The reason I wanted to come to Montana was to learn more about Native Americans at Crow Fair. I’m fascinated at how modern society treats its indigenous roots. In New Zealand it seemed to be celebrated and an integral part of tourism. In South America it is a mixed bag depending on where you go. In Ecuador there is much respect for the indigenous whereas in Argentina the population was wiped out.
In Canada we do not do a great job either. I learned about our First Nations in Grade 7 social studies but after the mandatory unit nothing was said again. I am ashamed to say we tend to equate the population with casinos on reservations, cheap cigarettes and alcohol issues. Truthfully I didn’t think about them at all. It wasn’t until the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics that I realized how little I knew. The ceremony highlighted Canada’s First Nations and in a lot of ways I felt like it was a false show put on for the international community.
Visiting Montana I see a completely different approach that is both interesting and challenging. There are more opportunities to learn about Native Americans and the history but I still feel the underlying tension. The community seems separate and I’ve heard small jokes whispered about.
Maybe in time it will change as new generations don’t remember the history or conflict. And despite the murmurs and jokes I like how Montana provides an opportunity to learn and interact more. It’s made me realize I need to make an effort to learn about the First Nations in my own country.
I may not be cracking jokes but I’m no better if I don’t make an effort to learn about my own country’s history.