We raided and sold our neighbours as slaves.

Recently, in June 2018, the Oluwo of Iwo made a public apology.

Who’s the Oluwo of Iwo?

He’s the king of the Iwo Kingdom in Nigeria. Iwo is a city in the Osun State in Nigeria, and the Iwo Kingdom is based on this city. The Iwo Kingdom is also a traditional state.

Now what’s interesting about this apology is that it’s specifically about his monarchy. It’s an apology, which admits that his ancestors had condoned and earned wealth from the African slavers who had raided and sold their peers from rival tribes to the Europeans.

It’s very telling to read this honest admittance from a monarch in Nigeria:

“I regret the involvement of traditional institutions in slavery. Monarchs are one of the stakeholders that promoted slavery. We sold our children for a wall clock, tobacco, alcohol, guns, glass cup, wine, necklace, food plate, sweet and other unmerited peanuts such that, today, many Africans are permanently loss to suffer the stigmatization and unfair treatment till date.

I take the bull by the horns to apologize for the role kingship played in slave trade because of material life. Many black Americans are yet to recover from the wound of slavery. I`m apologizing to the accidental blacks in Cuba, Brazil, Caribbeans, America and other parts of the world. I want the victims to acknowledge our regret for the past and we move forward.

White men never forced us to sell our children as slave. Our fathers voluntarily released their children on excitement for peanut. Then, there was no means of payment. Human were offered in exchange for glittering material gifts. Such ignorance shouldn’t have survived without monarchs consent, who by then were the heads. We owe past and current an apology. I’m leading in tendering that.”

The Transatlantic Slave Trade was only possible because it took willing sellers and willing buyers to make this trade happen. So then, there were Africans who raided and sold their peers from rival tribes to the Europeans. Unfortunately, they were willing sellers.

It seems to me that it’s both greed and complicity that these African slavers felt. The Europeans were also cravenly interested in purchasing slaves as guaranteed labour to build and harvest the cash crops for their colonies.

Todd Labrador and the German boat builder

Recently I read about:

He’s a M’ikmaq who builds birch bark canoes, and during this summer he apprenticed Mi’kmaq youth. Where he taught them was at the Millbrook Cultural and Heritage Centre in Millbrook, Nova Scotia. The apprentice program was called the Mi’kmaw Birch Bark Canoe Builder Live Exhibit and Youth Apprentice Program. It started on June 5th and had run for 6 weeks.

What’s interesting is that Todd Labrador had never built a canoe with his own hands until he learned from a German Nova Scotian.

Todd Labrador had learned from his dad, Charlie Labrador, what materials to harvest and use, but his dad had never assembled those materials into a canoe. Todd’s grandfather, Joe Jeremy, had taught Todd’s dad to gather and prepare the materials, but not how to craft those materials into a canoe.

So, during his 20s, Todd Labrador learned to build a birch bark canoe with his own hands from a German Nova Scotian.

The name of that German boat builder was never mentioned by the Globe and Mail nor by the CBC. Either only emphasized that he had learned from other Mi’kmaqs.

In an interview with Beverley Ware of the Halifax Herald on Tuesday April 7th 2009, which was called “Transforming bark to boat“, Todd mentioned the German boat builder:

Todd Labrador’s desire to do that took him to Halifax in his early 20s where he got his first lessons from, of all people, a German man living there. ‘He was fascinated by the First Nations culture,’ Mr. Labrador said, and he set him on his path. ‘I made a lot of mistakes,’ Mr. Labrador grins, but he was an enthusiastic student.

This interview isn’t stored in the online archives of the Halifax Herald. The website archives only go back to 2012.

Instead Dr. Daniel Paul, a Mi’kmaq, had made a copy of the interview on his website.

The full article is also here:

Transforming bark to boat

By BEVERLEY WARE South Shore Bureau

Tue. Apr 7 – 7:21 AM

HEBBS CROSS — With toughened hands, Todd Labrador threads a stripped, wet piece of root from a spruce tree through a hole in the top edge of the birch bark and pulls it out the other side.

It takes effort to yank the entire length of tree root through the hole, and then he lifts it back over the lip of the canoe and threads it back through the birch bark again from the outside.

“It’s hard work, it is,” Mr. Labrador said. His daughter Melissa usually does most of the sewing. She develops calluses as she threads over 15 metres of root over the course of a couple of days. Mr. Labrador is Mi’kmaq and learned the ancient art of making birch bark canoes from his father, Charlie Labrador, who learned from his grandfather, Joe Jeremy.

His grandfather died in 1961, a year after Todd Labrador was born, “but I always heard stories about him from my father,” he said. “I became fascinated by it quite young.”

His dad showed him how to collect birch bark, dig up tree roots and bend wood, but Charlie Labrador had never made a canoe.

Todd Labrador’s desire to do that took him to Halifax in his early 20s where he got his first lessons from, of all people, a German man living there. “He was fascinated by the First Nations culture,” Mr. Labrador said, and he set him on his path.

“I made a lot of mistakes,” Mr. Labrador grins, but he was an enthusiastic student.

He began by making models that ranged from one to two metres and as he did so, he continued to learn from books, his father and by asking elders for their advice.

Today, he has three canoes in a large workshop behind his white and red pine log home, which sits on the edge of Minamkeak Lake in Hebbs Cross, just west of Bridgewater.

Inside the shop, the gentle smells of pine, spruce and ash warm the senses. As he works, Mr. Labrador can watch the wind toss the grey lake water. The ice is gone now, and he’s looking forward to taking one of these canoes down to the water’s edge.

Students from native and non-native schools come here to see the two canoes he made for his family, watch him work on the five-metre canoe that will be ready for launch this June, and learn about the Acadia First Nation.

On the wall over the expansive window hangs a worn birch bark canoe, its old green paint scuffed away in parts. It was made about 100 years ago and given to him by a friend who knows of his passion. “For me, it is a wealth of information. I study it. I look at it.”

It takes him back in time; imbues him with patience and respect.

“If you work with things, they teach you, if you allow them to, and if you go about it in a respectful way. If you’re trying to force a piece of birch bark or a piece of wood, it will break on you. If you think about it, work with the material and respect the material, it is amazing what you can do with it.”

The two finished canoes are works of beauty. Their bark is bleached by the summer sun; they are concrete images of a culture that honours nature.

His craft extends to etching petroglyphic-like pictures onto slate and making drums from deer and moose hides that are stretched over spruce frames, and then painted with designs important to native culture.

He has made seven full-sized canoes that are in such places as the Bear River Cultural Centre in Queens County, Glooscap Heritage Centre in Millbrook and a little museum in Les Ormes, south of Paris, France.

“I’d like to have a bunch of canoes that I can take out, show to people, get people in them and using them and learning about native culture. It’s important to me that they know and that I involve as many people as I can, especially the youth.”

He hopes to take them to the International Canoe Federation’s world championships at Lake Banook this August. But his immediate goal is to make an ocean-going birch bark canoe. It will be bigger — about 6.5 metres — and have a raised hump in the middle.

“It’s something in me I have to do.”

I would like to find out the boat builder’s name because of this:

A German who was living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, had known how to build a birch bark canoe because he was “fascinated with First Nations culture” and he had taken the time to teach Todd Labrador. A German Nova Scotian had valued First Nations culture, and his name should be mentioned in today’s narrative of reconciliation between all Canadians and the First Nations.