Canada 2017·Video

'I Know You're Sorry:' one Anishinaabe MC and poet's response to all of Canada's apologies

Anishinaabe artist Leonard Sumner speaks powerfully about residential school survivors and suicide rates among Indigenous youth, and reflects on the limits of Canada's apologies.

Warning: this video and the text of the poem below contain explicit language

"All is not forgotten, if someone is forgiven" starts musician, MC and poet Leonard Sumner in the powerful performance of his poem, "I Know You're Sorry." 1:54

"All is not forgotten when someone is forgiven." 

Anishinaabe artist Leonard Sumner is known for straddling a line between fortitude and fragility in his work, through music and spoken word.

I Know You're Sorry, which he performs in the video above, is no exception.

Sumner commands us to consider residential school survivors and suicide rates among Indigenous youth, and reflects on the limits of apologies, including former prime minister Stephen Harper's 2008 "Statement of apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools."

This video was produced by Unreserved's Erica Daniels.

I Know You're Sorry — Leonard Sumner

All is not forgotten
When someone is forgiven
Words I say to soften up
The hardness that I'm livin'

I hate to say indifference
Is becoming my religion
But I haven't learned to pray
In ways to satisfy tradition

When I think about identity
I think about my language
And how my folks were taught
It would be to my advantage
To learn a foreign tongue
They could not foresee the damage

Damn shame when it happens
you don't — see it til it passes
So where's all the support
For Anishinaabemowin classes?

Assimilation tactics
left no room for us to practice.
And I really wish I could adjust.
I really wish I could have just
Listened with my heart and not my ego

I was fragile
Conditioned by the world to think my culture wasn't passed down
But I learned the generosity
It's in my genealogy
So fuck all the bureaucracy
And keep all your apologies

I know you're sorry but...
You're more lost than me
Your land's across the Ocean
and I'm right where I should be.

I reckon this damn nation
Will force reconciliation
Down the throats of our survivors
And the people it's displacing

I know you're sorry.

And now you call on me
To fix the broken hearts
Created by your policies

These are the things that I think I know
I am but a leaf on a tree that grows
With roots in the ground,
Like a seed that's sown
In the dirt of the earth
Is where I was born
And it's where I will return
When this journey ends
And I've earned what I have learned

So tell me to get over it
I'm so fuckin' over it
Steal everything in sight
And teach me 'bout -private ownership
Bleach everything you like
And preach me 'bout pride of ownership
Leech my inherent rights
And tell me that I never owned this shit

As generations pass
You'll act as if you never noticed it
While there's kids committing suicide
As a way out of the hopelessness

I know you're sorry.

You say you're not to blame.
Fill your heart to brim with guilt
But not an ounce of shame.
Break branches off our family trees
And tell us times have changed

But the focus of this genocide
At root remains intact,
So instead of killing Indian kids
Why don't we kill this Indian Act.