I Am Your People, We Are Our People – Dr. Niigan Sinclair

On November 12, 2019, Dr. Niiganwewidam Sinclair spoke to a gathering at St. Mary Magdalene United Church in Picton, Ontario on “The Memorialization of Sir John A. Macdonald.” Dr. Sinclair spoke for about an hour and answered questions from the audience for another half hour.

Dr. Sinclair has kindly agreed to our publishing and transcribing an audio clip from the end of his Q & A:

… The most powerful teaching in this country is that Indigenous peoples are the problem – and Canadians are the solution. Indigenous peoples are inferior – Canadians are superior. Indigenous peoples are the problems, or they are the suckers, or they are the corrupt Chiefs, or they are the people who, ultimately, just need to get it together and get a job.

None of that’s true, by the way.

How about we remove the Indian Act – and then all of that will happen. The problem is, ultimately, that Canadians refuse to give up power and land and control. That’s the problem. And, the ultimate challenge is, How do we inherit … How do we deal with that?

Well, if we just look at the other night, when we saw a certain individual, who has called Indigenous peoples “You People” all the time, and did so, by the way in 2007, and everybody was fine with it in 2007, but then he does it on Hockey Night in Canada four nights ago, and now, suddenly, everyone sees a problem.

Well, it just tells you that there is a conversation that’s moving.

And we’re going to talk about icons tonight? Don Cherry’s an icon in this country. I’m not worried about Don Cherry, because each one of us makes mistakes. We’ve been taught to think in a particular way, and then we act accordingly. We say “You People”.

My auntie called me You People one time. And she said, “You know what the problem is, You People in this country, you keep complaining and protesting.” That’s my French-British Auntie. And the thing that I said to her is, “I’m not your people” – er “I’m not You people – I Am Your People. We Are Our People.”

I’m here to tell you that, “We Are Our People.

So, the problem is not Don Cherry. The problem was Ron MacLean. It’s that he didn’t say a word. And I don’t mean to blame Ron McLean. I’m .really … Wab Kinew. had a great tweet, where he said, “Why didn’t anybody cut off that segment? Why didn’t anybody turn off the microphone? Everyone let the microphones continue.” So, the issue is, is that we have a country of Ron McLeans, who are letting these things be said, harmful things, and not engaging their relatives – or, aren’t standing up to speak for it.

And, I’m talking to a crowd of a bunch of people, who are probably speaking for it. But, guess what?

You’re going to go out into that world, over there, in the Tim Horton’s, in the Library, in the Dentist’s office, and that’s where the conversation needs to take place. ‘Cause they’re never going to come to this. They’re never going to have an opportunity to hear this conversation. And, they’re going to keep saying, “Well, doesn’t he just need to get a job? Oh, they complain and protest about the statue, now. Oh, they …” You know, “What do they want from me this week?”

We don’t want anything. You know, what we want is maybe to be treated like a human being. Try that. Let’s try that.

And that means that we have a conversation together, we believe in each other, and we stand beside each other when we fall. That’s what I say to my Auntie, when she said “You People”. The first thing I said to my Auntie is, “I love you, Auntie.” That’s what I said: “I’m Your People.” And, that’s where we begin.

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