Bev Sellars on reclaiming Canada's Indigenous history
Award-winning author Bev Sellars is a survivor of the residential school system. Her 2013 memoir, They Called Me Number One, tells the chilling details of being ripped away from her family, culture and identity and the lasting effects of her traumatizing childhood.
In February 2017, the former chief of the Xatśūll First Nation spoke to Shelagh Rogers at the University of Victoria about her book, Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival. The book takes a look at the misconceptions, myths and falsehoods about Indigenous people and their monumental contributions that have gone undocumented for centuries.
Common misconceptions debunked
Until I was 22 years old, in the history books, I always saw the so-called explorers with their canoes and stuff, and I thought they brought the canoes over. Then I found out that all forms of transportation — the canoes, the kayak, the snowshoes, the dog teams — came from Indigenous people. North, Central and South America were fully mapped out to take any explorer anywhere they wanted to go. So the myth of the newcomers coming and having to hack their way through the continent is just not true.
Understanding the history
I think that Indigenous history has been ignored. If people have a false understanding of the history, they have a false view of themselves. I would like students to know the full history, the Indigenous history, of how we contributed to everything. Not just medicines and foods and other stuff like that, but helping the newcomers to adjust to this land because they would have surely died if the Indigenous people hadn't helped them. That history has to come out.
Hopes for the future
I want the struggle for First Nations survival to end. I want recognition of all the Indigenous contributions, for them to be recognized and put in the school curriculums. I want people to really understand the history of Canada. A major part of that includes, at the very beginning, Aboriginal people and how they helped everybody get established in this country. That's what I want.
Bev Sellers' comments have been edited and condensed.