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Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Very Incomplete Thought on the Whole Boyden Thing

Why does this whole Boyden controversy matter? Why are we so obsessed with this whole identity thing? I wish I could say it doesn't but unfortunately that would be a lie because we live in a society that seeks to categorize us by who we are or aren't and permits us our identity as Indigenous peoples within some narrowly defined parameters. Parameters that are defined by the Settler Canadian majority and impressed upon us by their acceptance of the few voices that non-Native Canada chooses to privilege with "authenticity." The rest of us are forced to defend our own Indigenous authenticity to non-Natives in constant, repeating cycles while those granted a voice are permitted a straight course of acceptance within Canadian society. As a result, when we, needing to decide regularly if we want to go through the fight again and again, see inconsistencies in the one privileged by Canada with a voice, we want to question said inconsistencies because that free pass he has may have been granted as a result of him being the Indian they want, not the Indian we are.

I have been torn on how to respond to this whole thing as an educator and within that category is the challenge. As an educator I have been challenged as an Indian as if the idea of being a teacher is something Indians don't do. As a Status Indian I have also been challenged as a teacher: are you a REAL teacher, etc, etc. I don't know, I think so. I'm solid matter, I take up space, I have mass... really real. The Indigenous people "attacking" Boyden on social media and Aboriginal media (notably not in the REAL media) are in turn being attacked by non-Native people on social media and REAL media, and the undercurrent inherent in this discourse (I use the term loosely) seems to be that the acceptable Indian shouldn't be subject to this from the angry ones who need something to be angry at. How do our children witness this, already learning from a young age that society has a specific box for them that they are expected to stay in, and not feel further marginalized when even their own concerns are shut down as angry and not fitting in with "the reconciliation that all of Canada seeks?"
What this conveniently ignores is that the entire idea of reconciliation appears to be only if it is on Canada's terms as is the whole idea of what is an acceptable Native person.

I don't know if the attacks on Boyden's identity is justified or fair, I have always been an advocate of self-identification and, being forced to defend my identity all the time, don't believe one should have to be forced to defend their identity. At the same time, people who assume an identity that isn't theirs and then accept the mantle of being permitted to speak for all Indigenous people is very wrong as well. I am very critical of our Chiefs presuming they speak for all Indigenous people as well and I don't like how Canada picks and chooses the Indians it will hear and how they all play along. I know I am unhappy, as an artist who happens to be Native, that his voice is one of the few REAL Canada will accept, especially if he is the false idol he is being accused of being. His narrative is filled with contradictions.

I do know that the attacks against the Native people calling him out are unjustified and unfair. They are Canada punching down at the powerless in our relationship and a reinforcement of the terms that Canadian society has seen fit to impose on Indigenous people.

This is an incomplete thought I'm still working through and while I use Indian, Indigenous and Native all over the place, randomly, I'm cool with it. And because this post means I'll have to defend me again:

Ey sweyel, my name is Robert Genaille. I am Stó:lō and Saulteaux and I am a member of the Peters First Nation. My mother is Fran Genaille, of Peters, and my father is Vernon Myles Genaille of Keeseekoose First Nation in Treaty 4. My traditional names are Kulpamuaten and Minopinase. And despite all that I believe I'm a real person

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