Because of space there were a couple of things I didn’t get to in last week’s column concerning the residential schools indigenous children were forced to attend in the past.
Horrified at the thought of RCMP pulling children from their homes, I had wondered what would have happened if the roles has been reversed.
What if the natives had retained control of the land they had probably roamed from the beginning of time and the whites remained interlopers? What if the natives decided that it was necessary to assimilate the children of the whites to their culture, the language of the whites to be spoken no more?
We all know what would happen. There would be hell to pay.
The whites wouldn’t have stood for it. There would have been an armed rebellion.
I have no doubt the native police would have looked down the barrel of a gun at every home they approached. In fact, they probably would have been looking down the barrels of many guns as the whites rose in revolt.
I am surprised some among the natives didn’t do this. I would say they certainly had a right to.
In regard to assimilation, it may have disappeared from the native scene with the closure of the residential schools but it certainly hasn’t disappeared from the national scene as a whole.
You can see writings on Facebook and receive them in emails where people are insisting that immigrants adopt our traditions and leave theirs behind.
Some of you may recall that during our infamous “English only” language fiasco back in 1990 that some people were even against French being spoken by members of our francophone community, the community at which the language resolution, which was ruled to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada, was aimed.
Sitting above a photo on Facebook of a native chief was this line: “I will not be forced to learn a foreign language to accommodate illegals in my country.”
The line beside the chief says: “That would suck.”
Sort of puts it in perspective, doesn’t it?
We have to be better than this, accepting the fact and glorifying in it that we are not all the same.
The other bit I didn’t get to mention was some interplay I had with a residential school in the mid-1950s when I was coaching a midget hockey team in my hometown of Dryden.
A fellow who said he handled recreation at the McIntosh Indian Residential School, which was about 60 miles northwest of Dryden, called me and asked if I would bring my team to the school to play the kids residing there.
He also asked, as he said the native kids weren’t all that adept at hockey, if I minded if he played to help them out, that he wouldn’t score any goals himself. Going on his word, I said OK. In retrospect I should have said, let’s try it with team against team to see if his services were needed.
Turns out they weren’t. We were no match for the native kids. We lost 16-2 and the rec director or whatever he was, despite saying he wouldn’t score, popped in four or five himself.
I had some words with him after the game because he had obviously presented a false story to me about the ability of the kids he was coaching.
They could do it all, skate like the wind, stick handle, shoot, pass. We were badly outmatched and I thought I had a pretty good bunch of players.
Talking to a fellow who was scraping the ice after the game along with the native players, he pointed out that they should be good because they didn’t do much else in their spare time. He said they were on the ice every chance they got.
I could see that but I also saw the jerk who set up the game was also doing a good job of coaching them. The teamwork they displayed on the ice was exceptional. They had no main star; they all contributed..
All the kids I saw there that day, on and off the ice, seemed to be happy. Maybe it was because at such a small school they missed out on some of the horrors that took place at others.
For myself, at the time I simply thought these kids were there because they were brought in from areas that were too small to have a school on their own.
PETER RUICCi is retiring from a long stint as a sports writer at The Sault Star, which followed a long stint as a sports reporter and anchor in the broadcast industry.
I trust he will take his shoes with him because no one is going to fill them.
It may seem strange to some that I am lauding someone from a competitor’s operation but I see Ruicci as a special case.
Between print and broadcast, his beginnings, he has covered sports in this city for more than 40 years.
It is not just the length of time that brings this tribute; it is what he did with the time.
When he joined The Sault Star more than 20 years ago there was a sport editor and three reporters. For several years he has been the sole member of what had once been a department.
With each departure Ruicci ramped up his production, the quality of it never suffering.
His main focus remained the Soo Greyhounds but he found time for it all, writing columns along with his regular coverage.
The newspaper industry has taken some big hits over the past 20 years or so, being only a caricature of what it once was.
The Sault has been no exception and the loss of Ruicci and his prodigious effort only digs the hole deeper.