Do not reinstall racist Samuel de Champlain statue in Orillia

Do not reinstall racist Samuel de Champlain statue in Orillia

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Aaniin Boozhoo, Sago, Tansi, Greetings, 

We are requesting that the Samuel De Champlain Monument Working Group in Orillia, Ontario, Canada that resides on Traditional Wendat-Huron territory NOT reinstall the original monument/statue of Samuel de Champlain in Couchiching Beach Park, Orillia, Ontario.  This statue is racist and derogatory to Indigenous Peoples; depicting Champlain as 'savour and lord' over the people. 

BACKGROUND

The Champlain Monument was commissioned in 1915 and unveiled on July 1st 1925.  It was to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the French explorer's arrival in the region. 'It was created to encourage tourism to the region, commemorating the advent into Ontario of the white race, under Champlain’s leadership.'

Champlain came through what is now known as Simcoe county on August 17th, 1615  to 'strengthen trade relationships' with the Wendat Nation. He was welcomed into their capital of Cahiague by the Chief Darontal. It is noted that he left with first-hand knowledge of the Wendat cultural ways and traditions.  The Wendat supported him and his people throughout the winter months until they left for Quebec in 1616. Garnering mutual respect, thus grounding a reciprocal relationship.

False representation of actual relationship

Champion has been commemorated throughout Canada with other statues and structures named after him.

Our main issue with the proposed return of this Statue is the imagery of it, it does not reflect the true history which Champlain himself documented.  There was a Nation to Nation relationship between France and the Wendat people.

Since it was installed in 1925 the local Indigenous communities (including Chippwas of Rama First Nations,  Beausoleil First Nations and Georgina Island First Nations) have had to bear witness to it and it's false and degrading representation of Indigenous Nations in the region.  

"Despite its grandeur and artistic merit, the Monument has faced scrutiny for its singular, colonial perspective. The sculpture groupings were designed to emphasize Champlain’s role in bringing Christianity and Commerce to New France. Noted in the souvenir booklet 1 of the 1925 unveiling, they portray the Huron-Wendat at the feet of Christianity and Commerce as though they are receiving these gifts. Yet, the Huron-Wendat were not passive observers but major trading partners with the French. They guided Champlain from the Habitation in Quebec to the area to strengthen these relations, involving the French explorer in a war expedition against the Iroquois threatening Huron-Wendat territory." 

Samuel de Champlain Monument Working Group

The working group was started last year, initiated by Parks Canada which owns the monument.  They felt it was best to work with the many facets of the community to come to a consensus on the future of the monument.  

The working group comprises of Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke and one other Orillia resident, with representatives from Parks Canada, Chippewas of Rama First Nation, Huron-Wendat Nation and the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.

Over the last year they have been working on what should happen to this monument.  Until recently in local media there are reports that they are actually considering returning the original statue to the park!  This has been very upsetting for many people that live in Orillia and the outlining communities including Rama Reserve, which is adjacent in close proximity to Orillia and feel this is a great opportunity for reconciliation efforts and for the true story to come to light and be shared. 

In a letter from the Wendat- Huron Nation:

Writing to Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke in 2018 Huron-Wendat Grand Chief Konrad Sioui referred to as the monument “degrading and preposterous,” and argued strongly against its reinstallation.“

Not solely would such an motion undermine and problem reconciliation efforts with Indigenous Peoples,” Sioui wrote, “however it might additionally perpetuate a disgraceful notion of our Peoples as being submissive, subservient and obedient to the French Crown, whereas portraying them as an inferior class of residents.”

From Working group discussion notes:  

Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) passed a resolution to explore the feasibility of commissioning an alternative Champlain Monument in Orillia to be installed in close proximity to the original. Members of ETFO have been talking with stakeholders, and have pledged $25,000 to the project.

With that said, we believe in working on a true representation of the partnership between these two Nations, in the spirit of reconciliation, we request that the Champlain Working group not install the original statue but find and explore alternative routes and recommendations that reflect the true historical events and relationship during that time.  

Miigwech (Thank you)