Thursday, July 28, 2011

This is an Education Issue...

Over the summer of 1990, I saw something extraordinary happen.  I witnessed, via television and the newspapers and the words of my Elders, a group of Mohawks stand up to the governments and armed forces around them and say “No more!”
I witnessed nation after nation, all across this land stand up with them and say “No more!”
And I started to pay attention.
There was a swagger in the steps of the Native students who rode the bus with me to school in the Fall.  I remember that I started to challenge my teachers more on some of the things we were learning in class.  My big public speaking speech was on the Kanehsatatรก:ke Resistance.  I left Social Studies angry quite often.
All around me, things were changing.  Governments were actually starting to sort of listen to the grievances of Aboriginal people.  Courts began to recognize Aboriginal Rights and started telling everyone that they needed to be recognized and respected. The last twenty years have actually been sort of a renaissance for Aboriginal people, a re-awakening if you will.
I have shared with you, struggles we face in the education system, the most important posts being those early ones Why do we need AboriginalEducation? and What’s at Stake.  I have brought forth my hopes and concerns about what I have seen as a fallback in some areas of Aboriginal education and raised some issues that need to be addressed ( I hope).
I was always hopeful.
Then I saw the news items below.  I won’t recap them, read them yourselves, but I will say that they are alarming, scary and disappointing.  What hope is there in recommendations out of an inquiry if we aren’t going to let the voices of the victims be heard?  What hope is there that we will continue on the path towards reconciliation when the governments of this country seem so intent on returning to the status quo founded in a pre-Oka era?  When we can’t even get the government to recognize our right to clean water, what hope is there?  What hope is there, when we can’t protect our women and children?  Work without giving up a piece of who we are as Aboriginal people?
Aboriginal education is not just about getting Aboriginal kids graduated.  Aboriginal Education is about educating the general population about the history and lived experiences of Aboriginal people so that some form of fairness might be brought forth.  We shouldn’t have to live in fear that our women and children will disappear.  We live at the whims of the Governments of this country, much more so than any other Canadian; and the changes in policy, the changes in economy, and any changes are felt much more acutely by many Aboriginal families.
The fact that the Governments are changing the rules again is unacceptable.  This is an education issue.
The fact that it feels like we are quietly setting aside the progress that has been made over the last twenty years is unacceptable.  This is an education issue.
The fact we are becoming invisible again is unacceptable. 
This is an education issue. 

Ottawa bargaining in bad faith on land claims, native groupssay

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Identity Crisis?

Please accept my apologies for the neglect I have been inflicting on this blog.  I have had a number of different things going on and have been unable to focus on any one thing all the time.  As you are aware, I have been frustrated by my current lack of employment, an issue that has driven me up the wall and had something of a negative effect (affect?) on my productivity and my confidence as a teacher.  Beyond that, it has had a bit of a detrimental effect on my inspiration regarding issues that I could and should address.


Apart from that, I have been distracted by the planning and production of the second season of Back in the Day.  I spent the last couple of weeks in northern Alberta with the mosquitoes, the heat and a spectacular thunderstorm that seemed to last days.  I lived in a day-tent up the hill from our participants, whom were rather comfortable and warm in a tee-pee. 

I won’t bore you with the behind-the-scenes drama that took place, although I did find it amusing and disturbing all at the same time, I am told that drama takes place on location all the time.  I was fascinated, however, by the group of participants we recruited from Edmonton.  Any of you, who may have seem the first season of the show, may remember some of the drama experienced by the dynamics of the group, will notice a very different dynamic in the next season.  I was struck by the differences between that group and this group.  This bunch was far more laid back but with some serious issues that we noticed, compared to the Vancouver group, whom were far more wound up.  I had never considered before that the dynamics of urban Aboriginal people would, while being different in experience and expectation than rural Aboriginal people, would be very different between urban groups in different cities as well

It is something that I would like to explore in more depth at some point.  The Indigenous experience is very unique to each group and individual.  There are always shared experiences, but I tend to forget the differences made by regional experience as well.

Taking on the World

I have always been struck by the notion that there are a number of people online that believe that I, as a Native man, need to be outraged by every act, or perceived act, against Indigenous people in every respect.  I am not referring to me in the specific, necessarily.  I have heard of people outraged at others who may or may not be Native because they did not take a stand against a perceived stereotypical instance or stand up against an opinion. 

 I use the term perceived with a purpose.  I will use the example of the film Rango.  I have heard outrage expressed over the characterization of the Native American character in the film and the fact that Johnny Depp did not stand up and demand changes because he claims Native American heritage and was required to do so.  I used perceived because a) I found the characterization not to be stereotypical but instead the opposite, blowing away the stereotypes by busting them when the other characters assumed them; and b) where in the rule book does it say that we, as Native people have to fight every battle, real or perceived?  That job is very tiring and the willingness to do so is tempered by the fact that we are sometimes beat down far harder when we do so.  It is hard to be selfless all the time and we shouldn’t have to be.

I get tired of being questioned when I pass on a fight, and I imagine others must feel the same way.

Identity Crisis

Identity is something I am obsessed with, you know that.  Online I have been seeing a lot of attacks on Indigenous people about their identity, whether they have enough “blood” to be real Indians, or, as above, why they don’t fight for the rights or whatever.  I have noticed that these attacks have been from both non-Native people and Native people and I am saddened by that.  When did we become so exclusionary?  And why do we continue to let non-Native people dictate who gets to be Native?    

How do I build pride in students who may be of mixed heritage when they will be attacked by others when they try to go out into the world?

I struggle with identity as well.  I have never been brown enough for some of the Natives around me.  I am not Aboriginal enough for some people who want their Aboriginal teachers to be language teachers.  There are times that I would like to drop the whole Aboriginal aspect and carry on without it.  It is hard to do.  As a producer, I make tv about Aboriginal people and their stories.  Most of my proposals and ideas revolve around the Aboriginal experience.  I would love to do something else as well, but what can I say?

Another post that just sort of stops. At least I’m consistent.