ROTHENBURGER – Some questions from a white dude about the death of reconciliation

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THIS MOSTLY WHITE DUDE has some questions about the death of reconciliation.

I ask these questions of those putting up the “Reconciliation is Dead” signs at the blockades, posting it on their websites and proclaiming it daily on the TV news clips.

I don’t mean the radical activists who come from away and try to hijack your cause. I mean those who are actually part of it.

As I think about this, I wonder if reconciliation ever had a chance. What would reconciliation have looked like to you?

Because we’ve really worked at this. There was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, for starters.

More recently, Canada adopted the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights, and B.C. has made it law. These are big items — they’re about accountability and the path forward.

But we’ve been busy doing a lot of other, smaller things, as well.


Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (8179 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

8 Comments on ROTHENBURGER – Some questions from a white dude about the death of reconciliation

  1. Bob Gamble // March 1, 2020 at 5:24 PM // Reply

    I’m living on one of the most ideal pieces of real estate in the world. Yes, I’m certainly a privileged white man. I know I wasn’t the first to put down roots here. Nor were my parents, their parents or a couple more breeding’s removed.

    Mr. Rothenburger list of attempts to correct past wrongs inflicted on those who were here first is impressive. Unfortunately for the most part, these efforts have been a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s easy to say you’re sorry.

    At the time of this writing, it has just been announced that the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief and government officials have reached an agreement to acknowledge the Wet’suwet’en land title rights.

    It seems the only way to get the undivided attention of privileged white men is to squeeze them where it hurts the most, the wallet.

    The old joke from my Western Produces days growing up on the Prairies makes the point:
    It seems a farmer was complaining to a friend about the trouble he was having in getting his stubborn mule to move. After listening to the farmer’s complaint, the friend said he knew just what to do.

    “Get a two-by-four and whack the mule across the head with all your might,” advised the friend. The farmer was taken aback. “But how will that get him to move?” asked the farmer. “Well, you see,” the friend said, “first you’ve got to get his attention!”

    Have to admire the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief’s patience while waiting to get the privileged white men’s attention.

  2. Well, I’m going to say it. Your Privilege and especially your White Fragility are showing. “We” settlere came in, destroyed a population and “white is right” might and it is INSIDIOUS. It is a systemic problem.

    Problem is, now we are so far removed from what should have happened. We white folk cam here and started telling indigenous the way to live. White men forced their way, handed indigenous gut rot, and raped their women Unless and until the systemic problems of White Supremacy, Fragility, and Privilege are shaken out, thomgs cannot change.

    Maybe, just maybe if us “white folk” actually came to the table and asked, “If we could do things differently, what would be done”.

    I, for one, had a Reverand in the late 1800’s so I know my part is this. I approach my rother’s amd sister’s in the Indigenous Community and learn to adapt to the “old ways” from the Elders.

    We have destroyed what was a peaceful way to live off the land by making Indigenous culture “wrong” so many decades ago. We destroyed a culture by destroying theirbways of life and creating pervasive alcohol abuse and domestic violence through reservations.

    We all deserve better from one another. Some Elders are leading the way to reconciliation, as long as Patriarchy, White Privilege and Supremacy still sit at the top of our systems, the problem will never change.

    So maybe, just maybe us “white folk” need to look inside, and ask how best to use our “privilege” to level the playing field and create a warmer environment for the Elders and Indigenous community who were heree, before we were, and came in and decimated their way of living. A better way of living, we could have ever imagined.

    One can dream…and do their work!

    • Tom Rankin // March 2, 2020 at 9:45 PM // Reply

      Can we please quit bringing up the violent acts committed by settlers as part of this discussion? Or can we please balance it by talking about the endless stories of the violence committed by one Band against another? I recall a litany of stories about Bands murdering, raping, torturing, and enslaving – both whites and other Bands. Sure, there were a ton of ways they were respectful of the land; not taking away from that. But let’s not try to taint the conversation by making it sound like whites were the only ones being violent. There isn’t a country on the planet without violence in its history. Let’s focus on healing the wounds.

  3. Thanks for your perspective and points made, Mel. I also dislike the way some terms are used to refer to us white dudes. My mother’s side landed in Cape Breton in 1757 and went on to include two Fathers of Confederation. That’s not 8 generations but we’re getting up there. Also on my mother’s side, one fellow was the contractor who built the CN railbed from Winnipeg to Edmonton (200 men, 100 horses). On my father’s side, we landed in Ontario in the 1840’s. We’re not new, my ancestors did a lot of good in building this country, and we’re not leaving. Oh, and through my paternal grandmother, there are some number of Mohawk cells coursing through my veins. So I, too, do not fit a simplistic label. I think First Nations need to put a lot of effort into resolving their internal politics so they can present a more coordinated, united front in their discussions with the dominant culture. That might help us actually make progress.

  4. Perry Royston // February 29, 2020 at 2:38 PM // Reply

    So Mel what did the Nation inquirey to missing and murdered indigenous wemon accomplished?? Children and wemon are missing more then ever every day. ?? Also the RCMP have been mentioned as abusing indigenous women. Please tell me what is being done about these two issues??

  5. L Dawne Taylor // February 29, 2020 at 11:02 AM // Reply

    Good article Mel. Thanks.

  6. Sean McGuinness // February 29, 2020 at 10:13 AM // Reply

    Reconciliation is a nice term invented by “white dudes” to deal with past transgressions, but without necessarily changing course in any significant way. History tells us that the indigenous peoples lost their lands and freedoms when the European settlers arrived. Our response to the crimes committed is to hold out an olive branch with the one hand, and with the other continue to divide indigenous communities, and assert our dominance over their lands and culture. The protests we’ve seen are a product of years of neglect, years of us dragging our feet and not being willing to broker significant agreements with indigenous groups.

  7. It can be difficult to apologize for somebody else but I think, as a country, we who are a few generations from the first “settlers” have tried our best to do that.
    Offering an apology is great but it is up to the other party to accept or reject an apology. An apology accepted opens the door to reconciliation whether it be with a classmate after an elementary school scrap or how we treat others as adults.
    Regardless of how much is done in a positive way, there may still be some who are itching for a scrap. Blackmail might be too strong a term to replace “blockade”. Holding others hostage to make a point & get one’s own way could be interpreted as an act of antagonism. Nevertheless, let’s hope that the desire for a scrap is not played out in real life.

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