My ancestors were the invaders and some were likely the invaded who assimilated and survived: the Gauls and Normans and Vikings and Saxons. Later on, those Norwegians, French, German, Scottish, and Irish who wanted more for themselves or who wanted to escape persecution loaded on boats for the New World. New to them that is. They came centuries after the the French made allegiances with the Hurons, about the time the British decided to deal with the "Indian problem" by creating the Indian Act, a document of invasive regulations that enabled the residential school system to open and flourish. Just like their forefathers, they invaded and forced assimilation on the people because they had bought into the need for the purity of a single group. It's what we do.
I grew up in a good sized house on a large lot that backed onto a beautiful maple forest, with two professionals as parents, happily married and financially stable. Some quiet alcoholism, occasional temper tantrums, and likely undiagnosed Aspergers were the only flaws in an otherwise storybook scenario. My pain is not like theirs.
Primarily, it's embarrassing to be aligned with the invaders and to acknowledge how much we've benefited from the efforts of our ancestors to exploit or destroy many peoples. It's a burden we have to accept and acknowledge in practices like naming the land we're on when we have an audience. Michael Moore's Where to Invade Next shows how German students learn to cope with the horrific actions of their country's past. We could use more of this in our own lives to help us come to terms with our collective guilt:
Nothing makes you aware of your country like leaving it. I was just in Drake Bay, Costa Rica where the locals told me of their high schools that look like prisons, with one teacher who teaches every subject for each grade. People who want a good education have to move away. The man running our resort was lucky enough to have an aunt in a city, and he moved in with her at 14. I told them that's just like Canada. We have areas where there aren't enough people for a good school, so kids are sent away from home. But our country is massive by comparison, so they're sent really really far from home to cities like Thunder Bay. They're often just boarded rather than actually raised and cared for, and they sometimes end up in trouble with alcohol or sometimes they go missing and are found at the bottom of lakes. It's absolutely tragic. They were shocked that happens in Canada too. They had no idea. (Some of the American guests there had no idea who our current Prime Minister is, though. So maybe we're just not considered in general.) We're not just guilty of past actions; we're still struggling with current issues.
Finally, claiming status gives individuals a people, an entire culture where they feel some sense of belonging. We're shifted to such an independent focus in society, bereft of community, that being a mutt, a mix of many cultures, can be profoundly isolating. Changing a few details of our past in order to be included in a group can be very enticing, which can sometimes be too hard to override with more moral reasoning.
I completely agree with Paquette's notion that it's not acceptable to just attach yourself to a group without enduring the challenges the group survived, but I love the flavour of Kinew's article that suggests people can be adopted and accepted as honorary members if they're worthy of the honour. We need a sense of belonging in this world right now more than we need to clarify our borders. But we also need to live authentically, honest with ourselves about who we really are and where we came from.