*UPDATE 2012: This post is a biggie. Leave it open on your browser. Come back to it often. Soak it up in all of it’s entirety. Please.*
In lieu of the upcoming holidays; there is much to be thankful for, much to discuss in love and unity, much to reconsider. I was in a debate recently over FB. Yea, Facebook. It happens. It was in response to this video being posted by a wise friend.
A white, Canadian male friend. Not that his skin colour or nationality/culture matters to ME, but let’s be real – the commentary that ensued from non-Native peeps is bound to be very different. And it was. I have seen the video in circulation amongst my mixed and full blood Native friends, as well as friends from other cultures, white Canadians etc. Talk about opposing views.Why the debate? Surely most if you know why. Because this video, in asking us to reconsider; lays at the heart of much controversy, ignorance, misinformation and unfortunately at many times – racism. Just read the commentary under the above video on YouTube.
This reconsideration is not something that only the U.S. needs to take responsibility for. Thinking as such implies that OUR Canada does not have it’s own truths to fess up to. To be honest about; in all of it’s entirety, good and bad, void of cover-ups, niceties and in many cases, straight up lies. Sure, we had Mr. Harper’s apology and Layton’s response to his apology, and various articles written about it such as this. So. Aboriginal people should ‘just hush about it already. Get over it.’
Contrary to popular belief, money isn’t what we’re all after. Personally? I taking note on what the Canadian government and much of it’s society really thinks of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; when they quietly tiptoed out as as part of a federal submission to a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case regarding First Nations child welfare funding levels. It is this submission of the [D]eclaration, where I can’t help but surmise it, (the Declaration), is meaningless in Canada and apparently shouldn’t be used to determine cases having to do with the human rights challenge.
In my eyes, a federal promise to consider abiding by, “international standards for the treatment of indigenous peoples”, is amounting to little more than an effectively empty ‘endorsement’, (tokenism) when such other things as the Indian Act (no matter the amendments), still exists today. I know it is not as simple as eradicating it with the snap of my fingers, just as ignoring the truths adds to breeding ignorance and feeding the hate.
Please. Take some time to listen/view this brilliant Canadian and philosopher and writer, John Ralston Saul. This dude knows what’s up.
So. While we may not out-right ‘celebrate’ Columbus Day; we can surely still take note. For example, many celebrate Thanksgiving under the same demise. Yesterday’s genocide of my ancestors was not as pleasant as sitting down to a nice feast over an exchange of goods, anytime. Ever. The history books LIE.
Today’s appropriation of my culture isn’t as cool as Juliette’s Lewis’ headdress appears to be.
The opinions expressed here are just my humble take. I in no way have it all figured out or deem that my opinions are right. These issues are explicitly complicated; mired in years of genocide, colonialism, sorrow, pain and regret. Illness, tragedy, abuse and guilt on all sides. As a woman who has survived teen rape, young adult/child physical, mental and sexual abuse – I can safely say, it is not sympathy or a ‘free ride’ we are looking for as MANY folks I come across, or read about put it.
We want the truth. We wish to speak out-loud and tell our stories without being publicly admonished and shamed. In speaking out about and sharing our stories…if this helps in the healing process and helps prevent the vicious circle of falling down a dark path in life, then SO BE IT. Shame to those who can’t handle the truth and try to silence it.
Perhaps there are some looking for that, (a free ride) as within ALL cultures, all people. Human beings in general…yes. Some are lazy. Some are irresponsible. Some though, suffer from the generational cycle of violence, mental illness and can’t get on in life as well as ‘expected’. Many families and communities have been emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually ripped apart from the decades of Residential Schools. Overcoming all of those things? “SO EASY.” Said no psychotherapist, ever. The theories and research of psychology and our traditional elders are a blessed thing, which should be respected.
There are some who are the strongest fighters and survivors imaginable. Souls who have had access to stable, healthy, consistent love; a supportive community with social/academic/healing resources. Some are are lucky enough to not suffer from mental illness/addiction as a result of darkness, hate and decades of colonization. Many do not have these communities or social and healing resources available. Many Native communities have been stripped of and admonished for practicing their own ceremonies, living by their own beliefs system, speaking their own language. Their children stolen from them.
Heck, even today many reservation communities do not have clean drinking water. Obviously if such a bare necessity as that is not available – it does not take a rocket scientist to imagine how fraught with affliction those communities must be.
It’s a hard truth to swallow for nice folks to acknowledge there are masses of white Canadian folk who believe First Nations (or Aboriginal people’s in general); to be lazy, whining, addiction infested, pilfering excuses for human beings. Or ‘uncivilized, savage pagans.’ Or ‘mystically naive, tree hugging, barbarians.’
Yea. Pretty nasty stuff huh?
It’s not just the hate that contributes to the ignorance of the bigger picture. Blaming everything on America; taking on a naive approach to suggesting how easily we can fix our problems, (without first researching the possible history of their ‘original ideas’). By making suggestions that have already been thoroughly explored and executed; this contributes to the perception that we are helpless, unintelligent, incapable peoples. We, as a people, actually have intelligent ways of our own. Our own forms of proactive action happening in great huge waves, by way of official organizations and movements; as lawyers, doctors, artists, writers, teachers, philosophers, tradesmen/women, engineers. Hunters, elders, healers, singers. Mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters.
It is so, ‘cardigan Canadian’ to assume that we (when I say we – I mean white folks, of which I am partially just that), have all the answers, by making ‘helpful suggestions.’ It is WAY more difficult, strife with political tape, than any ONE apology with ONE solution could ever resolve. There is no resolve here. We could, however, begin to update to our history books and school curriculum (and how about implementing the languages)? We could begin updating our calendar system(s), (to be bilingual; complete with the moon phases, added Aboriginal days of remembrance and ceremony celebrations world-wide).
Wrapping up these issues into one little box? Dubbed the ‘Aboriginal Problem’? It takes attention away from what I am really trying to draw attention to – which is we. Canada. Have our own torrid history. That should not continue to be white-washed. Without the guilt and hate that comes from both sides. Pretty high hopes of me, I know.
It’s a sad time we are in, that, (to quote a song-line from the band Digging Roots,) ‘where the oppressed become the oppressors.’
I went to school in Canada and was not taught about our REAL history. Sure there was some token stuff, and perhaps if I had had different teachers/parents that didn’t shove their personal hang-up/opinions down my throat…or even more subtly still - I may have entered into adult-hood better prepared. Not as ignorant. All it takes is JUST ONCE to raise an idea or help to form an opinion in a youth’s impressionable mind.
From one extreme…
My partner has shared with me he was never taught half of this Nation’s real history, with or without the label of being secularized, ‘Aboriginal History’. As a young woman on her own, free of familial forbidding, pouring through undiscriminated chosen books at York U library, is how I was made partially aware.
I had to meet my people. I had to become immersed in the community for this knowledge and path of discovery to commence. Which is all good – all I am saying is that HEAVY digging was involved. Which for me, personally – as I discover my own roots – is fine. And as it should be. But for the average person? Who is on a path of knowledge, nothing to do with discovering their own ancestry? Not so much. History is not published as it should be. For the most part. In the Westernized hemisphere.
That’s where I discovered Cree writer, political leader, teacher, negotiator and lawyer; Dr. Harold Cardinal, may he rest in peace. I highly suggest one of his books if you have not read it; my personal favourite, ‘Unjust Society‘. I then discovered Basil Johnston, who took me to a place of initial shock with all I discovered within his many fictional and non-fictional books and then adoration with how beautifully he wrote. That is where I discovered the madness and brilliance of John Trudell. These, are just drops in the bucket. This quest for knowledge and learning path has CHANGED me. Forever and in deep, resounding waves.
There is realism that we cannot deny. There is a lack of knowledge and ignorance concerning these subjects due to misinformation and sometimes; plain old prejudice. I worked on a calendar project with the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, and I found many calendars through our research that do have Columbus Day on it. Right here in Canada. Especially those made in the smaller towns, more remote areas or by smaller companies and yes – churches. That’s just what we found. All I know is that there are many still in circulation with good ‘ole C Day on them.
If everyone were taught the same, and all of the truths of Canada were really in our History books, ugly or not -then we would not have Canadian journalists writing such garbage as this with the resulting commentary and opposing / support groups from Canadian readers. Or this NYC media strategist and CEO of GrandCentralPolitical.com spewing off her idea that, ‘Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics are peddling a politically correct fantasy’. There would not be such controversy over it. There would not be such conflicting opinions and unhealthy debate over it all.
In the spirit of this holiday to give thanks, I leave you with this.
May we all gather together, Native, Non-Native and mixed blood, with our friends and family to hold hands and hearts over spectacular feasts and remember those who are less fortunate, their stories and how lucky we truly are to have one another. Let us practice the ceremony and teachings of our elders and ancestors over harvest – with joy. May we revel in the rich bounty of mother earth and thank her animals for their nurturing sacrifice. Let us pray for all the strength of our dignified voices – to be heard with respect.
‘We are, we are, we are – a revolution, not solution, to all this confusion…we are’, Digging Roots > literally and proverbially.