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.


  1. Hey there - I understand how you feel about identity. I'm mixed too and so hope to write my doctoral dissertation (just finishing my course work) about mixed (Metis or Abor/nonAbor) teachers (through interviews) who can pass as white to examine how they understand race, racism and anti-racism education. I've been taught that people are obsessed with identity (identity politics) so that we will spend all of our time thinking about where we fit in instead of challenging racism, oppression, colonialism, and globalization. At the same time, colonialism has created these artificial racialized boundaries and our feelings are real. I think it is awesome that you are thinking about how to talk to students about this as in general I don't think many teachers do. Or they may do it in ways that make us feel even more excluded. Thanks for sharing. Carmen G.

  2. "I get tired of being questioned when I pass on a fight, and I imagine others must feel the same way." - I let people know that I'm working towards a positive goals on issues where I know I can make a difference, so I don't have time to be reactionary. If I run around responding to things like Rango someone else is setting my agenda for me.
    Having a positive vision of something you're working towards and setting your own agenda is how we go from tweaking the status quo so that oppression is less painful to transforming the status quo so that it is genuinely less oppressive.

    I think that you're doing your part to combat stereotypes in the media through filmmaking. You're making a difference and you don't have to be angry to do it! Woo hoo!

  3. @Starleigh Thank you for the reminder. Always welcome and sometimes very much needed.

    @Carmen I would love to read your dissertation when you are finished. It is an area I am considering if I ever get around to going back to school to my doctorate. Thank you for your thoughts.