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Canada | Helen Knott

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

I heard your 150th birthday is coming up. I heard you’ll be celebrating that 1867 Confederation.

Something to be remembered.

My father says he heard a man say how lucky we are to be Canadian,

How lucky we are to be brought up on soil that takes care of



I bite my tongue.

I’ve seen the Guatemalan struggle for land, for water.

Watched mother mourn loss of her partner, her back porch overlooking where her husband laid bleeding.

Every sunset she sees from her kitchen window a memory of death.

That doesn’t happen in Canada.

You should be happy.

You should be happy in a country that takes care of its people.

Just because there is the absence of targeted death does not mean that you have not contributed to the killing of my people. Turned blind eyes. Kept silent. Held back remedy. Asked us to forget. Put hand over mouth when we refused.

I am a small fraction of your age.

I have too many memories that tell me of your lack of integrity.

Too many stories told to this young body,

it has aged me.

I hold ancient songs in my bones.

I have absorbed the tears of elders, of young ones from various territories. Lands split up by mountains and rivers and invisible borders.

I have seen you offer up apologies and promises, while


taking actions that demand that we forget. Demand that we bow to colonial rule Over and over

and over

and over until we sit like a young spruce

sapling under the winter’s weight of snow.

Celebrate with me,

you call,

Let’s talk one hundred and fifty years

I already know your numbers

I do historical timelines in the communities trying to undo historical trauma from the past couple of centuries. 1867 is on that timeline




I have sat with the people as they weep,

and now you want me to raise a glass to you,

to erase the truth of our past for you.


I found out two nights ago

my great grandfather gave up his rights to be an “Indian”

to fight a war for you,

his children losing connection to land and home

because their father had the privilege of dying for a country.

His sacrifice of life

didn’t make his children white,

just lost.


Did you weep that day?

When the Fathers of Confederation claimed you, named you something other than what you were.

told you what you were meant to be took ownership of you for good. Finally put the nail in the coffin, 1763 Proclamation, 1491 Discovery, ultimate victim of Manifest Destiny.

I bet you were tired

I bet you were tired

I go to bed at night with numbered Treaties counted off like rosary beads.

Sleep with my head to the East

like my Grandmothers and Grandfathers would have.

Pray for dreams for the people.

For the people that Canada forgets to pray for.

Pray that dawn breaks the mourning.


Coming up on one hundred and fifty years I guess that makes you pretty old.

It explains your memory lapses. Don’t worry,

The daughters and sons of dishonoured treaties and unceded territories

will be here to remind you.

Oh, did you already forget?

We are still here.


“I have a poetic heart that feels too deeply and often find myself on frontlines or

wherever my integrity and feet may lead me.” - Helen Knott

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