I wish to respond to the open letter entitled “Walk a Mile in our Moccasins” directed to me by Dorothy Smith of Ross River in last Wednesday’s edition. Space will not allow me to reflect upon all of her concerns, but while I disagree with many of her opinions, I appreciate hearing her views and criticisms.
I would like to inform Smith that when I arrived here in the Yukon 62 years ago, there were no government handouts and nothing was free except advice, so I had to learn about the ethics and rewards of a day’s work for a day’s pay.
In those days, there were plenty of jobs and I easily found work and it wasn’t long before I wound up wearing my own moccasins making many long miles of tracks on snowshoes.
It was hard work, but I was able to learn much about survival and life in the bush, largely from my new native companions. The stories and advice I received from local elders, including Little Jimmy and Liard Tom, proved to be both interesting and invaluable. Over those formative years I spent many winters breaking trail, staking mineral claims, tramping out runways on remote lakes and so forth. In fact, I still depend on my “misery slippers” today so, regrettably, I have no option but to decline her offer.
Smith, in my youth I was also obliged to spend years far from my home living at private boarding schools. Later, in adulthood, I realized how fortunate I was to have received that education, even though it was occasionally accompanied by strict measures of painful but necessary discipline. The youngsters she has referred to must have received a basic education as well. There are no known police or court records to support her assertion that kids were being “kidnapped”. The suggestion that children were in danger of crashing in airplanes travelling to or from Pelly Lakes or elsewhere is simply preposterous.
As an area resident, I can assure Dorothy that whatever occurred elsewhere in Canada, I have no knowledge that any undue hardships or sexual practices were ever employed at the Lower Post Residential School.
To the contrary, the children all received affectionate care and instruction from a very capable and responsible staff.
On many occasions I attended their Christmas and other concerts, watching those well nourished and excited kids entertain us with their enjoyable presentations. As a result, over time those youngsters were well prepared to enter adulthood with a sense of pride and accomplishment. In contrast, today the Watson Lake area is exhibiting a 42 per cent growing illiteracy rate. In fact, many local young adults are unable to even count change at local businesses. This is the result of problems that should have been addressed by First Nation and other governments years ago.
I have enjoyed lasting friendships with many First Nation people to date and I continue to assist them with individual concerns, even when their leaders may not. Be assured that I judge people on their own merits, never on the basis of race, creed or colour.
It is interesting to note that former prime minister Pierre Trudeau divided us into English and French Canadians, and then another “white man”, former prime minister Jean Chretien created a third category of Canadian citizenship, providing substantial financial and other benefits exclusively to people of aboriginal descent at the same time.
This provided lawyers and politicians with outstanding opportunities to explore many avenues of exploitation at Canadian taxpayers’ expense. One can only speculate what election candidates will be promising First Nation people this time.
Donald E. Taylor