Following searing indignation across social media, a Canadian publisher will recall a textbook that rather obliquely claimed First Nations and Indigenous people happily “agreed to” move for European settlers.
The textbook, which was apparently supposed to teach third graders about Canadian history, presented a stunningly whitewashed interpretation of European colonialism. “When the European settlers arrived, they needed land to live on,” read the textbook. “The First Nations peoples agreed to move to different areas to make room for the new settlements.”
Hm. While there is an understandable need to phrase potentially complex historical concepts, this revisionist history is simply inaccurate — and perpetuates a narrative of white charitable conquest. There are certainly other ways to explain how European settlers unjustly stole land from people who were there first at a third grade-level. If a third-grader can understand “moving out,” surely they can also understand “forced from their homes.”
Popular Book Company Canada (an unfortunate name for a company that is presently quite unpopular) first said it would revise the “Complete Canadian Curriculum Grade 3” book in later editions. But revision was not enough, because, duh! Now the Ontario-based company will recall the book, per a statement released on Facebook.
The textbook didn’t provide an “accurate depiction of the interaction” between Canada’s First Nations and settlers, Popular Book Company wrote in a statement on Tuesday. Interaction, again, is an extremely benign descriptor, but what can you expect from a company that okayed such glaringly whitewashed text? Their apology wasn’t much better.
“We would also like to apologize to the First Nations’ communities, our customers, vendors, and partners,” the statement read. “We know that we have to do better and we know that it will take us some time to improve upon this experience and earn back your trust.”
If by “do better” they mean actually read a textbook’s copy and reflect on its accuracy then perhaps customers’ trust might be regained. But this wasn’t an oversight, it reflects a systemic tendency to make pleasant a history that is decidedly unpleasant.