Spirited Reflection: Poem by Albert Dumont on Orange Shirt Day
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.