With a red tobacco pouch in his hand, Albert Dumont — poet, storyteller and Algonquin Elder originally from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg — speaks to the high-profile politicians and former government leaders attending Monday’s national commemorative ceremony for the late Queen.
“The horrors committed against Indigenous Peoples … by past monarchs will be spoken about around council fires of the spirit land,” he says at the service held at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa, where former prime minister Brian Mulroney, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party MP Elizabeth May were in the audience. “The Queen, at that time, will renounce the brutality of the past.”
Dumont doesn’t doubt the character of Queen Elizabeth II, describing her as a “fire” and “role model” for her future ancestors in the conclusion of his eulogy. After the service, he tells Canada’s National Observer she was a sweet old woman who was cute “like grandma,” and even recounts a story of his granddaughter playing dress-up as the Queen one day, with the brim hat and small purse in tow.
But despite Dumont’s positive words about the Queen, there’s a greater shadow cast on the Royal Family for many Indigenous Peoples.
It’s all part of the Crown’s complicated legacy of colonialism and the ongoing nation-to-nation relationship between the Commonwealth and Indigenous Peoples.
For example, Dumont points to the Queen’s estate, which is worth US$21 billion or more, as a dark reminder of a colonial past.
“I ask myself: where did the monarchy get that kind of wealth? I think lots of it probably came from colonization and the resources that were stolen from the Indigenous Peoples of those countries,” Dumont told Canada’s National Observer.
Dumont sees this legacy as an opportunity for the Royal Family to reconcile with Indigenous Peoples.
When Dumont thinks about the wealth grown from the dispossessed land of Indigenous Peoples across the once vast empire, he wonders if a day will come when the Royal Family will acknowledge its role in the colonial past of the British Empire and work towards reconciliation.
He hopes the royals will apologize for the colonial injustices with both words and action — for example, by funding the development of buildings that will facilitate healing between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown.
“For one reason: for reconciliation’s sake,” Dumont says. “Whatever would occur in those buildings would create harmony and respect for one another, the way it should’ve been from the beginning of the relationship.”
"I think lots of it probably came from colonization and the resources that were stolen from the Indigenous Peoples of those countries," Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont told Canada's National Observer of the Royal Family's wealth.
For the Algonquin Anishinabeg in particular, Dumont speaks about a brutal legacy between the British and his nation. In pre-Confederation times, he says the British supplied weapons to people “who were hellbent on massacring Algonquins.”
Then, following Confederation, the Algonquins, like other Indigenous Peoples affected by the Indian Act, suffered greatly under the pass system. It’s what Dumont calls the “cruelest parts” of the Indian Act.
During that time, Indigenous Peoples needed permission from an Indian agent to leave their reserve. Dumont was four years old when the policy was repealed.
Only six years later, in 1960, Indigenous Peoples were given the right to vote.
Now, Dumont hopes King Charles III will make an effort to reach out and sit with Grand Chiefs across Turtle Island to walk that path towards reconciliation between the Crown and Indigenous Peoples.
“The healing needs to be taken seriously.”
Matteo Cimellaro / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer