White man came across the sea
He brought us pain and misery
He killed our tribes, killed our creed
He took our game for his own need
Those are the opening lyrics to Iron Maiden’s 1982 heavy metal classic, “Run To The Hills.”
The tune, which deals with the European colonization of Native land, is given a radical and poignant reworking by Canadian indigenous throat singer Tanya Tagaq and Damian Abraham, the lead singer of the Canadian hardcore band Fucked Up.
The song starts off with Tagaq whispering the opening lines then it kicks in with Abraham’s appropriately abrasive vocals and Tagaq’s visceral throat singing. It is a potent reminder of the violence and injustices face by aboriginal people.
The tune resonates because Tagaq is singing with a full awareness of Canada’s dark history with dealing with Native people.
The line “only good Indians are tame” represents the hateful rhetoric of European colonists. In the 19th and 20th century, that poisonous philosophy manifested itself with indigenous children, who were stolen from their families and put into residential schools.
Many of the children were victims of sexual and physical abuse. According to estimates from the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, upwards of 6000 children may have died between 1867-2000, either while in residential schools or because of the post traumatic stress of being in the schools.
The last school closed in 1996, and it is a tragic example of indigenous genocide.
Sadly, Canada’s mistreatment of Natives continues to this day. A disproportionate number of indigenous women and men are reported missing or as homicide victims, as compared to other Canadians of the same gender. There are also issues with clean water on reservations, and the violating of sacred land with the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline expansion into Secwepemc Territory in British Columbia.
An important part of the healing and reconciliation process is the discontinuation of the whitewashing of pass transgressions. As long as colonial attitudes still exist, the wounds will continue to fester and grow.