My family only recently received their Indian Status. In the last five years, being an Indian is the thing to do, so everyone I know is now an Indian.
My dad says that when he was a young man, if someone called you an Indian, they got their face beat in. When they watched movies, they cheered for John Wayne, particularly due to the fact that he killed so many Indians.
In tracing back my family tree, I was surprised to find that many of my ancestors’ birth certificates listed them as ‘Savages’. It was right there in black and white (and red) “Mary LeBlanc b. 1835 m. 1855 to Savage. I found this on many birth certificates. They didn’t even list the poor guy’s name, just ‘Savage’.
Back in 1949, when Newfoundland was attempting to join Canada, the leader of the province was faced with a dilemma. The federal government at the time was having its fair share of problems with various Indian bands through the country. When our Joey Smallwood was asked whether there were any indians in the province, his reply was “There’s not ONE RED BLOODED INDIAN LIVING ON THE ISLAND”
This of course was false. There were many Indians living on the island. In fact, ever since the Expulsion of the Acadians back in 1863, most of Newfoundland’s population was that of Mi’Kmaq heritage.
Communities like Flat Bay, Conne River, and practically the entire West Coast of the province were made up of French-Indian peoples, and for years the plight of these people were all but ignored by both our provincial and federal governments.
Only after a public apology from the Prime Minister of Canada in 2008, did the hope of regaining our Indian status become a reality. Now everyone you talk to wants to be an Indian.
Free health care, complete with medical and dental insurance, as well as free education is giving natives a new hope for the future. I myself plan to take advantage of these new rights, and hopefully get a few university courses under my belt, but not yet. First I have something important to do:
I have to go back and re-watch every John Wayne Western I ever watched. Only this time, I have to cheer for the Indians instead of the Cowboys.