LETTER: Passing comment at restaurant leads to a lesson on history

To the two Indigenous people at Salty’s on Goldstream on June 5: I don’t know your names, and I’m not even sure you’ll see this, but I hope that this might somehow reach you because I owe you (and many, many others) an apology.

You sat eating lunch one table over from me that day and overheard my not-so-quiet conversation, in which I said some things which were wrong, offensive and hurtful.

My friend and I got talking about local history. “Sir James Douglas … he was good, wasn’t he?” she asked. “Yes!” I said and talked about his role in local Black history. I mentioned his role in crafting treaties but made it sound positive.

When you got up from your meal, one of you said to me: “Do you know about the clam gardens?” You explained how long before colonization, Indigenous people built walls in the ocean to retain sand and provide an ideal habitat for clams. “Go look them up. They’re 4,000 years old,” you said. Though you spoke with self-control, your emotion was obvious.

When I went home, I looked up the clam gardens. I also looked up Douglas’s legacy with Indigenous people. The truth is that he used deception to manufacture treaties that the signatories didn’t even get to see before he tricked them into putting their names on paper.

I’m so sorry; I admit I’d heard that before but chose to believe only what I wanted. That was wrong. Summing up Douglas’s legacy without telling the truth about the harm he did was not only factually incorrect but hurtful and offensive.

Thank you for speaking out to me. You helped me to face reality, but neither of you should have had to deal with that situation.

I deeply apologize to you both and to everyone else to whom it is due. I will keep on learning more; I will not let your words go to waste.

Heather Ramsay