Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy targeted public school textbooks portraying First Nations people as savages after racist graffiti was spray-painted in downtown Thunder Bay.
“There has to be more effort made to make sure that there is an accurate historic reflection of First Nation contributions to the well-being of Canada in the school curriculum,” Beardy said. “If I recall correctly, most of the textbooks currently used in the public school, the elementary school, portray Native people as savages and I think that has to change if we are to continue to enjoy prosperity for all.”
The racist graffiti – Kill Indians – was discovered July 18 at the corner of Fort William Road and Main Street below a BMO Bank of Montreal sign and has since been removed.
Three other incidents of anti-religious graffiti were also reported over the July 17-18 weekend in the Current River area of the city.
“Offensive and intolerable,” said Thunder Bay Mayor Lynn Peterson as she described the graffiti. “This is breaking the law and when we find out who did it, they will be fully prosecuted.”
Peterson said people are concerned about the graffiti and the Thunder Bay Police Service is investigating the incidents.
“We need to make this community safe for everyone, welcoming for everyone,” Peterson said. “Value our diversity and celebrate it.”
Peterson said racist incidents such as the Kill Indians graffiti and the throwing of objects at Aboriginal people on city streets can’t be tolerated.
“It’s unacceptable and people need to be charged,” Peterson said.
The Aboriginal population of Thunder Bay continues to grow at a faster rate than other segments, Peterson said.
“We are working hard with the Aboriginal community and we’ve got a way to go,” Peterson said. “We are working.”
Beardy said when there is a downturn in the economy and people go hungry, lose their houses or lose their jobs, they blame whoever is most visible.
“In this case it is Native people in our region,” Beardy said. “There has to be a greater push made by city institutions, the schools, the churches and other institutions, to try to have an accurate reflection of First Nations people in their discussions.”
The Regional Multicultural Youth Council holds a Paint-the-Town event every year where they paint over graffiti across the city.
“We just recently got together and did a big event,” said Shane Turtle, a RMYC member from Deer Lake. “Personally, I just don’t think it is right for anybody to say (racist comments) about another race.”
As of July 28, police were still investigating the graffiti incidents.
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