Friday, April 22, 2011

On Becoming Visible- Please Vote...

Just a quick post here, as I realized that there is advanced polls taking place for Canada's general election.  I was interviewed recently for an article on MediaIndigena for the article Should First Nations be part of Canadian elections?50 years after getting the vote, the debate rages on by Martha Troian.  There is an ongoing debate regarding whether First Nations people should participate in the vote, do we surrender a part of our sovereignty in voting in Canadian elections?  Do we weaken our stances and claims of nationhood  by casting a ballot?

Dr. Taiaiake Alfred makes the argument that we do give up a part of ourselves and our independence by participating in general elections.  I do disagree with him, although I do not believe that there is anything wrong with taking this position, which is shared by many First Nations' people across Canada. 

I do, however have to take a different stance on the subject and it is because there is too much going on that affects us as First Nations people to ignore and not have a say in.  We face many critical challenges today.  How are we fighting to protect our water rights and the right to access clean water on our reserves?  How are we ensuring that our missing and murdered women are being properly investigated and resolved?  How are we ensuring that there is no way for people to believe it is okay that these women are disappearing?  How are we ensuring that the needs of our people and our children are being looked after?

By staying away from the voting booth?

In Martha's article, Joseph Quesnel says “just because you don’t take an interest in politics, doesn’t mean politics will take an interest in you. You become part of someone else’s design for political life.”

Do we let others make the decisions on how we live our lives? Yes, that is what a democratic society does, but we are allowed to influence those decisions by voting.  What happens when we choose not to vote on the people who will be deciding our fates?  What is happening to First Nations now?  By choosing not to exercise the right to vote, we become invisible. 

I have talked to my students about resistance.  How do we resist colonialism?  How do we resist assimilation?  How do we resist losing our identity?  Our students are expected to fail, and the ones that fail as an act of resistance are not failing the education system, they are failing themselves and their Bands.  They are reinforcing the belief that we are failures.  I encourage my students to resist by succeeding.

I am also encouraging those that are old enough to, to vote.  Resist assimilation by ensuring that your voice is heard.  If Aboriginal people were to go out and vote, we would be heard and listened to.  Resist by ensuring that we don't become invisible.

Please vote on May 2nd.  I don't care for whom you vote, listen to the candidates and make your choice, but, please, make the choice.