I started school in 1956 in a one-room schoolhouse west of Wilton, Ontario, in a tiny community called Thorpe, which encompassed about five or six farms. From that moment on, my teachings about Native Studies encompassed, to my recollection, a few pages on the Iroquois and pictures of teepees and longhouses. To be a Native at that time was definitely not cool. Being designated a Native would have brought beatings, stares, and a path towards poverty because no one would hire you.
My grandfather was one of the hardest working men I have ever known, but he silently kept his ancestry a secret. Sure, there would be whispers that we were “Indians,” and it wasn’t until I was in my 40s that the real truth came out about who we were.