldn’t be spent.
Patti-Kay Hamilton (16:23): We saw the Arctic Winter Games in 2018. I was the coordinator of cross country skiing, which is the largest of the events of the Arctic Winter Games. It was impossible to get funding for things that we needed, or for kids from our communities to get out and get the competitions they needed before the games. The money is there. But it’s being spent in places where it shouldn’t be spent. And again, it’s the colonial way. They followed sort of an Olympic model of doing this Arctic Winter Games. They have an Arctic Winter Games International Committee.
So directors, they fly hither and yon, internationally, back and forth, private jets for several years. And then at the games they’re treated like VIPs. They have to have their own room. It costs millions. So they have millions for these VIPs, who we never even saw. They didn’t even come to see how our sport was doing and how we were behaving, but they wine and dine and eat appetizers. So redirect that money, put it into small communities, give it to Fort Good Hope. One coach, in one community. See what it does. If it works, then let it grow.
Seeing Hope in the Future: The Youth Charging On
Michael Miltenberger (17:32): So if you look back over the years – the decades you’ve been involved right from this – let’s say the first time you were announcing the dog mushing in Yellowknife on Back Bay to today. I mean, the world has changed in so many. Are you overall optimistic? Have we improved from way back in the good old days to today? And we just have to keep working at it?
Patti-Kay Hamilton (17:59): Where I see hope is in the youth who are charging forward, despite us. And again, as Dylan Jones said, despite the obstacles. So Vance Sanderson, NWT, Métis Nation, he’s got stop signs in Cree, Chipewyan, French and English. There’s a big electronic bulletin board outside our rec center. The rec center didn’t pay for it. Vance did, with his funds, with the understanding that anything they put up there also has to be in Cree and Chipewyan.
He has us wearing clothing with Cree sayings on them and beautiful embroidery done by Darcy Moses. He has ensured that children’s stories are translated into Aboriginal languages. And then there’s Richard Van Camp. Award winning author, he writes about his home, he writes about this place. His books are turned into movies. He’s a performer. He encourages other Northern youth and Aboriginal writers. And the rest of us just need to simply get out of the way. Just let these young people do what they are doing.
Michael Miltenberger (19:07): So you’re a grandma now.
Patti-Kay Hamilton (19:09): Yeah. Yes.
A Story is a Gift that Needs to be Shared
Patti-Kay Hamilton (19:17): Well, we read lots of stories. I’m a I love bonfires and storytelling. And so not just my grandchildren, but my nieces and nephews insist on a story every time they come. I was told by my late mother-in-law, Mary Cadieux, that a story is a gift that needs to be shared. So she gifted me with a lot of stories and I share those stories and every story has a little scary moment, but always an important lesson and just encourage them in all ways. We have two of our grandchildren that are going to the Arctic Winter Games, one in hockey and one in cross country skiing. So proud of them, but yes, just encourage them, hold your head up, be who you are.
Navigating the role of the non-Indigenous mother of an Indigenous child?
Merrell-Ann Phare (20:02): You brought up that your husband is First Nation. And so, and, and you’re not. So then you have an Indigenous child and I’m wondering as a mother, what did you see is your responsibility as a non-Indigenous person in, in terms of this idea of maybe you didn’t frame it as reconciliation way back when, but just how do you navigate the role of the non-Indigenous mother of an Indigenous child?
Patti-Kay Hamilton (20:28): I don’t think it was ever anything. I sat down and thought about. It was more an organic kind of experience. As I said, I fell in love with a trapper and lived that life. And now my second husband is also a hunter. It was a natural experience for me. It wasn’t something I saw, which I find now there’s kind of a bit of a gush since reconciliation. Everyone rushing to be best friends with someone who’s First Nations or Métis. I think we also saw it recently in our Territorial election. So it wasn’t something I worked at. It was just natural and the stories are lovely. They’re experiences, they’re strong, brave people. And that’s just what I tell my son and my grandkids.
What Gets Patti-Kay Hamilton up in the Morning?
Michael Miltenberger (21:22): Patti-Kay, you’re still devoting a lot of time to sports and, and working with kids, is that what gets you up in the morning? You’re taking care of that type of stuff? I know you were involved in the last election as a campaign manager. But your first love still seems to be outdoor sports.
Patti-Kay Hamilton (21:41): Yeah. I just sort of fell into that by accident too, just like my career at CBC. And I think it was my outlet. I don’t think I could have survived some of the pressures and some of the frustrating management decisions for 30 years. If I didn’t have a fun place to be with children, children always brighten your day. They make you laugh. So for me, it was a joy. I always looked forward and still do.
We just were out at the biathlon range yesterday, talking to the kids, even though it was -31°C. So it was my thing. I competed in biathlon, but really like coaching and helping children do better at what they do. And I still enjoy that that gives me a lot of joy, whoever they are. But I also get a lot of joy in arts and culture, in literature and books. The same things we’ve been discussing that happened in sport and some of the bungling that’s going on with efforts towards reconciliation, you see them in arts and culture as well.
Coming Together Through Sports
Michael Miltenberger (22:49): It’s interesting. You’ve taken contingence of athletes South under the Territorial flag, my sense is when you put all the kids in the North in a Territorial uniform, it’s a hugely unifying time. They’re all Team NWT members. They’re together. A diverse group of kids from all over the North, but they come together with sports in a way that would be great if the rest of the world could come together on a regular basis.
Patti-Kay Hamilton (23:20): Oh, that’s very true. One of the nicest things I ever saw, it just made my heart beat fast. I was in Inuvik and I got to go over to Fort McPherson for the trials for snowshoeing. So all the kids from the NWT who wants to be on the snowshoe team were there.
And I was down on the ice, waiting for them to come down. We had a videographer with us to do some video and the bank, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Fort McPherson, but on the banks of the Peel, the people were just lined up just like they were about to watch an NHL hockey game. They were all bundled, the old grannies and the young parents, there were little kids.
The Magic of Pride: Kids, Family, Community
And so the kids from out of town were all mingled down there. The coaches were kind of trying to get them organized. And all of a sudden I looked and the McPherson kids from that hometown that were trying out for the team, they came walking down together and their mothers and grandmothers had all made them the most beautiful beaded moccasins. They carried themselves with so much pride. Their snow shoes were just clicking and, and these beautiful beaded moccasins.
And you could see the pride in their faces and the pride in the families and their community’s faces. And that was wonderful. So I, and I see that too, when we go to other places with our young people, whether it’s Canada games or an Arctic Winter Games or NAIG. NAIG is, is also a wonderful opportunity for our young people. I really enjoyed participating and covering the NAIG games.
Canada Has Adopted The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG)
Michael Miltenberger (24:57): You better tell us what NAIG means.
Patti-Kay Hamilton (24:58): Oh, sorry. North American Indigenous Games. They seem to happen more in Canada than the United States. Canada seems to have adopted NAIG as their own, and they’re coming up again this summer. So there’ll be a team of archers and runners, I believe going to NAIG from the NWT.
Michael Miltenberger (25:17): And how is your current team that you’re working with in anticipation of the upcoming Arctic Winter Games?
The Status of the Current Arctic Winter Games Team
Patti-Kay Hamilton (25:25): Oh, the season has been so frustrating. I’m not the lead coach this year. My son was urging me to pull the bandaid and try to take on new challenges besides biathlon. But I have been a presence and I’ve helped them out where I could, but 31 below with a wind chill of minus 50 was so hard for them in an outdoor sport where you have to hold a gun and pull a metal trigger. But they’re doing really, really well. They’re positive. They’re looking forward to the games and we’re encouraging them to set reasonable goals. You don’t want anyone to go to a game expecting an ulu but just to work towards that goal is a worthwhile experience.
And the Arctic Winter Games, they’re not like anything else. They’re not it’s almost like this Arctic Winter Game bubble that happens around wherever it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Kenai Peninsula, Whitehorse, or the South Slave. There’s, there’s just almost a village of camaraderie and friendship. You make so many friends, you see kids falling in love. It’s just lovely seeing these relationships that happen between young people and often they last for a long time where they’re sending postcards back and forth, emailing and texting each other, now
Merrell-Ann has an extensive background in sports too!
Michael Miltenberger (26:45): I don’t want to put you on the spot, Merrell-Ann has a fairly extensive background in sports as well. Is that what happened, Merrell-Ann, when you were in rowing and all these other sports, when you went to events, you’d have to make sure you didn’t leave some heart struck young competitor?
Merrell-Ann Phare (27:05): Well, they were, they were always intense times. So yeah, you would meet lots of lovely people and, and exchange jerseys. And we always had pins and things you would exchange, and they’re just competitions are the most amazing, they’re terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. And they definitely bring people together in a sideways kind of way. You’re not directly trying to deal with issues of different cultures or backgrounds, but you get that, that through sport. Just for people who might not know when you say people shouldn’t expect necessarily to walk away with an ulu, what is that?
People shouldn’t expect necessarily to walk away with an ulu. What is that?
Michael has one!
Patti-Kay Hamilton (27:43): I think that’s one of the brilliant things they created for the Arctic Winter Games back in 1970. Instead of the round little metal with a flame on it, they have copied the Intuit ulu, the cutting tool they use to cut seal and whale. So it’s smaller than a traditional ulu, but it looks similar. And they are treasured. My son has medals from Canada Winter Games, and many, many, many other sports things. And they’re all gone. Who knows where they went, but his ulus are still kept in this little velvet bag. And mine are still in my drawer to this day. They are treasured.
Michael Miltenberger (28:24): Oh, I’m old enough that I was at the very first ones in 1970 in Yellow Knife. So I remember.
Patti-Kay Hamilton (28:30): Did you get an ulu?
Michael Miltenberger (28:32): Oh, I got a gold ulu. Yes I did.
Merrell-Ann Phare (28:34): What did you get the ulu in?
Michael Miltenberger (28:35): Badminton. I remember Prime Minister Trudeau was there to open the event with his big wolf skin fur hat on.
Is Reconciliation a Personal Choice?
Merrell-Ann Phare (28:44): So Patti-Kay, you’ve made many personal choices coming from some of the characteristics you have inherently, [you] are obviously very enthusiastic and very sports-minded, and love factored into it, but they’ve been personal choices that you’ve made to be engaged and to care. And so I just wonder, do you think reconciliation is a personal choice? Some of the solutions you’ve suggested are at the government program level. And yet I wonder about all of us Canadians – is it something we should be personally asking ourselves?
There Can’t Be A Law That Says You Must Reconcile
Patti-Kay Hamilton (29:24): I do think it should be a personal choice. And I think what could inspire that personal choice involves the media. I think the media has a role there to tell the stories such as the story you were telling us about Richard Wagamese’s novel is such a moving, important story, and we need to see more of those.
We need to see them on all, all media. I think CBC has a huge role because they reach so many places, still. People need to see why. It can’t be imposed. There can’t be a law that says you must now reconcile. You have to be moved deeply to do that.
And, and people are still resisting the fact that we damaged and hurt thousands of young children in residential schools. I’m proud to be in a country where we face that truth and where we apologized and are trying to come up with ways of dealing with it. I am discouraged at the response I see sometimes from fellow Canadians, especially in cities where perhaps it’s not as visible. Most of my friends and family were at residential school.
My husband is a fourth generation residential school person. So it’s around us. It’s part of us.
My husband is a fourth generation residential school person. So it’s around us. It’s part of us. It affects our relationships with people, our workplace, our elections. But I think in the South, it’s maybe not as visible. And that’s where the media could play a role. The impression I get when I’m in the South visiting family, friends, they kind of have washed their hands of it. Whoosh. We did a TRC. They came out with 94 recommendations. Poof, it’s done, off the checklist. Now let’s move on to something else.
The Media Has a Role to Play in Reconciliation
They’re bungling even the smallest things we have to get it right, it’s way too important not to.
So we need to show them that no, it’s not over. We need to, in the words of John Morat turn ourselves inside out and look at the world with fresh eyes. We can’t just make these small little changes. I know one of the things that seems to make people happy is the acknowledgements of traditional lands. They even did it at the Oscars, which was, I thought very nice and impressive, but they bungle that too.
At the Arctic Winter Games, one of the things I had to do – I was given a script every day. They wouldn’t email me the script because then of course I could edit it. And I don’t know what they were afraid I was going to edit, but they had to give it to me in my hand. And my script said, we acknowledge we are on the traditional lands of the K’atl’odeeche First Nations. Well, we weren’t, we weren’t even close that’s in Hay River. So for the Hay River games, that was fine. So every day I would have to rewrite it.
We are on the traditional lands and acknowledge the Smith Landing First Nations and the Fort Fitzgerald Métis. So they’re bungling even the smallest things we have to get it right, it’s way too important not to.
Why is reconciliation a work in progress? Why doesn’t it have a foreseeable end?
Michael Miltenberger (32:22): Well, I guess the harsh reality as we close, of course, if you look at today’s news, the issue of reconciliation in the South is far from resolved or accomplished. And it’s a, it’s a process that I don’t think that has a foreseeable end. It’s a work in progress.
Merrell-Ann Phare (32:42): Well, I recently was at an event where I had to open something. And I similarly was handed the land acknowledgement and they got the territories right. But I’ve, I feel that in doing a land acknowledgement, I have to make an extra statement because the vast majority of the time the audience is non-Indigenous and don’t understand what it means to do that. And so I always add now a second part that says that something along the lines of, and because I’ve made this land acknowledgement, what it means is we need to do X, Y and Z.
And most often what I’m saying is we need to fulfill the treaty promises. We need to recognize that there are unfulfilled promises when it comes to the fact that we are in the traditional territories of these people that were just listed. And it means we have to act. Then you start to see the audience, start to understand that it’s not just a statement you make, it’s actually creates an obligation to do something, an obligation that’s long since unfulfilled. And so that’s where the ad libbing, you can see all the officials on the side are getting nervous, but you just, you know, I’ve, I’ve taken it upon myself to just add my part, then. Yes.
All of us can make a difference
Michael Miltenberger (34:07): So Patti-Kay, is there any final comments you’d like to make?
Patti-Kay Hamilton (34:09): Well, I just think arts, literature, music is going to make a bigger difference than any speech a Prime Minister can make. It’s about small communities and their struggles. And that ties right back to the TRC and the 94 calls to action. I think our literature and our artists that are painting are going to reach people and hopefully convince individuals that reconciliation is important and all of us can make a difference somehow in some small way.
Michael Miltenberger (34:39): Find words to end on. So thank you very much, Patti-Kay.
Merrell-Ann Phare (34:45): The Porcupine Podcast is produced by myself, Merrell-Ann Phare and Michael Miltenberger. We’d also like to thank our co-producer and audio technician, Hannah Gehman, and our writer, Deborah Bowers, thanks to you for listening to Porcupine Podcast. We hope you return and please feel free to rate and subscribe. Bye for now.