70 minutes | Nov 20, 2019

Episode 64: Surviving the 60s Scoop

In the center of Cabot Square in downtown Montreal, there is a high column topped with a statue of the spice trader John Cabot, who landed on Canada’s coast more than 500 years ago. Sitting on the benches all around the statue—unloved, unheeded, unhoused—are the descendants of the people Cabot landed on, a semi-permanent population of homeless, mostly indigenous, mostly Inuit, people who live in or around the square.

This episode was recorded on Canadian Thanksgiving, a holiday that is all too similar in its origins and implications to the U.S. version. What am I thankful for? I’m thankful for a holiday that, in its sheer gouty revisionism, offers at least a chance to raise a question that all non-native people in the Americas should ask of ourselves more often: what the fuck? What have we done? What the fuck are we continuing to do?

Canada may have a cuddly reputation down in the States, but there’s blood on this corner of the commonwealth. And even, as you’ll hear in this episode, in those moments where the country has flashed good intentions, they’ve often been built on the backs of some deeply racist shit. The land theft, the political pillage, the cultural erasure, are an ongoing multigenerational trauma, as my guest on this episode puts it.

Her name is Nakuset, a name that she had to reclaim after growing up as an adoptee in a Jewish family in Montreal. She not only has a profound and moving life story, she is also the longtime Executive Director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. Together with one of her collaborators, David Chapman, whom you heard delivering McDonald’s like some kind of hamburger Santa Claus of Cabot Square, Nakuset is also the driving force behind the new Resilience Montreal center.

That center will be right across the street from the statue of John Cabot, and it is no less a monument. A monument to community, a monument to older and better values than settler capitalism, a monument to the incredible survival skills of native Canada, a monument to Resilience.

All of this plays out in Nakuset’s professional life, and it plays out in her personal life. So I should also warn that we are going to laugh and joke and drink our mocha and coffee and we’re also talk a bit about a suicide. If you, or someone you are close to, are in distress, please take a moment to reach out for help. I’ll put some resources in the show notes.

If you or someone you know is in distress, please reach out for help or just a conversation: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Stolen From Our Embrace, a book about the 60’s scoop, forced assimilation, and the indigenous children who survived it. By Suzanne J. Fournier and Ernie Crey

CBC mini-documentary on Nakuset and Sonya

Christopher Curtis’ stories for the Montreal Gazette

Donate to the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal

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