Do you know Turtle Island?

Siafu asks Montrealers what they know about First Nations people in Quebec

Turtle-Island-web.jpg Illustration by: Erik Drooker; www.drooker.com

Text: Tim McSorley
Photos: Luna Begin

Since the Assembly of First Nations announced that there would be a National Day of Action for First Nations Rights on June 29th, the media has put the Canadian government and its approach to issues concerning indigenous people under a microscope. Siafu took to the street to find out what the average citizen knows about First Nations people in Quebec.

Here's the list of questions and answers that we came up with:

1. What does Turtle Island represent for some First Nations communities?

Turtle Island is a traditional name for North America. The name comes from a common indigenous creation story: The first human, a woman, tumbled from the sky to the earth below. At the time the earth was completely water. Birds caught the woman in their wings, but they needed land for her to live on. Several animals tried to dive to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve some dirt with which to build land. Finally, the muskrat succeeded. Placing the dirt on the turtle’s back, the woman blew and sent the dirt expanding across the ocean, making land for her to live on and a place for her to give birth to the first humans.

2. Can you name three of the eleven First Nations peoples who live in Quebec?

The Abenakis, the Algonquins, the Atikamekw, the Crees, the Hurons-Wendat, the Maliseet, the Micmacs, the Mohawks, the Innus, the Naskapis, the Inuit

3. A lot is being said in the media about the social issues that First Nations people face. What do you think is the most important issue that First Nations’ people face today?

4. Do you think the federal government is doing enough to help Canada’s First Nations people? Why/Why not?


Name: Joel Vega

Age: 47 yrs old

1. What does Turtle Island represent for some First Nations communities?

I know the turtle as an animal is important, and I’ve heard of Turtle Island, but I don’t know where it is; I couldn’t locate it.

2. Can you name three of the eleven First Nations peoples who live in Quebec?

Mohawk, Hurons, The Cree

3. A lot is being said in the media about the social issues facing First Nations people. What do you think is the most important issue facing First Nations’ people today?

Land claims. That they are constantly stalled and the governments don’t seem to want to deal with land claims issues as much as they should be. I know they settled some outstanding issues on landclaims, more in the western provinces, but overall it’s a problem. And then of course there’s the poverty that goes along with the areas; they’re ghettoised.

4. Do you think the federal government is doing enough to help Canada’s First Nations people? Why?

Absolutely not. [Land claims are] an important issue for them. The other one is the issue of the dire poverty in those communities, and all the problems that come with poverty and the isolation in those communities.


Name: Christine Richardson

Age: 23

1. What does Turtle Island represent for some First Nations communities?

I know that turtle’s have to do with creation. I’ve read all the creation myths but a little confused about which one is which right now.

2. Can you name three of the eleven First Nations peoples who live in Quebec?

Mohawk, I know Ontario has Iroquois and Algonquin. Cree, my knowledge is mostly of Ontario.

3. A lot is being said in the media about the social issues facing First Nations people. What do you think is the most important issue facing First Nations’ people today?

Land claims would be major. The government stole their land and they need it back and they deserve to have it back.

4. Do you think the federal government is doing enough to help Canada’s First Nations people? Why/Why not?

No. Absolutely not. They could be doing a whole hell of a lot more. Really they’re ignoring, and have ignored for way too long, the issues at hand. So its gotten to the point where they need to do something now, they needed to do something a long time ago, but clearly that didn’t happen, and they need to rectify the situation, absolutely.


Name: Viviane & Candice

Age: 32, 24

1. What does Turtle Island represent for some First Nations communities?

I was at a meeting where they spoke about Turtle Island, where the turtles laid their eggs and were disturbed and stolen by people.

2. Can you name three of the eleven First Nations peoples who live in Quebec?

Algonqin, Mohawk

3. A lot is being said in the media about the social issues facing First Nations people. What do you think is the most important issue facing First Nations’ people today?

I'm really not that informed.

4. Do you think the federal government is doing enough to help Canada’s First Nations people? Why/Why not?

From what I’ve heard in the media, actually the only Amerindien current event I went to was télédiversité, and had how in the media they’re represented. There was concern about that, because it’s (something) that is really taken into consideration in any government plan. And in the media it's happening the same way, they’re removed from it, and not really well integrated into diverse media.


Name: Mathieu Soucy

Age: 31

1. What does Turtle Island represent for some First Nations communities?

I think it’s their concept of how the world was created

2. Can you name three of the eleven First Nations peoples who live in Quebec?

Abenaki, Algonquin, Huron, Micmac, Mohawk

3. A lot is being said in the media about the social issues facing First Nations people. What do you think is the most important issue facing First Nations’ people today?

There are territorial claims that have existed for centuries, so I think this should be dealt with once and for all. And the government should pass a law that would make concrete advances.

4. Do you think the federal government is doing enough to help Canada’s First Nations people? Why/Why not?

Enough? I don’t know. We see them opening the door, that they want to get involved in the file, but is it enough? I’m not sure at all.


Name: Nathaniel

Age: 8 and a half

1. What does Turtle Island represent for some First Nations communities?

I think it is how they believe that the first man came to earth. That the first man fell on the back of a turtle.

2. Can you name three of the eleven First Nations peoples who live in Quebec?

Iroquois, Pied Noir

3. A lot is being said in the media about the social issues facing First Nations people. What do you think is the most important issue facing First Nations’ people today?

I believe the most important things for them are family and love.

4. Do you think the federal government is doing enough to help Canada’s First Nations people? Why/why not?

Not sure, but I think it's good that they show us about [Native American history] in museums.