The College of the Rockies is recognizing National Indigenous History Month with three weekly virtual presentations by Indigenous speakers Alfred Joseph, Michelle Sam, and Marlin Ratch.
Ktunaxa Elder and Knowledge Holder Alfred Joseph gave the first presentation last week. Over one hundred people signed in via Zoom. His talk focused on truth and reconciliation.
Joseph began his hour long presentation by charting the history of when the first catholic missionary came to the Columbia Valley. He then discussed the impact on the Ktunaxa people when the reservations were formed. From there, he addressed a variety of topics, including his thoughts on the changing of names Indigenous people have been referred to through the years.
“Just because you change a name does nothing to create change. It’s just like water skimmers we see on a slough or body of water, they stay only on the top. There needs to be a diver like the beaver to enact real change.”
Joseph also discussed the impact of indoctrination by majority, the habit of governments throwing money at problems, and where to start toward meaningful reconciliation. Joseph spoke of progress, its meaning, and how much change he’s witnessed in the Columbia Valley through his lifetime (b. 1952).
He recounted the story of when his grandmother first got a television. “I would often visit my granny, and we would find it amusing when after it was getting dark, she would say to us: ‘tell those people looking in the window to go home, I’m tired.’ We just didn’t realize how much change even she saw in her lifetime.”
Joseph aimed with his presentation to reconcile not only the Ktunaxa with the land but everyone. “My opinion on this is that to reconcile with the land, we have to know what is on and in the land. We all have to be able to go out there and watch an ant pack a pine needle that is way heavier than the ant and wonder how such a small thing can have that much strength and power. We must always try to make sense of what is out there in the land.”
“When you’re sitting on the mountain by yourself, you must realize that as a human, you’re nothing but a speck on this earth and even the mountain. That is reconciliation with the land,” continued Joseph.
He finished his talk by saying: “We continue to watch.” “That means that we Ktunaxa and any Indigenous group within their territory continue to watch within our territories and hoping that things will change to where our views of the world, nature, respect for the land, will change. But right now, we will continue to watch.”
For the month of June, the college is making all the recorded talks available online. For more information and to register for upcoming talks, visit: cotr.bc.ca.
James Rose, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer