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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Celebrating Newfoundland and Labrador's Rich Culture

For as long as I can remember I’ve been profoundly proud of the rich and colourful history and culture here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

As a boy I listened to stories of larger than life men and their exploits on the land and unforgiving sea. I recall the old timers telling me of the great acts of heroism, moments of disaster and occasional triumphs of those who settled and sustained this place for hundreds of years. I remember those stories well. I also remember learning almost nothing about the subject while winding my way through a publicly funded school system.

The pride of place I have today didn’t come from our institutionalized education system and certainly not as a side effect of Canada’s so called multicultural ideals.

Looking back upon entering school, with Newfoundland (as it was called at the time) having just entered Confederation 20 years before, it almost seems as if someone thought the best way for our people to “fit in” was to bury our rich past so deep nobody would ever dig it up again.

Thankfully the great orators, musicians and amateur historians here didn’t allow that to happen.

As recently as a few years ago the people of Newfoundland and Labrador seemed to be losing the battle to keep this rich heritage alive. The young people (and many with a few years on them as well) were almost embarrassed by having what many Canadians look upon as a funny and often incomprehensible accent. They couldn’t wait to shed their native dialects, ignore their vibrant traditions and turn their backs the outports and coves that nourished their families for generations.

Thankfully, that’s starting to change.

Many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians now realize that they are as good as anyone else. They have discovered a renewed sense of pride and now know that they can compete and succeed in competition with the best, no matter the area of their exploits.

More and more the rich culture, traditions and history of Newfoundland and Labrador are becoming the envy of visitors from around the world. It is through them and through our own stubborn ability to hang on that we are finally becoming more and more aware of just how special this place is. It isn’t happening because of those empty multicultural values spewing out of Ottawa but in spite of them.

The early teachings I received at the knees of those old timers sparked in me a life long love affair with my home and a sense of pride that I cherish to this day. Sadly, as the years go by, more and more of those wonderful story tellers are shuffling off this mortal coil. This is why I have long been a proponent of rectifying the mistakes (injustices?) of the past in our schools. A past that saw so much emphasis placed on everyone else’s history and culture and almost none on our own.

I, along with groups like the Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League, the Community Linkages Concept Committee and others, have long asked for a greater focus on local history, culture and music in our education system.

Collectively many of us believe that this is one of the best ways we can ensure our future, empower and embolden the next generation of leaders and make all of Newfoundland and Labrador a better place for tomorrow.

This is why today I’d like to offer my sincere thanks and warm appreciation to the provincial government, specifically Education Minister Joan Burke, as well as to Liberal Education Critic, Roland Butler. This weekend Newfoundland and Labrador’s only locally owned newspaper, The Independent, reported that both of these politicians strongly believe that more should be done inside the school system to educate our youth about their homeland.

They are also acting on those beliefs despite claims by the head of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association that there is already enough local education being offered. I never thought I’d say this to a politician but, “Thanks for not listening”.

In the article Minister Burke said her department is looking to enhance the current curriculum by including more local history, art, music and culture. One project in the works is a new history course being offered as a pilot program in five schools this year. Ms. Burke noted that the course focuses on “…where we came from, where we are now and where we’re going…”.

According to the Minister new music and traditional dance courses have already been introduced over the past few years, 68 books by local authors are making their way through the provincial approval process and several local artists participated in visits to nearly 130 schools in the past year. This is in addition to the new local history course introduced by government for grade 8 students a couple of years ago.

Someone once said the best way to control a people is to deny them the truth. This is likely why the nation of Newfoundland, having just come under Canadian control in 1949, was discouraged from fully exploring its unique culture and history. It seems that this sort of repression is finally going by the wayside.

The only way to get where you want to go is by understanding where you’ve been.


Anonymous said...

"it almost seems as if someone thought the best way for our people to “fit in” was to bury our rich past so deep nobody would ever dig it up again."

Really? Who would that someone be?

Patriot said...

The leaders of the day, both in Canada and in Newfoundland and Labrador. The same ones who signed the Terms of Union and supported it.

I'm sure you can dig the names up quite easily.

When you want to assimilate a people you don't encourage them to celebrate their own unique culture and history, you want them to adopt and adapt to yours. It's easier to control them that way.

time for a change said...

Sorry b'ys, I been away awhile. The election's just a few days away and still none of ye can get off the couch and get anyone to talk about a referendum. What's the good of that?

If you're going to throw words around like "assimilation", it helps to have at least the courage to do something about it. Lazy whining complainers.

Referendum time! Get on it!

Michael Williams said...

Which people? There's over 500 years of tangents and paradigms, with what I believe you're mentioning becoming a commercial and social reality approximately 125 years ago? Not to mention the distinct development of the Avalon from the rest of the island. Nation or an unnecessary partition of the British North American sphere. Kept aloof by sectarian and mercantile quibbling and the sheer luck of the London money market.

This is the basis of historiography, there is history, but who’s history and what has been left behind to fashion the narrative.

Are we talking about the fishermen of the southern shore?

The Syrians and Lebanese of Windsor?

The migrant Chinese workers of St. John’s?

The merchants of Topsil?

You fail to acknowledge the sheer relativism of history itself. Which is necessary to interpret post-enlightment history as opposed to a history with lonely facts based on highly politicized notions.

Anonymous said...

Time for a change said:

"Referendum time! Get on it!"

Patience is a virtue. The day is coming. Why do you think re-enforcing pride in our culture is so important? Only when we understand who we really are will the people sluff off the shackles of Canada and move on.

We are a patient people, almost to a fault, but don't worry one day it will happen.

em said...

Patriot, as always another great post with just the right message.

Thanks for all your work.

Stephen said...

This is the basis of historiography, there is history, but who’s history and what has been left behind to fashion the narrative.

I'd say the history of the majority, the general population. Especially where Newfoundland's smallish immigrant communities have assimilated almost completely (I remember one notable Bell Islander telling me that Lebanese and Chinese there converted to Catholicism, if they weren't already, because that's just what everyone did). Labrador's peoples can definitely claim to have independent histories and cultures of their own but in my estimation Newfoundland itself is extremely homogenous English-Irish even if flavoured by Scottish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Lebanese and Syrian communities.

That dominant culture, exception to Labrador's cultures, should be stressed much more strongly throughout our educational system.

ussr said...

Finally a topic of sovrienty
and what makes us so differnat!!!

Very well written and presented I would say Patriot!!!!

Ussr said...

Really? Who would that someone be?

September 15, 2007 11:42 AM - if for any reason you might need any infromation about this topic.

Im avaible on Skype at this very same address for those that would require information on any Newfoundland and Labradour cultural material or sights on the internet especially.

I will state that I am Pro-Nationalist and believe that Newfoundland needs an Eastern Block Separtist Movement comparable to what Doug Cristie is trying to do in the Western Provinces.

Canada is nothing more then a Failed Liberial State that cannot and has not lived up to its obligations laid out in the terms of Unoin.

So if you would like to talk ,Skype me!!!

Thank you Patriot for allowing me to use your Blog.

rant said...


The song says it all.

rant said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Michael Williams said...

So in the end it's all about playing parochial hot potato?

WJM said...

USSR, you look to DOUG CHRISTIE as your model?


CCCP said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Patriot said...

The previous comment was deleted because it was sent by someone closely mimicing another poster. Whether intentional or not, it left the impression that it belonged to someone who did not publish it.

If the person who actually posted the comment would like to resubmit under a name that does not make them appear to be somone else on this site it will be considered for republication.

rant said...

September 15, 2007 9:38 PM,as I stated before Patriot,this comment was not made by me and i would appreciate it very much if you could remove this staetment from under my name, thank you.

Patriot said...

By the way Rant, you can save yourself this trouble by registering and getting a unique username.