John A. McDonald still remembers the day he walked into a park in Cambridge, U.K., about 90 minutes north of London, and claimed Britain for the First Peoples on Turtle Island.
“I had a beaded buckskin jacket, a t-shirt with an image of big bear on it and I was carrying the flag,” he told APTN News.
“I walked into this crowded park in Cambridge, people started gathering around because it was kind of an odd thing to see this guy carrying a flag and and I said to the crowd ‘this is the first time I’ve ever been here. I am a stranger from a strange land I see a people with their own civilization, their own culture, their own government, their own way of praying, their own way of life, an established civilization but in the tradition of Cartier, of Columbus, of Cortez and Champlain and all these explorers, in that tradition this didn’t exist until I got here, I discovered for the First Peoples of the Americas and I claim it for the First Peoples of the Americas.’
“I stuck the flag in the ground and got applause.”
McDonald is a member of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.
He grew up on the west flat of Prince Albert and was named after his father.
“My father was John McDonald, technically I would be John McDonald Jr. He always told me he named me after the first thing he found in his pocket which was a 10 dollar bill. It’s a good thing he didn’t have a 20 otherwise I would be name Elizabeth,” McDonald jokes.
McDonald says since he nearly shares the same name as the man on the ten dollar bill and who has several statues of his likeness across the country, he get a lot of social media requests.
“What happens is with the whole people wanting to bring the statues down they will type in ‘bring down John A Macdonald’ but instead of spelling it the way he spells it (Mac rather than Mc) they spell it like me and I end up getting tagged in their messages,” he said.
“My social media inbox is usually full of messages about posts bringing the statues down.”
Ironically, McDonald, who was just 19 when he walked into that park, was attending the University of Cambridge on a history scholarship.
Now two decades later, with statues of John A. MacDonald bring brought down, maybe it’s time for the new John to claim his role in history.
“The last 20 years have taught me that the narrative of explorers is buttressed by ignorance and toppled by the truth, but only if those holding up the biased narrative can be deeply shook inside.”