The Nanaimo Daily News has apologized for printing a "racist" letter that stated First Nations have a history that is "notable only for underachievement."

Don Olsen's letter in the Vancouver Island newspaper on Wednesday mounts a pile of criticism on First Nations, saying they "never 'discovered' the wheel," that they never came up with a written language and that they "only 'figured out' a drum and a rattle for musical instruments."

The letter ends with: "Instead of finding their identity and source of pride in some folks who occupied the land 15,000 years ago. Let them stand or fall on their own account. Just like the rest of us have to do."

In a statement on Thursday, a newspaper official said the letter should never have run and apologized for causing readers distress.

Story continues under gallery.

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  • Protest at Nanaimo Daily News

    Protesters gathered at the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/28/racist-nanaimo-daily-news-first-nations-letter_n_2971956.html" target="_blank">Nanaimo Daily News</a> office to demonstrate against the paper's decision to print a letter that insulted First Nations people.

  • Protest at Nanaimo Daily News

    Protesters gathered in front of the Nanaimo Daily News office to demonstrate against the paper's decision to print a letter that insulted First Nations people.

  • Settler Colonial

    Thrifties grocery franchise is pulling their ads from @NanaimoDaily because of the overtly racist commentary it publishes. #CdnPoli #INM

  • Taiaiake Alfred

    Respond to racists like @NanaimoDaily with intelligence &amp; truth like @SettlerColonial http://t.co/mRbInnQX9F And then punch their face: #INM

  • Settler Colonial

    Many thanks to @ThriftyFoods for listening to the community and pulling its ads from @NanaimoDaily. I can continue shopping there everyday.

  • Taiaiake Alfred

    The good people @ThriftyFoods show that not everyone in the VancouverIsland business community is low-down racist like @NanaimoDaily anymore

  • Geneviève Lyons

    Boycott @nanaimodaily and their racist propaganda #bcpoli http://t.co/KZ8VhWbkUx

  • Haptaatuk Marshall

    In case you missed @NanaimoDaily racist article. #cdnpoli #bcpoli #idlenomore #FN http://t.co/14UxUwkaZs

  • Haptaatuk Marshall

    @NanaimoDaily took down racist article,here is pic. FB event #idlenomore #EducateNanaimoDaily https://t.co/zvvLzRMiXH http://t.co/mwr9Ko8BMx

  • Seedy Roads

    @dodge_canada @BMW_Canada So I see you support racism! I will NOT be supporting you! @NanaimoDaily #INM http://t.co/JCtYk1z2dQ

  • fallontine

    @NanaimoDaily your news sucks and you should probably educate your reporters on Canadian colonization

  • Tanya Kappo

    @CKNW Here's Don Olsen's 'facts' he thinks 'public needs to know about First Nations' as published by @NanaimoDaily. http://t.co/0X3hjie6Zj

  • Settler Colonial

    Remember, @NanaimoDaily, you are not issuing a statement of regret that people are upset, you are appologizing for doing something wrong.

  • Michael Allan McCrae

    @NanaimoDaily under fire on social media after a letter to the editor sparked outrage http://t.co/CaldlUSvhG

  • Venturi-Schulze

    @CTVNewsChandler @NanaimoDaily @CTVNewsVI The electronic version of the shocking, hateful editorial has been removed

  • Dana

    @nanaimodaily I guess you're above the Charter but do you think it might inform editorial on letters? http://t.co/vXAksIe4sw @riicnews

  • Shawn Doyle

    @nanaimodaily, I know a few 6 yr olds you could hire to raise the level of discourse in your rag. #noplaceforhatehere

  • Taiaiake Alfred

    Canada a just society? Why don't anti-Native hate speech perps like @NanaimoDaily face the legal consequences that Holocaust denyers do?

"While we would defend Mr. Olsen's right to hold and express his opinion, the sentiments expressed were entirely his own and in no way reflect the views of the newspaper," said Hugh Nicholson, division manager for the Vancouver Island Newspaper Group.

About 100 people including Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan protested in front of the newspaper's office on Thursday afternoon.

Protesters accused the paper of repeatedly publishing offensive letters against aboriginal people, reported CBC News.

"The comments published by the Nanaimo Daily News show deep misunderstanding and ignorance about First Nations peoples," said Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo in a statement. Atleo also called the letter a reminder of Canada's "dark colonial history."

Olsen's letter has since been removed from the newspaper's website, but it has drawn the ire of many on social media who accuse it of being a "racist" screed.

University of Victoria (UVic) professor Taiaiake Alfred asked on Twitter, "Why don't anti-Native hate speech perps like @NanaimoDaily face the legal consequences that Holocaust denyers do?"

Thrifty Foods has reportedly pulled its ads from the newspaper after the letter was printed, tweeted UVic academic and Huffington Post blogger Tobold Rollo.

Rollo also posted his own response on his website, inverting the letter's format and criticisms to apply to "civilized nations."

Critics of the letter started a Facebook group titled "Protest Racist Publications in the Nanaimo Daily News." The group had demanded that the paper issue a front-page "feature-sized" retraction and apology for what it called "irresponsible and hateful messages."

Here's the full text of Don Olsen's letter:

Educate First Nations to be modern citizens

It was only 12,000 years ago, or less and this should be considered, in all those years the so called First Nations:
- never "discovered" the wheel
- never had a written language
- never discovered astronomy
- had no science or scientific discoveries
- had no mathematics
- made no medical discoveries
- never had written music
- only "figured out" a drum and a rattle for musical instruments
- had no metallurgy
- had no sails for boats (only had canoes)
- created virtually no mechanical devices
- possessed almost nothing that required hard manual labour over a period of time, ie. building with or carving out of stone
- made almost no inventions
- are just in the last 200 years getting caught up to most of the rest of the world
- have a history that is notable only for underachievement. Are these people in trouble? Yes.
Do they need help? Yes.
Are they responsible enough to look after themselves and efficiently spend the billions the taxpayers give them? Certainly not.
The only way to fix this situation is to bring them into society as equals. They should be getting jobs and paying taxes like the rest of us because in reality, they are no more special than any of the other hundred or more cultures that call Canada home.
Turn off the taps. Do away with this "traditional use" and "cultural" nonsense. Educate their children to become modern citizens.
Instead of finding their identity and source of pride in some folks who occupied the land 15,000 years ago. Let them stand or fall on their own account.
Just like the rest of us have to do.
Don Olsen, Nanaimo

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