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Letter: Island of Newfoundland is unceded territory

['This portrait of Demasduit shows the Beothuk woman in 1819, the year she was captured by John Peyton and his group.']
A portrait of Beothuk woman Demasduit in 1819. — file photo

I was somewhat dismayed but not surprised that a St. John’s newspaper would publish a letter attacking the recent decision by city councillors to acknowledge the true history of the city (“Careful what you’re acknowledging, St. John’s,” Feb. 23).

This smacks entirely of the very notion of the “white man’s burden” and sits at the core of white supremacy.

It is more than a little ironic that some of the dire warnings included have vague hints of truth in them. There is, indeed, power in the word “unceded,” but this is only because it speaks to the truth of how the island was settled. There never was a treaty signed between Indigenous peoples, Mi’kmaq or Beothuk, and European settlers. That means the island is, indeed, unceded.

The very notion that someone can still, with a straight face, applaud the establishment of European civilization as some great accomplishment is sad at the very least. This smacks entirely of the very notion of the “white man’s burden” and sits at the core of white supremacy. Just because the island was invaded centuries ago does not alter the fact that even as far back as 1763 the Royal Proclamation acknowledged that the Americas were Indigenous territory and that no land could be acquired without the express consent of Indigenous people. This has never happened anywhere in Newfoundland before the modern agreement-in-principle of 2012 in Labrador.

What is critical at this time is that, as settlers, we understand how the Supreme Court of Canada continues to support Indigenous land claims, particularly in unceded territories.

If we want to stir up a hornets’ nest amongst Indigenous people, let us, as settlers, continue to spout the same nonsense as Robin Reid. What would he propose to do if such a court case came to pass?

James Butler

London, Ont.

Originally from Barachois Brook, Bay St. George

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