Canadian government issues national apology to Cree Nation
The Canadian government issued a national apology Wednesday to the Peepeekisis Cree Nation for taking Aboriginal land and attempting to turn residential school graduates away from their traditions and into homesteading farmers.
It follows an apology last week by Pope Francis for the Catholic Church's role in the infamous Indian Residential Schools.
"On behalf of Canada, I apologize for these actions," said Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller. "They caused great harm to your community, your language and your culture, and for this, we are deeply sorry."
Established by the federal government in the late 1800s, the Fire Hills Colony Scheme stole the Cree land and attempted to turn tribe members into farmers on that land.
"The Colony was meant to encourage pupils who graduated from residential school to abandon traditional ways of life and permanently adopt a non-Aboriginal homesteading farmer lifestyle," the Peepeekisis website says.
As part of the settlement, the government agreed to give the Peepeekisis back 18,720 acres (7,575 hectares) to be added to the reserve's land.
"By delivering this formal apology on behalf of the government of Canada, we're acknowledging the wrongs of the past and we're taking another step toward reconciliation and a renewed nation-to-nation relationship," Miller said.
Headman Colin Stonechild of the Peepeekisis said that only by forgiving the wrongs of the past could Indigenous peoples move toward reconciliation.
"If we don't have forgiveness, there's never going to be reconciliation," he said.
"That's the only thing, I think, that's going to get us through and liberate us from trauma is being forgiving and understanding, because if we don't, we're going to be stuck in those ruts of trauma."