Rita Walker (Blog Twelve): By Dan Watt and Taylor Norris
The Haida like so many other indigenous people had their children removed to learn European ways. Midnight Oil made it clear that Australia’s treatment of indigenous people was a disgrace during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia by wearing black coveralls with the word Sorry. Nature has a way of diffusing the thought that any people are better than others when people of different races and backgrounds fall in love and have children. People have different hair colour, skin colour, eye colour, physiques and yet are all the same.
Rita places the potted weeping willow branch into the back of her car. With loving care she hopes it will grow. Either in the fall or in the spring she will plant it on the schools lawn.
Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning” is playing on the radio as Rita drives to the Six Nations’ Polytechnic College to organize her classroom. She taps her fingers on the steering wheel as she sings “The time has come, a fact’s a fact/ It belongs to them, let’s give it back” along with the band’s lead singer Peter Garrett. She read an article that at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney the band members performed with the word SORRY written across the chest of their black coveralls. It was a blatant rebuttal of the Prime Minister at the time, John Howard, for his refusal to apologize for the former policy of removing aboriginal children from their families. After reading the article Rita realized this destruction of aboriginal families happened all around the world, not just in Canada. The song reminds her of how hard it is for her to keep positive. But the world already knows about all the atrocities. Now it’s time for everyone to focus on working together. It’s time to show that those who were bullied are wiser and will not become the bullies.
She doesn’t think there are any songs that represent her, a half breed or multi-raced person. Then she recalls hearing Cher singing “Half Breed” written by Mary Dean and composed by Al Capps. She wonders, if like so many other songs and writings, did the lyricist really understand what it’s like to be a “half breed”? Do they know what it’s like to find out one half of your ancestry was warring or abusing the other half? She shakes her head to clear the negative thoughts away.
Sometimes life is strange. As she pulls into the college Depeche Mode’s “People are People” comes on. She pulls over and sings along with the band: “It’s obvious you hate me/Though I’ve done nothing wrong/I never even met you/So what could I have done”. Well, next week she’s about to meet four individuals who represent a hidden race of humans. And she needs to figure out how to get them to work together. One will be the hardest to change. And one probably won’t want to collaborate with the others.
Inside the classroom she feels small standing at the bottom of the sloping floor gazing up at the desks that will allow the students to look down on her. She set the potted willow on the ledge of the windows at the opposite side to the door. Next she takes out her papers. The first of the lessons will focus on the different soils found in different areas of Ontario and what’s being done to keep them healthy.