I think my earliest memories of a First nations /Indian person was as a child growing up in the 60’s . I can vividly recall the images on an RCA black and white TV of half naked warrior riding pinto ponies across the prairies hunting buffalo. Old westerns usually depicted Indians in buckskin and full war paint whooping and bandishing their spears and bows and arrows as they fought against cowboys or the calvary. Their roles were always it seemed as the “bad “ guy or drunks . Even as TV programs presented Indians in starring roles it was merely as a “sidekick “ as was Jay Silverheels, a Canadian who played Tonto; the Lone Ranger’s pal.
I don’t think it was until the late 60’s or early 70’s that this stereotyping might have changed. I think our own Chief Dan George might have been one of the reasons. I think he helped to change the Tv Indians’ image. The parts George played in Harry and Tonto, the Outlaw Josey wales and especially in Little Big man helped I think to bring respect to the roles. He never played degrading roles always seemed to play his parts with pride and dignity.
I remember too watching in awe as Chief Dan George stood on a stage on Canada Day and read his open letter; his lament for Confederation. I could feel the goosebumps on my arms. He gained respect for his wisdom and challenged white Canadians to see the Real Native Canadian. He showed Canada how important the native culture is and that it should be preserved.
I was lucky to have been partially raised by my grandparents. My gentle grandmother instilled in me Christian values and honourable ethical judgement. I didn’t grow up believing in the negative stereotyping of natives. My grandfather loved nature and wildlife and he was fascinated by the Englishman Archie Belaney who posed /lived as an Indian and was known as Grey Owl. I read every book my grandfather owned on Grey Owl ; Iwas captivated like my grandfather with the man and his way of life. He valued nature and wildlife; peace and tranquility. Although a self-made Indian; a fraud he believed in the importance of native culture and preserving Canada’s wilderness areas. Like George he didn’t want the native way of life destroyed. It took a white man/ self-made Indian to tell Canadians how important natives and their way of life should be to Canada.
Becouse of George and Grey Owl there has been changes in the way some Canadians at least think and feel about first nation…