Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reflecting on National Aboriginal Day

Sometimes this one is called Aboriginal Solidarity Day.  That’s what we were calling it last year.  Speaking in terminology meant to reinforce our commitment as Indigenous people to stand together and resist assimilation and ongoing oppression within Canada.  I believe it was meant to mean we were standing for our missing & murdered women and in support of Sisters in Spirit who were losing funding for their project to chronicle the missing and the murdered.  I believe it was meant to speak to First Nations people (Status and non, status, off and on reserve), Métis and Inuit, to remind us that we are all in this together and we would all stand or fall together.

Yeah, I know... just words.  They were meant to empower and allow us to feel better about ourselves.  I used them and felt good. 

This year, one of my Twitter friends used the term and I replied in kind.  And that was it.

So, what has changed in the year?

Politically, we were played again.  The divisions in our, ahem, status in the legal sense raised its head, particularly at federal election time.  We, who have the privilege or curse of Status, were divided along the lines of voter and the non-voter.  Not in the apathetic sense, although that was more than present, but also in a political sense, as we wrestled with what it means as First Nations to participate in an election?  Was it a renunciation of our sovereignty, as some claim, or a hypocritical act, claiming nationhood in more than one nation?  Or was it an opportunity to be heard, to be visible?  I argued that we needed that and that it is possible to exist in multiple figured worlds or nationhoods.  It would seem the other side won this particular battle. 

The divisions between Status and non-Status grew more confusing, as the McIvor decision was implemented.  While I consider this a positive, many more people will receive Status and the legal recognition, it does make it a challenge for Bands to manage the new numbers on the limited land they have maintained control over and the limited dollars flowing from Ottawa.

While I am thrilled, as well, that the government removed the clause in the Human Rights Act that exempted the Indian Act and its wards from the Act, I note as well that the government has also downloaded the discriminatory practices in health and housing onto Bands, without providing the infrastructure and financial means to ensure that they are not discriminating against members, ensuring that there may be human rights claims against each other for practices the government carried out.

I cannot speak to issues surrounding the Inuit and Métis, as I am not very familiar with their stories, something I hope to correct some day.  At any rate it will be an interesting time ahead and I am wondering what the implications are for all of this?  On me? On my students and colleagues?

As most of my posts appear to be doing lately, this one is incomplete and I will likely do other posts to expand on it, as it ties into the identity question I have been pursuing.

PS- I spent National Aboriginal Day in an elementary school and I had a good time.  I will speak to that in another post, as I am running out of time right now.

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