For the last week and a half, one of the main things on St. Albertans’ minds has been the sickening letter that targeted Indigenous resident Katrina Anderson and her family with racist threats.
The letter told the Anderson family to “go back to the reserve where Indians belong,” implying that they did not “want to see the kids getting hurt.” The rest of the community was outraged by this racism, and the anonymous writer was widely condemned on social media and in the press. St. Albertans have organized spontaneous block parties and donations to support the Anderson family, including a larger gathering that’s expected to happen on Oct. 28.
I’m very happy to see the reaction from my fellow residents, and I hope it will give the Anderson family all the support they need in whatever they decide to do. At the same time, I can only shake my head at the letter writer, not only for their stupidity in claiming that St. Albert isn’t a reserve, and that Indigenous people don’t belong here, but for disgracing St. Albert’s history and heritage with such a claim.
St. Albert could benefit from more people like Katrina Anderson, who’s called St. Albert home for 27 years, and the people who’ve rallied to her family’s support. It could also stand to have fewer people like the letter writer who threatened her family.
If the letter writer had actually bothered to learn anything about St. Albert’s past, they would know that St. Albert has had an Indigenous element to it from the very beginning.
When Father Albert Lacombe founded what would become St. Albert in 1861, he did so with 20 Métis farming families. With the decline in the buffalo herds that they relied on for food, many Métis were eager to learn how to farm. They were the first residents of St. Albert, and our community thrived through co-operation between them and the Francophone missionaries.
It’d benefit us all to look back at the history of St. Albert, Alberta and Canada and consider just how much of it was shaped by non-native settlers’ interactions with Indigenous people. Whether through large-scale negotiations like the treaties or smaller-scale co-operation like that which founded St. Albert, that history has shaped our city, province and country much more deeply than most of us realize.
It’s not a history of Indigenous people dying out and being replaced by the rest of us, even if that’s what was often expected to happen. Rather, it’s been a history of Indigenous people trying to work in co-operation with new settlers, resisting attempts to assimilate them, and at the best of times providing the mutual support that’s a Canadian ideal.
While the letter writer’s attitudes are still all too prevalent in Canada, our community’s reaction is a hopeful sign. St. Albertans have made an effort to support the Anderson family, and are making it clear that the letter writer doesn’t speak for them.
That’s showing the mutual support that Canada is supposed to be about.
Jared Milne is a St. Albert resident with a passion for Canadian history and politics.