I saw the sign...
This is my final post about our time on the road. We have traveled from Surrey BC, up to Whitehorse and back in the last 18 days. With 3 teenagers in a motorhome. It has been an amazing adventure. We have seen the most beautiful places; seen sights we won’t forget and animals that we have never seen before. It really has been a beautiful adventure.
This last adventure post is about signs. We saw so many along the road talking about the history of this land we drove on. Almost all of them were about the Goldrush trail and the colonial narrative of this land. Like no one had been living here for 22,000 years before the settlers came… There was not one provincial sign that talked about the Indigenous people of this land. Needless to say, I was hugely disappointed with the lack
any acknowledgement of the Indigenous history along the way. But there were places that were looking like they were trying. Like the new Welcome to Prince George sign. As you can see from the picture, the Prince George is written in massive letters, while the language of this land is written in small letters at the bottom of the sign. The newspaper story written about the sign was talking about how proud they were that it was included. But being included isn’t really what the sign was saying. It was clearly saying that the colonial name is way more important than the language and the people of this land that have been here since time out of mind. This isn’t being included, this sign is reinstating and demonstrating that the colonial name and history are still the dominant narrative and priority of this place.
On the last leg of our trip, we came down highway 99 and this is where the signs were different. It has a lot to do with the Squamish nation. These signs are honouring the language and the people of this place. As you can see the Squamish Language is first on these signs and the colonial name is in small print. You can see the signs and learn how to say the place names here: https://www.facebook.com/squamishlanguageandculture/videos/?ref=page_internal&utm_source=north%20shore%20news&utm_campaign=north%20shore%20news%3A%20outbound&utm_medium=referral
Even before we left, I knew that the signs along the way would be missing the stories of this land but for me the most unsettling part of this whole trip was driving on Highway 16, known in Indigenous communities as the highway of tears. When we turned onto this highway from highway 37, my heart dropped. There was a massive heaviness that I felt as we turned onto this road. I could not help but think of all the Indigenous women and girls that have died along this highway.
It was my understanding from the Highway of Tears report that was created in 2006 that along this stretch of highway there were to be signs, billboards and educational information. The only sign I did see was this one you see on the left. There was one red dress I saw hanging, and some signs of missing Indigenous women. But there was nothing along this route that told the story of what has happened and continues to happen along this deadly stretch of highway. If we are going to tell the story of this place, we need all of the story. Not just the parts of the story that make people happy and want to be proud Canadians. We need the whole story. As Jesse Wente reminds us, Canada has a long history of lying to us by omission. Leaving out the truth, leads people to ignorance and not understanding. Why is there not the story of this highway along this route, that was asked within the report 16 years ago? Did you know that an Indigenous woman/girl goes missing every 8 days in this country? Every 8 days! That is someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s sister, or someone’s auntie. Why are we not spreading the word and making this known so that we can have the tools and resources to make it stop? Having billboards and memorials, and educational stops along this route will help spread the word, educate those who travel this route. Educating them, so that if they see something that doesn’t feel right for them, or see a young Indigenous female hitch hiking, they will know they should do something about it. We cannot keep omitting the horrendous history that this country was built upon. We need to start to educate about the truth just as much as we educate about the goldrush. Like Murrey Sinclair says, they will keep teaching the white, colonial cannon of white supremacy until we make them stop. We need to make them stop. Collectively we all need to do better, demand better of those who write the signs along the highways, demand more information, more education, so that we can have a better understanding of this place that we all live in today. Things won’t get better if we continue to omit the sad and upsetting parts of our collective history.
Connecting this to teaching, next time you see a sign or billboard in your travels, ask yourself what is missing from this narrative? Whose voice is being shared in this story and whose voice is missing from this story? How can I learn more about the history of this place prior to settler contact? Take it upon yourself to dig deeper about the narrative of this place and learn the whole story.