The Canadian government on Wednesday issued a national apology to the Cree Nation of Peepeekisis for taking Indigenous lands and attempting to divert residential school graduates from their traditions and turn them into farmers.
This follows an apology issued last week by Pope Francis for the role of the Catholic Church in the infamous residential schools.
It also comes after the Cree Nation of Peepeekisis in the province of Saskatchewan voted to accept a C$150 million ($127 million) settlement from the Canadian government in 2020.
“On behalf of Canada, I apologize for these actions,” Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said. “They have caused great harm to your community, your language and your culture, and for that we are deeply sorry.”
Established by the federal government in the late 1800s, the File Hills Colony Scheme stole Cree lands and attempted to turn tribal members into farmers on those lands.
“The Colony was intended to encourage students graduating from residential school to abandon traditional ways of life and permanently adopt a non-Indigenous farmer lifestyle,” the Peepeekisis website states.
As part of the settlement, the government agreed to return 18,720 acres (7,575 hectares) to the Peepeekisis to be added to reserve land.
“By issuing this formal apology on behalf of the Government of Canada, we are acknowledging past wrongs and taking another step toward reconciliation and a renewed nation-to-nation relationship,” Miller said.
Chief Colin Stonechild of the Peepeekisis said only by forgiving the wrongs of the past could Indigenous peoples move towards reconciliation.
“If we don’t have forgiveness, there will never be reconciliation,” he said.
“That’s the only thing, I think, that’s going to get us through and free from trauma is to be forgiving and understanding, because if we don’t, we’re going to be stuck in these trauma ruts.”
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