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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Nation to Nation... Right, he Mutters Sarcastically



I have been trying to write a response to the comments made by Canada’s Governor General, David Johnston, regarding Indigenous peoples being immigrants to Canada (See the CBC Radio interview on The House or the transcription below by Jonathon Goldsbie of Canadaland), but I am not sure how to proceed. Mr. Johnston is following a straw man argument that is pulled up regularly by colonial governments and scholars who are trying to reinforce the idea of Terra Nullius, or the idea that these lands were uninhabited and therefore open to settlers to control. In this case, they argue that the Indigenous claim to the land over settlers is invalid because we too are immigrants, albeit several tens of thousands of years earlier. I first encountered this argument in the book First Nations, Second Thoughts by Thomas Flannigan, the long discredited but still influential former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whom appointed Johnston. I say it is a straw man argument because it has no validity, particularly in light of the face that several tens of thousands of years of occupation means you are no longer an émigré and even if it were, stealing the land of another émigré is counter to the whole legal tradition Canada claims to adhere to. 

Regardless, the fact that this is continually brought up, in this day and age, and by Canada’s Head of State, is very problematic. While he may not have many official powers, he is the Head of State and the signatory on all laws that are passed and given Royal Assent. What he says matters, whether we like it or not and he is downplaying Indigenous peoples, our rights and our claims to sovereignty over our lands, unceded or otherwise. That he says this days after the current Prime Minister signed a problematic Memorandum of Understanding with the Assembly of First Nations, a lobby group, to ostensibly renew a nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations just furthers the view that Canada is only paying lip service to their statements and promises to First Nations and other Indigenous peoples.

Like I said, I don’t know what to say from here. 


photo courtesy of @goldsbie on Twitter

Monday, June 12, 2017

Seduction, Complicity, Outrage, Repeat: Some thoughts on the AFN/Canada MOU



The more things change, the more they stay the same. June is Aboriginal History Month and is being subsumed by the overwhelming, and annoying, Canada 150 activities and preparations, while the Canadian government is continuing to not do the right thing while promoting how they are doing the right thing. The difference, of course, is this is Mr. Trudeau and not Mr. Harper, which seems to be a surprise to everyone except those of us who have ever paid attention. The Canadian government has always acted against the interests of First Nations people, regardless which of political party has been running the show at any given time. Trudeau promised a new relationship, a Nation-to-Nation relationship with First Nations. As per the norm, this is proving not to be the case.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

REAL, INDIGENOUS PEOPLE! Some Brief Reflections on Wonder Woman, Thunderheart & (sort of) Teaching



Inside the behemoth hit film, Wonder Woman, a welcome and long overdue newcomer to the all-white male movie superhero landscape, stands a supporting character known as Chief, portrayed by Blackfoot actor, Eugene Brave Rock. By all accounts, the character is not just another caricature, Brave Rock and director Patty Jenkins were allowed to create a real, complete character even for the supporting role he was playing. The character is complete beyond stereotype. Irritatingly, the last Native character I saw in a superhero film was Adam Beach’s role in Suicide Squad and he emerges from a car, hits a woman and says she deserved it. I haven’t had the opportunity to see Wonder Woman yet, I really want to but am watching my money at the moment. It will be the first one I see when I can.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Particular Relationships: Some Belated Thoughts on the #appropriationprize



I had been contemplating, for some time now, a return to writing and blogging. The itch was there and needed scratching, my last post on my education blog, Where Are the Sheep, having been in early 2014, with a short one-off in 2016 addressing the whole Boyden thing. The itch had been tempered by a number of challenges, not the least of which was the feeling that I had very little to say and the acknowledgement that there were, and are, others speaking much more articulately and thoughtfully than I ever was ever able. Further to it is the ongoing challenge that I have witnessed this past week in social media and Canadian mainstream media: the ongoing effort to marginalize and silence Indigenous voices that speak out. A contributing factor to my hiatus from blogging was the angry, mainstream, usually white, voices that pushed back rather violently against us when we presented our epistemologies and views online, in the classroom or anywhere that the dominant Canadian colonial worldview and understanding has been maintained and encouraged. I was driven out because I could not emotionally handle that silencing. I worry that I still can’t, as evidenced by my limited attempts to engage online beyond a lot of retweeting and article sharing, choosing instead to let other voices carry the flag. This violence pushed me out of my teaching career and into my currently fledgling film career. I still want to have a voice and say what I need to say but I am still looking for the right way to do it.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Very Incomplete Thought on the Whole Boyden Thing

Why does this whole Boyden controversy matter? Why are we so obsessed with this whole identity thing? I wish I could say it doesn't but unfortunately that would be a lie because we live in a society that seeks to categorize us by who we are or aren't and permits us our identity as Indigenous peoples within some narrowly defined parameters. Parameters that are defined by the Settler Canadian majority and impressed upon us by their acceptance of the few voices that non-Native Canada chooses to privilege with "authenticity." The rest of us are forced to defend our own Indigenous authenticity to non-Natives in constant, repeating cycles while those granted a voice are permitted a straight course of acceptance within Canadian society. As a result, when we, needing to decide regularly if we want to go through the fight again and again, see inconsistencies in the one privileged by Canada with a voice, we want to question said inconsistencies because that free pass he has may have been granted as a result of him being the Indian they want, not the Indian we are.