Tense relationship between Indigenous people and immigrants inspires academics to bring groups together
The project became a book called Reconciliation in Action
When Ranjan Datta immigrated to Canada 10 years ago, he was bombarded with negative attitudes toward Indigenous people, mostly from fellow immigrants.
"I heard Indigenous people are not doing enough. There are many other misconceptions as well," said Datta, a researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, on CBC's Saskatoon Morning.
He said his conception changed when he moved here and became friends with Indigenous people. But still, he heard negative remarks toward the way indigenous people live.
"Even some of the faculty members, they are saying, 'Indigenous people getting free tax. They're not working.'"
One person told Datta that residential schools were "good" for Indigenous people.
"When I heard this conception or misconception — I hear this is not the lack of education, they still lack the opportunity to learn," said Datta.
Datta reached out to Chris Scribe, the director of the Indigenous Teacher Education Program (ITEP) at the University of Saskatchewan, to help build relationships between Indigenous people and immigrants.
"We also faced a similar issue back home Bangladesh. So for me, it was kind of easier understanding what kind of racism is going on," said Datta.
Scribe said that he is not surprised by the remarks Datta heard when he got to Canada.
"Oppressed people tend to oppress others when we get into those situations," Scribe said.
One idea Ranjan sent to Scribe was to have the groups work together on community gardens.
"We thought that this was an excellent opportunity to break down misconceptions, to break down racism, to break down all of the facts that are wrong about Indigenous people in Saskatchewan, in Canada," Scribe said.
Scribe said that community gardens influence interaction between people, specifically indigenous and immigrant people.
"I mean it's a simple hello and it's also asking about language. 'How do you say hello in your language?' And then we share it in an indigenous language as well and build relationships that way," said Scribe.
Datta said they invited elders to come to the gardens and teach immigrants why land and food sovereignty is important for Indigenous people.
"At the end of 2019, we had many gardeners, now they know what are the colonial stories and they had time to understand why they should take responsibility," said Datta.
The budding relationship between immigrants and indigenous people prompted Datta to write a book titled Reconciliation in Practice. This book has "contributors to this volume, many of whom are themselves immigrants and refugees, take up the challenge of imagining what it means for immigrants and refugees to live as treaty people."
with files from CBC's Saskatoon Morning