Spirited Reflection: Poem by Albert Dumont on Orange Shirt Day

Albert Dumont
Orange Shirt Day - every child matters

We, the Anishinabe, search the lifeless eyes
 Of the many portraits proudly painted for Canada
 To honour a man Canadians believe
 Was an emblem for ‘decency, righteousness and vision’
 “A hero” they say, “a Nation Builder”
 But the First Peoples look upon the face
 Of Sir John A. Macdonald
 And see the curse, responsible
 For the deaths of thousands of our children
We see in Macdonald, a man, who saw
 In the whiteness of his skin, a human being equal to God
 Who believed his soul
 Would never be in need of cleansing
 And that the goodness offered daily on Turtle Island
 By the ever-present Good Spirit, who teaches us
 That no human being is greater than any other
 Were teachings Macdonald accepted as only created for people
 Lesser than men such as himself
We look at the evil Macdonald placed into ‘The Indian Act’
 And other oppressive actions perpetrated by him, against us
 And ask ourselves when in meditation, if the wailing spirits
 Of the thousands of Indigenous children
 Who died in Macdonald’s Residential Schools
 Held sacred council with him in the eternal sky
 Where true justice sears the soul of the guilty
 After the scalding breath of death stopped forevermore
 The beating of Macdonald’s spiritually hollow heart
With ceremonial tobacco by our side, we ask
 Did Macdonald’s tears flow like the spring waters of the ‘Ottawa’
 When the children who died in his Residential Schools
 Recounted to him the last torturous hours of their lives
 Away from culture, family and the unconditional love
 Of a caring human being who could hold their hand
 At the moment their last breath silently took them
 Back to the peaceful waters of their ancestral lands
For thousands of years
 Since our creation story was first told
 We called ourselves ‘The First People’
 ‘The People’ and ‘The Human Beings’
 But to Macdonald’s parliament we were only savages
 Not worthy of receiving their respect and honour
Sir John A. Macdonald, a hero to the royals of Britain
 Sir John A. Macdonald, who sacrificed his soul
 So that the people of Canada
 Would see him always as the greatest of all men
 Where does he find himself today
 What words of contrition does he relay
 In that empty place, where for him
 The darkness of a stormy night
 Will never yield to a calm and re-assuring dawn
Oh but what if it had been you
 The peoples of European ancestry
 Who were the first human beings of Turtle Island
 And here, you lived and thrived for thousands of years
 Until one day, bronze-skinned people
 Arrived on your welcoming and generous shores
Oh but what if the newcomers brought with them
 To your tranquil and sacred lands
 Ancient wars from their former homeland
 And laid before you, countless pandemics of vile disease
 And through the power of generations of your oppression
 Could control even your very thoughts making you believe
 That the light of God was for them, always present
 Even guiding their cruel deeds against you
Imagine now that today, a dark-skinned man
 Was being praised for destroying all that Creator gave to you
 With bronze-skinned people believing he was a noble leader
 Who built a great and fair nation where yours once stood
 Would you join in singing an honour song in his memory
 Or would you fight with all the strength of the sun
 To pull his portraits and statutes down
Albert Dumont ©

Albert Dumont, Algonquin, Kitigan Zibi 

Albert Dumont has served his community on the Grandparents Counsel for Well Living House, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto since September 2017. He was one of 13 Elders on the Elders Advisory Committee of the Ministry of the Attorney General from October 2016 to 2020. He worked as Elder for the Parole Board of Canada at Elder Assisted Hearings from November 2013 to March 2017. He was employed by Correctional Services Canada for three years as a spiritual advisor for the Aboriginal men incarcerated at Millhaven Institution’s J Unit located near Kingston, ON.  

He is an activist, a volunteer and a poet who has published 5 books of poetry and short stories. In recognition for his work as an activist and volunteer on his ancestral lands (Ottawa and Region) Albert was presented with a Human Rights Award by the Public Service Alliance of Canada in 2010. In January 2017, he received the DreamKEEPERS Citation for Outstanding Leadership. Albert has dedicated his life to promoting Aboriginal spirituality and healing and to protecting the rights of Aboriginal Peoples particularly those as they affect the young.

Filed in: Indigenous Rights


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