July 4, 2012 § 5 Comments
Click on the images to enlarge them:
Editors Note: The following post is in response to a conversation held on the editors Facebook wall.
First of all, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, keep your mouth shut or ask questions!
Secondly, if you at all want to speak to First Nations issues, you have to realize them in all of their complexities; complexities that come with the fact that the whole continent has been REpopulated after the decimation of millions of people, and that the people who survived attempted genocide still live here and want to do some housekeeping.
I am not reverse-racist. I’m very much a victim of racism, and I have been my whole life. I think I will continue to be a victim of racism my whole life. However, I have many white friends, South Asian friends, Nigerian friends, Canadian and American friends, but they’re all friends because we all agree to some baseline respectful principles that define our relationships. I am voicing my recent concern that the status quo in Canada has not been educated to the level that they can responsibly make comments, judgements, or decisions on the current status of First Nations-Crown relations, or the future of the First Nations peoples when it comes to matters of rights and title, privilege, power, and strategy, and that this creates racism in this day and age in 2012. This is not a mistake; this was manufactured intentionally.
What Drew Hayden Taylor, the author responsible for creating this satirical apology to white Canadians, aimed to do with his article was to directly call out members of the dominant society in a power-based relationship on their lack of knowledge, insight, and compassion when observing and participating in their relationship with First Nations peoples.
The relationship in question has been cultivated over time to benefit certain members of society over others. This was and is a racist system, of which all white Canadians are beneficiaries, every single day. There are reasons behind the saying that this continent was built on the genocide of one, and the enslavement of others; reasons like historical truths, evidence, coverups, church records, parliamentary minutes, etc. Can’t get out of that one. The most obvious source of fuckery comes from assumptions stemming from lack of knowledge on these exact issues. This is when things can get ugly fast.
It is false to assume that Canada does not have a colonial history including attempted genocide, despite the blatant lie told by Stephen Harper. It was not always perpetrated with guns in Canada, as was a popular method in the USA for dealing with the “Indian Problem.” Here, smallpox blankets were given out as a sign of friendship, among other actions undertaken by the Dominion of Canada. There is irrefutable evidence of this. Parliament democratically voted in the Indian Act, a system that was designed with the sole intention of separating Indigenous peoples from their right to live unfettered by settler presence, as they saw fit, on the land. The only reason there was outcry in opposition to the White Paper of 1969? It is the only document that officially acknowledges the existence of First Nations peoples to this day.
It is false to assume that canada is a superior country in comparison to the USA. Both actively worked (and work) to diminish Indigenous populations so that there may be more room to settle. There is no moral superiority. It’s all stolen land.
This type of misinformation (both omitted and spread throughout young Canadians’ curriculum) was and still is a directly employed tactic of people who came before us – but not limited to those who came before us. There are people who are aware, and do nothing. This is called complicity. It’s actually punishable by Canadian law in the criminal code, like if you were to house a fugitive or drive a getaway car for a heist.
Then, there are those people who are unaware of the vast array of complexities of this colonial relationship, yet unknowingly reinforce institutions designed to suppress dissent among people being suppressed. You may recognize them by the term, “Get over it.” These people, when they act and vocalize from a place of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge, are largely seen as stupid.
Then, there are people who are aware of all the complexities of the historical and ongoing attempted genocide of First Nations peoples through poisoning, underfunding of baseline institutions providing healthcare and education, failure to provide basic infrastructure for clean water and housing as was agreed upon in original treaties, resource extraction agreements which take advantage of weakened bargaining stances resulting in the poisoning of (communal) air and water sources and food sources, assimilation tactics like residential schools and the idea of multiculturalism (which is problematic and opens the door to more racism) that only legitimize the Canadian occupation of stolen native land, and actively work to protect the advantages won by these crimes against people who are still alive and would-be-well-otherwise today.
There’s a few things with the first comment at the top that I want to point out:
It is not my right to tell someone how to interpret something. This is how the residential school system worked. If it were my right, your children could be in Canadian residential schools designed to ‘cure the whiteness’ in the children, though, in 1904 or something the term used against First Nations was, “beating the Indian out of the child.”
I don’t always have time to hold people gently. Sometimes, it’s just too much patience required to hold someone’s hand through the process of approaching their own whiteness, because that’s their work to do. It’s ok to feel uncomfortable when your white privilege is challenged, as long as you can let that awkward place be one from which learning can happen. The problems arise when that awkward place is one from which fear, anger and resentment come. Lashing out in defense of racist ideals is… well, racist.
As a person of colour, I don’t need to be gentle with people if I don’t have patience. It may not speed things up for you, but it may slow me down in fixing my own community which is an onerous task. It is fair to say that when you, as a white Canadian, come into contact with someone who resents what your country stands for, the responsibility is in your court to change that perception. Becoming an ally and a good neighbor might not be easy, you might not like how it makes you feel to hear the anger and dissent of people still suffering today because of a relationship formed before you were born, and that’s the way it is. Get over it.
People throw around the term ‘oppression’ way too loosely, as well. Someone on the thread that these images were taken from said that they’re tired of Christians being oppressed – no joke! Christianity is the single most powerful religion or corporate institution on the planet today, so when people voice outrage or “hate on” Christianity, it’s not ‘oppression,’ it’s called ‘dissent.’ Oppression is a great deal more serious than someone not liking what happens when a monotheistic society drafts documents decreeing the murder of hundreds of millions of people over different eras of human history. Might I add in the name of a story book. There’s nothing wrong with cultural pluralism – but it’s hard to find a nice monotheism that doesn’t require you to convert or die.
What Bernerner, above, is arguing is that I am labeling him as racist based on his skin colour. This isn’t true. I’m labeling him as a racist because of his repeated use of racist slurs, derogatory and blatant use of stereotyping and harmful imagery of a vulnerable community. What the post attempts to say is that I’m a reverse-racist, when in actuality the post illuminates a racist tendency to defend racist ideals and institutions.
A racist ideal today would be for First Nations to “get over it,” and to “catch up,” with mainstream, contemporary canada; to abandon the struggle for justice leading to peace, and to adopt the morals, principles, religions, worldviews and customs of the dominant society, without the racism-supporting person having to give up anything in this tremendous compromise, let alone imagine a new relationship with First Nations peoples than what exists today. First Nations don’t want that; that being neo-liberal, unregulated capitalism (wealth at any cost to whom and whatever), materialism, and elitism.
What is being asked is not much (for starters). Keep your mouth shut and your thoughts to yourself unless you are of the awareness and education to speak to such complex issues because you can actually do harm through speaking out against peace activists fighting uphill by reinforcing racist notions and ideals; take some of the time out of your day to learn about what is not being told to mainstream Canadian society; ask questions about your own identity (what does it mean to be a Canadian person 50 years ago? What does it mean today?); explore your own personal biases and ask yourself why they exist; and, before being a critical asshole, maybe have some suggested alternative solutions to our many shared problems ready to go (constructive criticism).
To answer Bernerner’s question above – First Nations want good neighbours. They want understanding, and they want to be seen as sovereign nations independent of Canada. They don’t want to be absorbed by Canada because they were here first and are still here. They want cultural pluralism, not multi-culturalism. The original agreement – the contract created during contact – was a two-row wampum belt that illustrated the intended relationship: you stay in your canoe, we’ll stay in ours, and we can be friends going down the river together. This is what First Nations still want.
First Nations want environmental sustainability. This entails no pipelines, no supertankers, no tar sands, no none of that shit. That stuff is so old school, people know that the industries are corrupt, the industries know that the jig is up, and environmentalists the world over are starting to freak out. Scientists lose sleep at night worrying about the environment. Why not imagine new sectors, new green industries built on harnessing clean energy through cooperation and collaboration? First Nations want economic stability. They want jobs for their kids, and their grandkids. They want to make sure that there will be something left for their grandkids and not at the expense of white kids.
“We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
First Nations want to share the land. They want to stop being stigmatized for this vocalization as “greedy Indians.” They want real equity, real peace (which can not be acquired without real justice), and real harmony with all things. Land, spirits, people, animals. First Nations want to build a utopia built on true peace and understanding, with the people who live here now. That truly is one of the most boiled down versions of what I understand as fundamental principles of the diverse array of culturally, historically, politically, and socio-economically sovereign First Nations out there. I say that last statement because I’m not able to speak for the First Nations; I can’t represent over 600 sovereign nations with my article. It’s just an observation.
First Nations seem to want acknowledgement – OFFICIAL acknowledgement of what happened, of how Canada and the USA were formed, right down into the grade 4 social studies books in public schools. They want their story honored before they can begin the work of creating a new country with the people who are here now.
And First Nations are fixing their own problems. Look at me writing here today – Canadian by default, Sahtugotine Dene first.
July 4, 2012 § 1 Comment
My mom spent 20 years in the communities. My dad has been living in Kugluktuk for over 40 years. Where’s my benefits?
You’re entitled to those benefits once you suffer 500+ years of attempted genocide, the dispossession of lands that you occupy, sexual abuse from the church, stigmatization in the media, and biological attacks.
“Well it’s true, land was conquered and therefore stolen. (The Mohicans did it all the time, too… by the way. And raped and killed lots of peeps.) Are you suggesting that there ISN’T space for people to run off and do their own thing? Do you know how much free space AND resources we have in Canada?”
This is not factual. This is a fabrication of Mohican history – and the point is that WE is not inclusive of First Nations people. To First Nations, it’s “our,” but treaties have not been honored, correct royalties are not being paid, and First Nations are not included in decision making. Instead they suffer, like all of the communities pulling deformed fish out of streams and rivers in Northern Alberta.
Free education and priority enrolment, free housing, free money just because.
The point here is that maybe First Nations don’t want to be subjected to this historically one-sided, pro-canadian style of education and don’t want priority enrolment into canadian institutions (Indigenous peoples have had quite enough of that). Some will take it after a 500+ year history of attempted genocide and mass denial so that they can become people capable of radically changing the country they’re forced to live in. Maybe First Nations want market standard homes at market standard prices, or at least the freedom to dictate their own terms of housing including a homelessness action plan, which canada lacks and has been criticized internationally for not having. Maybe what’s wanted is the freedom to dictate their own systems of education; what they learn, how they learn it, and whom they learn it from.
The “free money just because” thing is untrue. It’s money for being fucked over and keeping your mouth shut. A lot of people in “positions of power” are good at this – Federal Minister Leona Aglukkaq lied to the UN Special Rapporteur on Food Security about the conditions in Nunavut. You must remember, Thomas, how much an orange costs in Nunavut. All this after some 20,000 sled dogs were killed by the RCMP in order to stop Inuit migration from happening which effectively destroyed their natural way of life. Racist.
Even for white people who have been adopted by aboriginal families.
This never happens. There are more First Nations children in white homes now than there ever were in residential school. Read ‘In Search of April Raintree.’
So what is the problem? Alcoholism? Suicide? Homelessness? All of these things are HUMAN problems and they affect every member of our society. All of these things are INDIVIDUAL responsibilities. It is not white people’s fault that a native person chooses to drink every day and lose every job and every home because of it.
You can’t get a new hand… so instead of pissing and moaning you have the ability to make something of yourself. If you see yourself as a victim, you will forever be a victim.
I am not a victim. I am the first survivor in a direct chain of generational trauma inflicted on my mom’s side, resulting in the premature death of my older sister and other forms of abuse that most white canadians are not subjected to growing up. I am literally the first person in my family to not go to residential school. I am allowed to be angry.
White people are allowed to feel weird when they read Drew Hayden Taylor’s satirical letter to white canadians. It’s supposed to do that – but it’s not ok to sling racial slurs across someone’s wall in an attempt to voice your frustration with white guilt. Because it’s racist, and disgusting.
June 1, 2011 § 2 Comments
This was a good thing for me, because I knew no one in the city.
I’m at 39,000 feet above sea level again for the second time this week. The first time, I hammered out my first real blog post in three hours, and I plan on at least making it halfway through this one by the time I’m back in the city.
To help me gain some inspiration for another post, I just reread my last one. I feel like it was really drawn out, and that I ended it hastily. I also just gave myself déjà vu by writing that: I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that I ended it hastily. I need to announce my intentions for these first few blog posts more clearly: I am trying to illustrate how I’ve come from where I come from to where I am now, before I begin posting about what I’m doing now.
I did give myself a pass by stating that I’d be devious in choosing my content, and that I would elaborate on things that I felt it necessary to explain. One of the things I feel is necessary to explain is the way I came to be living in a major urban center on the west coast of North America.
As I’d mentioned before, Tiffany and I decided to move to Vancouver together. Tiffany and I first met in my hometown in the Northwest Territories. Where I come from, when an attractive young woman moves into town, everyone notices. And not only do people notice, they get very competitive. I would usually never partake in societal norms, like courting the new girl in town, but on this occasion I was compelled from somewhere very deep within myself. I could tell that this young woman was brilliant before having even spoken a word with her. She was beautiful beyond convention, and it would be worth the trouble of suffering through the small town bullshit to get to know her. There was something about her beyond beauty and intelligence that intrigued me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it then, but I will quote a Quentin Tarantino film and say this: “There are few things more fetching than a bruised ego on a beautiful angel.”
I found out through a friend of mine that she was working at one of the restaurants downtown. I was thrilled! I worked in a restaurant downtown, but I worked in the trendier, busier and better paying restaurant. Soon after a few public exchanges of smiles, I heard that she was in the market for a better job. Eventually, with the help of one of my girlfriends, it was arranged that I would come to the restaurant she worked in while I was on one of my breaks, in order to strike up conversation. I don’t think I can call what happened initially, “conversation,” so much as refer to it as stammering, stuttering, and especially, choking. After the first two or three minutes, I could tell I was perceived as no threat and perhaps even likable. She thought I was cute! Basically she had me at hello and I was butter melting on the barstool, and as it turns out, I had had her before we’d even met. She’d asked the same mutual friend to connect us.
We started hanging out at my sweet man pad, downtown. Because she stayed with her Dad, we would kick it at my house and watch movies and stuff like that. I was just barely 19 at the time, she was 23. I recall that on the second visit to my house, we put on a movie in my bedroom, and because I was so intimidated/impressed by and attracted to this young woman, there was at least a foot and a half of empty bed space between us on my bed. Tiffany still makes fun of me for it, because after half an hour of our feet inching towards each other’s, she led the charge and kissed me. If I could have moved any slower I would have been moving backwards. I can’t help but smile when I think about that kiss.
We were together for years, and it seems like decades to me. That might be because it was the first significant relationship of my life. It might also have been our differences in age and experience: she’d been through three years of university, and I’d never left my hometown. In the first year, we discovered some striking similarities with one another, though. One major discovery was that both of our mothers had suffered massive brain aneurysms. My mother’s aneurysm had almost killed her, and massively debilitated her for the rest of her life. Tiffany’s mother’s aneurysm claimed her life, and it was because of this loss that Tiffany had found her way to my hometown. I discovered that Tiffany was on a path: she was walking the healing path. Through Tiffany, we discovered that I was also on a path: I was walking the war path.
I was beginning to find an enemy in myself, and was battling to find high ground from which to understand my struggle more intimately. I had grown up exposed to great traumas. My family life was nothing close to conventional. I could understand concepts like racism, abuse, and addictions before I was even in school. I used to wish that my skin wasn’t brown until I was 15. Tiffany experienced some of these ugly realities early in her life as well, and promised herself that she’d never let them happen to her. She would command respect and it would be given to her. I had much to learn from her.
When we were together, I was trying to feign understanding in order to mask my conflicted inner dialogue. I was a very passionate, very jealous young man. Growing up, I’d always understood that jealousy was a way to assert intention, or to show that you care about someone. I couldn’t see that jealousy is systemic of feeling ownership, or having your ownership threatened? On the surface, the water would be calm, but I would be operating a steam works below the skin. Worst of all, I couldn’t talk to Tiffany about it because I didn’t feel like I was equipped to have that conversation with her. So I let everything that bothered me about our relationship stagnate in an attempt to suffocate it. To explain why I could become so insecure and irrational, I told her that I was in love with her while we were in a fight on her balcony, early one afternoon. It only took her 8 hours to tell me that she was in love with me, too, and she did it on a napkin at the bar we were now both working at. I was very much in love with her, and still love her. I suspect that I always will.
We went to Shambhala with our friends in 2007. It was a reconnaissance mission for me, in retrospect. I pretty much stumbled around the Kootenay acreage with a gaping smile, taking mental notes. What did I not bring that I wish I had? What did I bring that I didn’t even use? Where should we try to camp next year? What should I wear? How do I make this better? I could barely recognize myself by the end of the five days. I had adapted to be a person I had never fathomed I was capable of becoming. To try to illustrate the sentiment, I had become the person I had always wanted to be, but did not know how I had become him. I couldn’t trace my evolution from Wednesday to Monday, and this bothered me so much for worry of not being able to do it again. So much that I cried for myself on a bench in the forest with Tiffany and Allen beside me on either side.
After Shambhala, when we all had to return to the default world, I had already lost it. And I wasn’t finding it either, no matter how hard I looked. I blamed my small, isolated community. I probably blamed a lot of things in order to spare myself the blame. Tiffany, Sean, Allen and I started living together that fall, and we were a dysfunctional bunch. Not one of us was equipped with the patience or understanding to help the others out of the very personal spirals we were all going through. My fights with Tiffany, often over jealousy, became worse and worse. My heart pains to think that at one point, I became so angry, that I actually scared Tiffany into locking me out of our apartment.
She loved me like a roaring fire, though, and wasn’t going to leave me out in the cold yet. We all survived the winter, if barely. With spring on our doorstep, and summer right around the corner, things were looking up. Winter had been very hard for Tif and I especially, but we had somehow forged this incredible love in the heat of our battles. Our relationship’s foundation had been weakened, though. It had been cracked, and we didn’t trust one another. This was the beginning of our ending.
Shambhala 2008 found me flirting with escapism. Our foundation was crumbling beneath us, and I couldn’t be around her. I felt horrible: I was running from her in a place that I should have been running to her. She was the love of my life, and my own guilt kept me from being in her proximity. I could see it damaging her, and I hated myself for it. There were enough distractions to keep myself occupied for periods at a time, but when I wanted to fall asleep with her, I couldn’t. We couldn’t leave the festival and get back on the road soon enough.
We found a two-bedroom apartment near Main and Hastings shortly after arriving in Vancouver. Tiffany found work at a nice lounge, and I couldn’t find a job to save my life. We had a little bit of fun making a home with her best friend Will, and lived together for three months. Things looked ok from the outside.
I decided to go home for six weeks over Christmas. I was going to go and work in a clothing store I had been managing until I had moved away that fall, and when I came back in January, we were going to work things out. It was going to be the most mature thing we’d ever done for each other. We were going to make it.
When I came back, things had changed so much that we weren’t going to make it. We intended to do amazing things for each other, but it was time for us to do amazing things for ourselves. We were going to have to do the most mature thing we’d ever done for the other. We let each other go.
I asked Tif to move out, because she had a strong network of university acquaintances and friends from back home, so she agreed that it was a good idea. This was actually a good thing for me, because I knew no one in the city, and was now forced to make my own life. I got a job working at a coffee shop on Commercial Drive, and started making my own friends. Before long, I was going to shows, snowboarding, experiencing the city. I hated living in Vancouver the whole time I’d been there, but after experiencing some of what I could take from the city I started to like it a little bit. It had been mind over matter the whole time.
This was about the time I made friends with the gang of young, sexy travelers on Wreck Beach. Shortly after meeting them, and I mean like two days later, I was back in the North working and living and waiting until I was finally ready to go back South for more. I had lost my job at the coffee shop on the Drive: it was during my three-month probation period that I missed a third shift as the full time opener. This was actually one of my best friends’ faults. I was let go and was forced to return home to save money and to try again, and I would. I had been given a taste, and I had developed a hunger.
This is how I first came to be living in Vancouver. Thank you for reading, and again, I’m sorry this was such a long post. I need the reader to understand my journey before I start posting content that’s current and interesting to me. There will be a couple more of these, please stay tuned!