'It’s blatant racism': Renewed calls for education, reconciliation after racist sign posted on Sask. First Nation

There are renewed calls for education and reconciliation after a racist sign was posted on a Saskatchewan First Nation east of Prince Albert Wednesday morning.

The sign was found on a bridge on the Muskoday First Nation and says in part: “White lives matter too… who else is gonna work and pay taxes.”

Ava Bear, the chief of Muskoday First Nation, called the poster disturbing and said it feeds into misconceptions.

“It’s very saddening and I think more than anything, this individual needs our prayers to come around and try to understand.”

Over the last few weeks, hundreds of unmarked graves have been found at former residential school sites across Canada.

Bear said no one has ever disputed that all lives matter.

“The recovery of these children’s bodies may have seemed to some people like we’re placing an over-importance on First Nations lives, but in reality, we know, everybody knows, all lives matter,” she said.

Bear also said First Nations people contribute a lot in tax dollars to the province and to the country.

This sign found on a bridge on the Muskoday First Nation says in part: “White lives matter too… who else is gonna work and pay taxes.” (Saskatoon Tribal Council)

Indigenous peoples are subject to the same tax rules as any other resident in Canada unless their income is eligible for the tax exemption under section 87 of the Indian Act, according to the federal government.

Under section 87, tax relief is granted for the personal property of an Indian or a Indian band – technical terms used in the legislation - situated on a reserve and their interests in reserves or designated lands.

Generally, they do not pay the GST/HST on property bought on a reserve or delivered to a reserve and do not pay the GST/HST on services performed entirely on a reserve.

A pair of shoes were also hung over the sign – something Bear calls a mockery of what shoes have come to symbolize in recent weeks.

The bridge was the site of a memorial put up last month where shoes were hung to honour the unmarked graves found at residential school sites across Canada.

“It’s just totally not acceptable. It’s blatant racism. This individual did this in the light of day. They didn’t try to hide themselves, they parked their vehicle right on the highway. We have witnesses who’ve seen the vehicle, who seen the individual hanging the shoes,” Bear said.

RCMP confirmed the incident is under investigation Thursday afternoon.

Muskoday First Nation is part of the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) and is one of the 74 First Nations with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN).

FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt strongly condemned the sign and is calling on the RCMP to investigate and hold the individual accountable.

“I think there has to be some accountability on this, on these individuals when they do these types of incidents, to hold them accountable but also to show them that there will be repercussions,” he said.

“We don’t want this to be starting on other of our member nations. We want to ensure that this is something that all society, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous looks down and condemns strongly.”

STC Chief Mark Arcand called the sign deplorable.

“It’s a sign of hatred and racism that still exists today … You see this happening now in our First Nations. So, people that are driving through our communities and leaving these kinds of signs to trigger people, to add more trauma is unacceptable.”

Both Arcand and Bear said this shows more work needs to be done in order for reconciliation to happen.

However, they hope to turn this negative situation into a positive.

Bear said she wants an apology from the individual responsible and to educate them about Indigenous peoples and culture.

“I’d like this individual to stand with us and try to understand, maybe attend some of our ceremonies, come and have tea with us, get to know us. I think this individual must not know us, who we are, at all,” she said.