Ranjan Datta says he first encountered colonialism in Canada when he asked someone where to live in Saskatoon and he was told to avoid certain areas.
“[The person I asked] said ‘Saskatoon is full of bad people, [with a] bad attitude’ and he mentioned, specifically, Indigenous people.”
Datta, originally from Bangladesh, says he heard similar views from other immigrants. He says his own experience was very different, that he found the Indigenous people he met kind and helpful.
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They also taught him what he didn’t learn from many history books — about residential schools, the ‘60s Scoop and reconciliation.
He put what he learned into a new book, which he edited and wrote two chapters for, Reconciliation in Practice: a Cross-Cultural Perspective.
“I, as an immigrant person, don’t want to define what reconciliation is — I need to learn from it. [And to] learn (sic) from the Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers or the Indigenous people here,” he said.
Colleen Charles, who wrote a chapter in the book, teaches Indigenous studies at Northlands College in La Ronge and briefly attended a residential school herself. As her mother led her away, she remembers her uncle, who is only two years older than her, watching them leave.
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“[Immigrants] have families, they have children, and if they can … understand that these children were taken away, [they’ll understand that] it’s going to be harder for them growing up,” she told Global News.
She explained how she teaches students about colonialism through an art course, where the students paint a picture and then cover it with black paint.
She said the purpose is to represent the culture and history lost through colonization.
“It is hard for people to say, ‘OK, we can’t go back to the steady state, the way it was before,’ but we can strive for understanding.”
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