Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Words & Meanings Part II

"Each person must live their life as a model for others" - Rosa Parks.

Below are my tweets from this afternoon at the BCTF Annual general meeting. My response to a rather dramatic debate over a resolution regarding the disposition of Indigenous peoples in a region of Peru. I was struck by the passion of a group of young delegates who argued in favour of lobbying Talisman Energy to withdraw from the territories of the Achuar people. I was also struck by the anger with which they attacked those who opposed their resolution. It was not nice.

As in my previous post, I remind that words have power, they can harm and and they can heal. While their hearts were in the right place, their words were the words of the oppressor, used to advance the cause of Indigenous rights. I am not happy about that. To use language that silences and marginalizes the other in the name of Indigenous rights is a disservice to what those advocates are fighting for. Those words hurt me, as an Indigenous person. Why would I want to support them in fighting for my rights?

disappointed in voices fighting for Indigenous rights using the language of oppression to push their viewpoint.

the language of oppression, the language that silences and marginalizes the other voice is not the language of Indigenous rights.

to fight for Indigenous rights means you should dignify the voice of those that disagree, allow them to be heard and considered.

marginalizing in the name of Indigenous rights is not fighting for Indigenous rights.

We cannot allow ourselves to oppress in the name of the oppressed, I say that as a First Nations person.

I encourage you to honour, respect and dignify all voices, regardless of position on a resolution.

Words have power. They can hurt. They can heal. I hope that champions of Indigenous rights here don't continue to hurt in our name

Fight for Indigenous rights, I thank you, but do it with a good heart and a good mind. Hurts from angry words are hard to let go.

And the words used to oppress me and my fellow Indigenous shouldn't be necessary to fight for our rights.

Let's find better words. Thank you for your time and consideration. O'Siyam.

**Update** After writing this post, I had to return to the AGM for another session and while I was waiting to begin, I found I was still dwelling on this subject and I went to the mic and called a point of privilege, at which point, I laid out for the body of the whole what I had written above in the tweets.  It was terrifying but it needed to be said. If you refer to what I wrote in the first post, you will see I talked about coming to speak with courage, and I needed to dignify those speakers that had been victimized by the language referred to above and I needed to call out the activists, who had invoked the fight for Indigenous rights in their silencing and marginalization of the other speakers.  I have been silenced and marginalized too many times to let someone use my rights as an excuse to do the same to another.  I was also needing to address the fight for Indigenous rights invocation without actually welcoming any Indigenous voices to the table.  I don't stick my neck out often, as I have, sometimes shamefully addressed here, but I am proud that I spoke out tonight, however short my time at the mic was allowed to be.  I said what needed to be said and I did encourage the body of the whole to respect, dignify and honour all the voices and positions present.  They deserve that much.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Rob,

    I can relate. I think the phrase "be the change you want to see in the world" sums it up best. If you want to see peace, treat others gently. If you want to see dignity, speak to others (and about others) respectfully.

    I'm glad that you had the courage to stand up and I hope they heard you.