Moving Beyond Reconciliation in Indigenous Communities

Reconciliation has been a growing goal for colonized countries. Many Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities within Canada are working closely with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in hopes restoring a healthy relationship. To reconcile our past means that the state, who actively oppresses Indigenous communities must admit their racialized, systemic ways. It is evident that Leanne Simpson’s definition of reconciliation is from an Indigenous perspective and much of what she says resonates with me as an Indigenous woman. Canada is a country where many non-Indigenous people are uneducated about the upbringing of our country, and therefore, most of our population is unable to understand the uncomfortable truths of colonial impacts and how lethal they are in Indigenous communities. Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back written by Leanne Simpson is a beautiful piece of Indigenous literature that leaves all readers more knowledgeable and hopeful for change which is contrary to the documented Schedule “N.”

Schedule “N” outlines a five-year plan for Indigenous people in hopes of reconciling their relationship with the state. Leanne Simpson raises an important question and asks “how can we reconcile when the majority of Canadians do not understand the historic or contemporary injustice of dispossession and occupation, particularly when the state has expressed its unwillingness to make any adjustments to the unjust relationship?” (Simpson 21). This question is something that I often ask myself when I’m put in a difficult position of educating my peers or family members about Canada’s past. Simpson recognizes that “in the eyes of the liberalism, the historical wrong has now been righted and further transformation is not needed since the historic situation has been remedied” (Simpson 22). In order to reconcile and live in harmony “one nation cannot be dominant over the other” (Simpson 107). The commission is giving Indigenous communities a time-frame and a list of activities to complete, and once these are accomplished, their communities are expected to move on and live their lives. In particular, I would like to critique Schedule ‘N’ and expose how this document does not address the most prominent issues Indigenous communities and the state are conflicting over. In order for the relationship between settler-colonialist and Indigenous people to be reconciled “one nation can not control all of the land and all of the resources” (Simpson 107). Today, Indigenous communities are still fighting to protect their ancestral territory and waters. These large capitalist views that have inspired projects such as Enbridge Pipeline, LNG, and The Dakota Access Pipeline are reminders to Indigenous people that the state and current citizens of their country do not care about Indigenous people’s way of life and their land is only good for making a profit. The ecological destruction of Canada and the Northern United States is directly linked to cultural displacement. The idea of “nature” and the “wilderness” holds significant value to the spiritual and cultural beliefs of Indigenous people. And therefore, by continuing to dismantle it and abuse the resources, is making a statement and attacking all aspects of Indigenous life.

Despite the ongoing colonial impacts, Leanne Simpson believes that resurgence or in other words “advanced reconciliation” can be achieved within our communities and “we do not need funding to do this” (Simpson 17). Schedule ‘N’ provides a budget for Indigenous communities and within the budget, communities are able to access programs designed by the Truth Reconciliation Commission. However, this is not what is needed for Indigenous communities. Instead “we need our Elders, our languages and our lands, along with vision, intent, commitment, community and ultimately, action (Simpson 17), in order to regain peace.  Simpson states that “resurgence must be Indigenous at its core” (Simpson 20). And it is not a restricted time process, rather, “reconciliation is a process that will take many years to accomplish” (Simpson 22).  With healing comes sacrifice and Simpson acknowledges that “each of us having to struggle to achieve re-creation is not an easy process (Simpson 69). Simpson addresses the issue and makes it clear that healing must first start within ourselves. This process is difficult because of negative self-images. Indigenous community members obtain. Contemporary “Indigenous communities struggle with poverty, poor health and education outcomes, economic disadvantage, domestic violence, abuse, addiction and high rates of youth suicide” (Regan 11). They are systematically encouraged to think that they are not worthy and less than human in a colonial country. From a young age, Indigenous youth are “told that individually we are stupid, and that collectively our nations were and void of higher thought” (Simpson 32).

I have personally experienced a negative self-perception of my Indigenous heritage when I moved away from Haida Gwaii to attend boarding school at the age of thirteen. It is was clear to me that my community was suffering from drug addiction, alcoholism, low employment and education rates and our youth were not interested in learning our culture. For me, Haida culture was a huge component in my life prior to leaving the island for educational purposes. I recognized the point of view in which a majority of the Canadian population perceived Indigenous people and this began to cloud my pride. For that reason, I became ashamed of my own ethnicity. Racism became a growing issue of mine in the eleventh grade, and I made it my responsibility to educate myself. I focused specifically on residential schools and researched the affect they have on communities today. My great grandmother attended residential school, and I learned how her experience has affected my family. With my gained knowledge, my perspective on my people changed. I now realize that education and exploiting the historic truths are a key component to eliminating ignorance in the world and the stories of our past contribute to our present and future. However, as I read Schedule ‘N’, many of its mandates are research based and it not focussed on the future generations of Indigenous people. Instead, the commission wants to establish positive relationships with victims who attended residential schools or have been impacted by the institutions. Reconciliation is more than just acknowledging the legacy of residential. Each and every Indigenous person has and is still experiencing the violence of colonialism whether it is indirectly or directly. It is important that we recognize colonialism is an issue of the present not just the past.

Simpson states that reconciliation begins with cultural revitalization. It is important to understand that Indigenous culture is not weak. Instead, it is very strong. Communities have rebelled against colonial oppression for hundreds of years. After reading Simpson’s, Dancing on Turtle’s Back, I am more appreciative of the elders and ancestors of my community. I now understand that these individuals “resisted simply by being alive” (15).  Their ability to hold onto cultural and political knowledge is the reason I am able to learn my aboriginal language, sing my traditional songs, and perform my cultural dances. However, it is evident that many members of the community have mixed emotions in regards to their cultural and spiritual connections. Our education system in Canada avoids talking about the truth of the county’s wrong-doing and “through the lens of colonial thought and cognitive imperialism, we are often unable to see our ancestors” (Simpson 15). I believe that this issue is due to the institutions and how they tell the story of the colonial legacy. Disregarding the Indigenous story of history is “the convenient way to deal with the founding injustice of Canada [and this] allow[s] colonialism to continue” (Regan x).  Simpson expresses that it is important that we take the time to listen to our elders because they are our knowledge keepers. The elders are equipped with the skills to teach us our “feel good” practices that include singing and dancing (Simpson 42). If we are able to re-create the cultural aspects of our people, this will “support the well-being of our contemporary citizens” (Simpson 51). Reclaiming the right to right to practice traditional methods will restore Indigenous dignity.

Scholars have noted that “if children have insight into their past and strong connections with their language and spirituality, they have the basis from which to cope with life” (Grant 248). Reconciliation is about breaking that sense of fear and not being afraid to teach children the values of their people. My Nanaay (Grandmother) Roseland only spoke in English after her return from residential school. She didn’t teach my father or his siblings the importance of cultural practice instead, she shielded them from this experience so that they wouldn’t suffer like she did. Schedule ‘N’ doesn’t address these barriers Indigenous people are still experiencing in the context of language transmission which is directly linked to culture. The commission will only be available in the two official languages of Canada (French and English) that were imposed on Indigenous people of the land. Schedule ‘N’ “encourages passive empathy or a neutral distancing from the Other that is insufficient to effect social and political change” (Regan 51). By neglecting Indigenous language, it is clear that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is prioritizing the “white” community of Canada rather than focussing on the growth of Indigenous people as an entire.

Schedule ‘N’ is focused on the narrative of Residential School victims experiences whereas, Dancing on Our Tutrle’s Back, speaks of the importance of cultural revitalization. Aboriginal peoples of Canada have been forced to neglect their cultural practices and have lost their sense of belonging in the context of culture, tradition, and spirituality. Simpson makes clear that “resurgence is dancing on turtles backs; it is visioning and dancing new realities and worlds into existence (Simpson 70). In order for countries such as Canada to achieve that, it is important that we recognize “decolonization is necessary to authenticate reconciliation” (Regan 20). Reconciliation is more than creating a mandate that upholds Eurocentric views, it is about accepting Indigenous culture in all aspects and allowing those communities to foster those practices and continue to grow. After writing this paper I am left with several questions that I plan on exploring. How do Indigenous communities gain youth excitement for learning cultural traditions and languages when our success in contemporary society relies on our ability to flourish in a Eurocentric world that values capitalism and education in English and French languages? How do we shift this embedded mindset? Is it possible to fully be accepted in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous worlds?

 

Works Cited

Grant, Agnes. No End of Grief: Indian Residential Schools in Canada. Winnipeg: Pemmican Pub., 1996. Print.

 

Simpson, Leanne. Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-creation, Resurgence and a New Emergence. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Pub., 2011. Print.

 

Regan, Paulette. Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

 

“N”, Schedule, and Mandate For The Truth And Reconciliation Commission. Commission Will Be Established to Contribute to Truth, Healing and Reconciliation. (n.d.): n. pag. Web. http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/pdfs/SCHEDULE_N_EN.pdf

Disruption of Traditional Haida Political Customs: Where do Indigenous Communities Draw the Line?

August 13th of 2016, the Haida society faced significant changes within their traditional political structures. Due to the irresponsible choices of eight Haida men the community in Masset B.C were forced to reevaluate their hereditary chieftainship customs. Historically hereditary chiefs are born into this privileged title due to their ancestral bloodline and this responsibility is passed down from one generation to the next. According to Haida law a Haida citizen can only claim titles of a hereditary chief after potlatching their chief name with witnesses attending the ceremony. At this potlatch they are gifted a copper plaque stating their societal, moral and familial obligations to not only their clan but the Haida society as an entire. The Chiefs will then respect their clan members by representing their interests and follow the influence of their clan matriarchs. Meaning that every important decision will be discussed with the ladies held of high esteem within their clan.

Eight men from the Northern part of Haida Gwaii signed a letter addressed to Sheryl Young, the Secretary of the Board of the NEB (National Energy Board), proclaiming their support for the Northern Gateway Pipeline. This number of supportive hereditary chiefs was viewed as a significant success to the National Energy Board because the Haida people are made up of “22 clans, each overseen by hereditary chiefs” (Jeff Lee). The letter composed by the eight men stated that they as hereditary chiefs of the Masset community support the project of the Northern Gateway Pipeline. They enforced their approval by stating that this pipeline would be beneficial for the economic growth of both British Columbia and Alberta provinces. These men signed as hereditary chiefs when in fact only four out of the eight have rightfully claimed that title through potlatch. By falsely using the term hereditary, the men jeopardized their integrity as Haida citizens and left the community with a hard decision to make.

With intense feelings of betrayal, two clans from Masset British Columbia decided to host a “shaming feast” and denounce their chiefs of their title, privilege, and honor. The clans were able to achieve this through the commonality of political views regarding the pipeline and they used their emotional and moral attachments to the cause to justify their stripping of the two chieftainships. The objective of this ceremony was to regain their dignity as a society who is predominately opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipeline. This ceremony consisted of 500 witnesses who were supporting the cause for obtaining firm political control within their clans and Haida Nation.

This event highlights contemporary issues. Indigenous communities are battling in regards to their land and environment preservation. It is evident that colonial views and values are still influential even within the most traditional aspects of Indigenous societies. The Haida have taken a strong stance as an entire nation to halt the Northern Gateway Pipeline, a project that has the potential to ruin food resources and sacred ecological spaces.

In response to the publication of this signed supportive letter, twelve other hereditary chiefs from both Skidegate and Old Masset Village signed a document portraying the “true” intentions of the Haida people. The hereditary chiefs corrected the previous document sent into the National Energy Board by stating that the four Hereditary Chiefs and four Haida citizens mentioned in the letter do not respectfully represent the views of their clan nor the Haida Nation and their signatures are a reflection of personal standings.

President of the Council of the Haida Nation on March 31st, of 2016 announced publically and in an immediate newsletter to the communities that he wants to clarify that “the paid lobbyist” within their nation “do not speak for the Haida Nation” and that “[they] do not condone their behaviours or tactics of Enbridge which is backing them” (Peter Lantin).

Where do Indigenous people draw the line for internal colonialism? What is justifiable? And furthermore when are we allowed to stop using colonialism as an excuse to pardon poor, disruptive decisions of individuals within our communities?

I think this is a perfect example of Indigenous resistance. Stripping the two chiefs of their hereditary title August of this summer is a step in the right direction that demonstrates zero tolerance for disrespect. By challenging these men, the Haida have now established a ground for tackling future issues regarding settler-colonial, capitalistic influence.

 

 

Works Cited

Canada. Council of the Haida Nation. March 31st- For Immediate Release. By Peter Lantin. Skidegate: Haida Nation, 2016. Print.

 

Lee, Jeff. “Haida Strip Two Hereditary Chiefs of Titles for Supporting Enbridge.” Vancouver Sun.                                     Vancouver Sun, 17 Aug. 2016. Web. 15 Sept. 2016. <http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/haida-strip-two-hereditary-chiefs-of-titles-for-supporting-enbridge&gt;.

 

News, Jeff Lee Postmedia. “Haida Clan Strips Titles from Two Hereditary Chiefs for Supporting Northern Gateway Pipeline.” National Post Haida Clan Strips Titles from Two Hereditary Chiefs for Supporting Northern Gatewaypipeline Comments. National Post, 18 Aug. 2016. Web. 15 Sept. 2016. <http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/haida-clan-strip-titles-from-two-hereditary-chiefs-for-supporting-northern-gateway-pipeline&gt;.

Colonial Metaphors of Decolonization in Contemporary Families

As we look at the ways in which North America was founded, we begin to unravel hundreds of years of atrocity. It is evident that the colonial based country of Canada is an example of how impactful and strong a systemic regime of colonialism is. Tuck and Yang bring to light the reality of colonization and argue that “decolonization is not a metaphor.” I will draw on my subject position knowledge and speak of my experiences from a First Nations perspective and highlight how Canada in particular, has metaphorized decolonization.

First Nations experiences with colonialism are still an on-going issue within in Canada. It is clear that “there is a long and bumbled history of non-Indigenous peoples making moves to alleviate the impacts of colonization” (Tuck and Yang 4). Scholars have emphasized the difference between colonialism and settler colonialism, and it is evident that Canada suffers the effects of settler colonialism. Tuck and Yang state that “settler colonialism is different from other forms of colonialism in that settlers come with the intention of making a new home on the land, a homemaking that insists on settler sovereignty over all things in their new domain” (Tuck and Yang 5). With that being said, the creation of violence motored by capitalist views allowed for settlers to disrupt the Indigenous way of life, specifically rupturing Indigenous people’s strong connection to the land. Colonialism in Canada was achieved by systemically oppressing Indigenous people by using fear to control the “inferior” society. Settlers strongly believed that “in order for [them] to make a place their home, they must destroy and disappear the Indigenous peoples that live there.” (Tick and Yang 5). “

“For the settlers, Indigenous peoples are in the way and, in the destruction of Indigenous peoples, Indigenous communities, and over time and through law and policy, Indigenous peoples’ claims to land under settler regimes, land is recast as property and as a resource. Indigenous peoples must be erased, must be made into ghosts”(Tuck and Yang, 6)

 

Erasure was achieved by disrupting familial values, and this was most emphatically accomplished by sending children to boarding school. Indigenous children were taught to neglect their language, cultural and customs which were viewed as backwards to settlers. Tuck and Yang recognize that in the process of setter-colonialism, “the settler positions himself as both superior and normal; the settler is natural, whereas the Indigenous inhabitant and the chattel slave are unnatural, even supernatural” (Tuck and Yang 6). Therefore, the Indigenous people were taken away from their traditional land and taught values through a supremacist perspective.

I come from a mixed family background. I was raised on a reservation in Skidegate BC; therefore, I have witnessed the struggles a First Nations person has to face on the daily. My father is an Indigenous man from the Haida Nation, and my mother is a Caucasian from the East Coast of Canada. I have experienced the best of both worlds. However, I identify as Haida because it is the only culture I know, and those practices make up a huge portion of my life.  As I matured, I began to understand the tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous societies. Recognizing the differences and the way the two societies treated each other, particularly outside of the borders of Haida Gwaii, I decided not to advertise my cultural background. I became ashamed of my own ethnicity. My grandfather on my mother’s side of the family always spoke of his heritage ties to Scotland, and for most of my childhood I grew up believing that he identified as Scotish. However, when he noticed my attitude shift in regards to my Haida culture he then shared that his great-grandmother was from the Mi’kmaq Nation in Nova Scotia. This sudden reveal of his grandmother’s ethnic background was supposed to make me feel better about myself and where I came from. He wanted me to know that he too, had indigenous ties to the land and if he wanted, he could also identify as First Nations just like me. I remember at twelve years old feeling frustrated because yes, technically he has Mi’kmaq blood, however, he has no attachment to the culture, land or community. Haida culture is something I practiced my entire life. I speak the language, sing the songs, and practice the ceremonial beliefs and most of all I identify as Haida and only Haida because it’s all that I know. This was the first time I was introduced to metaphorized relationships in regards to Indigenous heritage.

My grandfather never mentioned his great-grandmother before my internal conflict. Tuck and Yang speak on this issue as well, and they state that this type of behavior is called settler nativism. To expand on this term it means that “settlers locate or invent a long-lost ancestor who is rumored to have had “Indian blood,” and they use this claim to mark themselves as blameless in the attempted eradications of Indigenous peoples” (Tuck and Yang 10). It is clear that my grandfather benefits from white privilege and he is an educated man who is aware of our colonial history. Therefore, by bringing into the conversation his grandmother, he attempted to soften the intense feelings of displacement I was experiencing in my adolescent years. Tuck and Yang state that those who suddenly create an Indigenous background are guilty of “settler moves to innocence because it is an attempt to deflect a settler identity while continuing to enjoy settler privilege and occupying stolen land” (Tuck and Yang 11). To clarify, I am not bashing my grandfather, he has been a significant role in my life. I am only stating how effective the colonial system has been to my family, on both my Indigenous and non-Indigenous sides.

Tuck and Yang bring forward the few non-Indigenous society members who recognize that our history was tragic and the system of colonization is on-going today. However, they say that “critical consciousness does not translate into action that disrupts settler colonialism” (Tuck and Yang 19). Instead, we Canadians obtain “a collective mindset that protects illusions from uncomfortable truths” (Regan 35). It is convenient to disregard the real impacts of settler-colonialism in Canada and Canadians are guilty of this by not acknowledging the past and current practices of the colonial government systems and tactics. Canada suppresses colonial experiences, and this “encourages passive empathy or a neutral distancing from the Other that is insufficient to effect social and political change” (Regan 51). Therefore, by ignoring the truth, we are allowing colonization to continue oppressing Indigenous people.

Settler colonialism constructed a system that caused the erasure of Indigenous customs, language, religion and culture, plus sparked the internalized toxic shame within Indigenous communities which are multigenerational. Erasure of indigineity and intergenerational impacts of colonial creations have made it difficult for Indigenous communities to revitalize their traditional way of life and regain true sovereignty over their traditional land. Regan beautifully states that “it is important for the Canadian public to understand the deconstructive impacts of colonial history on contemporary indigenous-settler conflicts” (Regan 30). It is convenient for our society to not recognize the legacy of settler colonialism and how the assimilation system promoted injustice. Our ignorance as a country and using metaphors to define decolonization has allowed colonialism to be an ongoing issue within Canada by ignoring the truth and not allowing Indigenous people to overcome the barriers of residential schools.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Regan, Paulette. Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

 

Tuck, Eve, and K. Wayne Yang. “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor | Tuck | Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society.” Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor | Tuck | Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 2012. Web. 11 Oct. 2016. <http://decolonization.org/index.php/des/article/view/18630&gt;.

Movement towards Green Mindsets: Language, Activism, and Conservationism in Vancouver

Stanley Park is one of Vancouver’s largest tourist sites. EcoRangers, funded by Stanley Park Ecology Society in the summer months work to engage visitors with “local animals, plants and cultural history” (stanleyparkecology.ca).  Recently, Ken Wu, executive director of the Ancient Forest Alliance brought attention to the growing population of Chinese-language speakers residing in Vancouver regions. This is problematic because the tours provided in Stanley Park that address ecological issues are only offered in English. Stanley Park Ecology Society and Hua Foundation are beginning “to train volunteers to give tours of Stanley Park in Mandarin and Cantonese” (Givetash, Global News). By raising this issue, Wu is breaking down barriers of language and culture division within in Vancouver in hopes of having everyone work together to achieve one goal.

Wu argues that Vancouver as a city has been pushing to conserve areas of Vancouver for many years and since the existence of the park. However, there has been no effort to involve the Chinese-speaking population. By being able to communicate with a large portion of Vancouver’s population, Wu believes that awareness in regards to wildlife preservation will increase. Chinese-residents in Vancouver who speak Cantonese or Mandarin will be able to engage in community efforts to save the environment.

Conversation advocacy of Stanley Park and more specifically, the old growth forests in Vancouver will be led by volunteers. One of the most predominant obstacles the tour guides are facing is the ability to translate English phrases and understandings of the environment in another language. It is important that the tour guides take into consideration the cultural context of which Stanley Park was founded. The understandings of nature within Stanley Park were designed by settler-colonists and therefore, the way the tours are engaging with wildlife is very Eurocentric. Huang spoke to Global News and stated that they are really trying “to engage audiences and empower them from their own community angle” (Givetash, Global News).

Educating Chinese-speaking community members will strengthen the movements that are opposed to environmentally destructive industries such as logging and other developmental plans within Vancouver. However, designing a platform that engages Chinese-speaking individuals to adequately understand the meaning of conservation, environment and community involvement within a colonial country may be uncomfortable issues to speak of. Vancouver as a city has a history of disregarding the meaning of the environment to Indigenous People of the land. The tours that will be provided have not mentioned much about the history of Stanley Park upbringing. The violence of colonialism is very vividly understood when we draw our attention to how the landscape of Stanley Park was transformed. Ignoring Indigenous connections to this issue is contradictory to the goal. The eco-tours are supposedly aimed to promote and strengthen conservationism but how can Stanley Park tours achieve this when environmental activism is so deeply connected to Indigenous civil rights?

 

Works Cited

Givetash, Linda. “Chinese-language Conservation Tours to Begin in Stanley Park.” Global News. N.p., 23 Oct. 2016. Web. 24 Nov. 2016. <http://globalnews.ca/news/3020412/chinese-language-conservation-tours-to-begin-in-stanley-park/&gt;.

 

“Stanley Park Ecology Society.” Stanley Park Ecology Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016. <http://stanleyparkecology.ca/about-us/&gt;.

“Pipelines Can’t Pass Through an Indiegnous Wall of Opposition”:Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion

Political organizing in hopes of saving the environment is a major focus within contemporary Indigenous communities. The oil industry in the North American hemisphere has been the driving force behind the formation of alliances among Indigenous groups of people within Canada and United States.  Pipeline activism within Indigenous communities are focused on preserving the environment. This year on September 22nd, on Musqueam land in Vancouver, and Mohawk territory in Montreal,  Indigenous communities signed a treaty stating their disapproval to pipeline and tanker projects. The opposing industries to Indigenous activism “include TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, and Enbridge Northern Gateway” (McDonald). Communities are beginning to realize their hereditary rights over the land and have made it their duty to conserve what it is left of their traditional territory. Contemporary Indigenous politics are taking a stance by unifying in hopes of combatting the ongoing impacts of settler colonialism.

It is evident that the expansion of tar sands is one of the primary climate changing factors Canada has been battling since the early 1990’s (treatyalliance.org). Economics often influence the decision-making process, and the industries argue that oil pipelines are the “safest and most environmentally friendly way to move oil and gas” (McDonald). Whereas in contrast, Indigenous communities are recognizing the potential threats to their land, water, and people. The state has a long history of ignoring Indigenous rights, and this treaty highlights the number of Nations who will continue to resist state-led projects that only focus on economic prosperity rather than cultural and ecological preservation. The expansion of the tar sands in Alberta has the potential to affect many water sources of different Indigenous communities, leading to environmental damage which will impact traditional food harvesting practices, sacred burial grounds, and many more important cultural aspects that revolve around the usage of land and water. This issue is widespread, and therefore, a collective agreement between several Indigenous governments is one of the most empowering methods of resistance.

Indigenous communities will continue to fight for the ecological health of Turtle Island (North America). Unity among nations has proven to be an effective approach when trying to grab the government’s attention.  In Canada e most clearly saw these alliances during the IDLE NO MORE movement where Indigenous communities across provinces expressed their disapproval towards the threatening project. The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sand Expansions document that was signed on the Musqueam territory is a perfect example of how contemporary Indigenous communities have learned from past environmental protests such as Idle No More. Coming together and using their gained knowledge to create a document that represents fifty Nations in British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Washington states is groundbreaking.  Each nation who signs this treaty is making a commitment “to mobilize their communities against any pipeline development that allows the tar sands to be expanded, even those thousands of kilometers away from their territory” (Cox). This collective decision makes a huge statement to the colonial enforcements and reestablishes the right to protect the ancestral land masses of all nations. Indigenous people are urging the government to create plans that outline more sustainable options of producing energy. Several nations have even developed projects in their own territories for renewable energy (treatyalliance.org) which would be great models to follow.

Works Cited

Cox, Ethan. “Indigenous Tar Sands Treaty Could Be Trudeau’s Worst Nightmare | Ricochet.” Ricochet. N.p., 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <https://ricochet.media/en/1420/indigenous-tar-sands-treaty-could-be-trudeaus-worst-nightmare&gt;.

McDonald, Nicole. “OBA.org – Review of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion.” CBA-ON. Ontario Bar Association, 04 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Nov. 2016. <https://www.oba.org/Sections/Aboriginal-Law/Articles/Articles-2016/October-2016/Review-of-the-Treaty-Alliance-Against-Tar-Sands-Ex&gt;.

Lescarbeau, Eric. “Treaty Alliance, Tar Sands Resistance and Settler Solidarity.” Socialist.ca. International Socialists, 29 Sept. 2016. Web. 15 Nov. 2016. <http://www.socialist.ca/node/3182&gt;.

“TREATY ALLIANCE AGAINST TAR SANDS EXPANSION.” Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2016. http://www.treatyalliance.org/treaty/

McShreffrey, Elizabeth. “First Nations across North America Sign Treaty Alliance against the Oilsands.” National Observer. N.p., 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/09/22/news/first-nations-across-north-america-sign-treaty-alliance-against-oilsands&gt;.

Posted by Ubcic 0sc on September 22, 2016. “First Nations and Tribes Sign New Treaty Joining Forces To Stop All Tar Sands Pipelines.” UBCIC. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/tarsandstreaty&gt;.

Sexual Cultures and their Contradictions in a Colonial North America

The short story The Toughest Indian in the World written by Sherman Alexie was an eye-opening experience for me. I grew up on a reservation on the West Coast of Canada and identify as an Indigenous woman, more specifically Haida. I am a second generation of intergenerational trauma because of residential schools however, I am grateful that I come from a family who speaks of colonialism and the role of these educational and societal systems and how their impact is still affecting communities today. However, sexuality has never been a topic that my parents nor grandparents speak about in terms of it being morphed since colonialism and I believe that the teachings at residential schools are to blame for that. Alexie’s confrontation of the taboos behind the secretive notions of sexuality has allowed me to explore more in depth the internal and external effects of colonial ideals in regards to sexuality. I will bring my subject position knowledge as well as the acquired knowledge that I have gained at university. I have taken Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice classes at UBC and because of that, my background knowledge of sexuality helped form my thoughts on Alexie’s piece, The Toughest Indian in the World. It is evident that Alexie challenges the sexual stigmas within a colonial country and by doing so, begins decolonizing sexuality.

The story reveals the realities of a colonial country as the author continuously makes references to the distinct cultural divides between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Although there is a divide between the cultures, the non-Indigenous presence within the story is very limited. Therefore, Alexie uses an Indigenous man to represent the level of frustration Indigenous people feel towards settlers on a daily basis. The “Flathead Indian” serves to represent the internalized anger towards colonialism as the warrior fighter mentions that he was hitting him like he was a white man (Alexie 29).  The narrator positions himself as an established Indigenous person by describing his job which implies he’s educated and hard-working, unlike the stereotyped Indigenous people in colonial literature. Despite his contributions to both worlds, he is still yearning for a sense of belonging in both the “modern world” and “Indigenous world.” There is the theme of unacceptance that is always being repeated and defined throughout the story. The father says that “love you or hate you, white people will shoot you in the heart. Even after all these years, they’ll still smell the salmon on you” (Alexie 21). This statement reveals the complex issues of discrimination, and no matter how much effort an Indigenous person puts into assimilating to the colonial standards of civilization, they will always be categorized as outcasts because of the Indigenous blood that runs through their veins.

As mentioned above, the narrator in the story is almost entirely integrated into the colonial culture. Although he is absorbed into the dominant way of life, his ethnicity is a constant reminder of how different he is and his ex-girlfriend Cindy plays the defining role to confront this issue. For countless reasons due to colonialism, he still struggles with his identity as a “Spokane Indian” and choosing which world to conform with is a nearly impossible decision to make; the narrator just like many contemporary Indigenous people living in a modern world believes that he needs to give one up. Alexie purposefully uses the foreshadowing technique to bring the narrator’s confusion to the readers attentions by making references to everyday life components such as music and the “cross-cultural songs that combined Indian lyrics and rhythms with country-and-western and blues melodies” (Alexie 23). This idea rewrites the notion of the “dead Indian” and allows the reader to experience a culture that is evolving within the colonial structures that were meant to erase everything about Indigeneity. In order to succeed in a “white man’s world,” the narrator distances himself from his community and states that he hasn’t “lived on [his] reservation in over twelve years” (Alexie 27). He is continuously trying to grapple with the idea that the colonial way of life leads you to wealth and happiness and for this reason, he does not completely throw away his culture. To honor his Indigenous roots, the narrators continues to participate in the ritual of Cour d’Alene that was passed down from his father. While performing this ritual, Alexie makes note that contemporary Indigenous people can switch their communicative techniques when trying to conform to the standards of a colonial country or while speaking to other Indigenous peoples. The narrator changes his vocabulary to make sure the “Lummi Indian”, hitchhiker would know that he was from a reservation and feel comfortable in his car. Acculturation is a survival technique for Indigenous peoples who are expected to give into the dominant culture of the country. The narrator will never be entirely welcomed to the dominant culture, but because he conforms to other aspects of colonial culture in terms of education and economics (contributions to the working world), he will be rejected by his Indigenous culture. This issue of displacement and exclusion is an effect felt widespread by many contemporary Indigenous people.

Adding onto this point of cultural confusion, it is evident that since colonization, sexuality has been morphed into an aspect of discomfort for Indigenous people. Alexie brings to light the struggles of contemporary Indigenous people and how sexual desires that do not conform to the colonial criteria are deemed as shameful.  Before colonization, Alexie’s story is suggesting that Indigenous populations were free spirited and sexual taboos did not exist. It is clear that since colonial influence has been present, specific sexual behaviors and desires are labeled as abnormal, such as non-heterosexual relationships. Furthermore, colonial views on sexual activity is an aspect of life that is strictly saved for marriage. Unlike the colonial beliefs of matching sexuality with marriage and marriage with a religion binding, Indigenous sexual encounters were based on lineage. As long as you were not descendants of the same clan, it was okay to pursue. Sexuality for pre-colonial Indigenous people was based on pleasure and freedom rather than the European understandings of reproductivity.

Colonial guidelines continue to conflict with Indigenous understandings of sexuality and become more complex when we analyze female sexuality in a patriarchal, colonial country. Colonization is about labeling who is superior based on an imposed system.  Females in a patriarchal society are supposed to represent purity, and their innocence should be sheltered until marriage. Patriarchy outlines the hierarchies within society, and white men in a colonial country have placed themselves above women to claim their masculine titles. This mindset is the polar opposite of Indigenous cultures as most Indigenous peoples kinship orders were based on matrilineal ties. The contradiction of the two sexual cultures; one being about power (patriarchy) and the other about pleasure (Indigenous) were so different that the colonizers worked endlessly to break down the ideas of free sexual acts through institutionalized teachings. Sexuality for men in a patriarchal society is the most defining feature of manhood and homosexuality represents the opposite of masculinity. It is not a coincidence that Alexie uses a physically strong Indigenous man to represent a rebellious act against the patriarchal system of beliefs because strength such as being a fighter ultimately fits the definition of what it means to truly be a man in a patriarchal world. However, I interpreted this scene differently based on my familial connections to these ideas of shame around sexuality. More specifically, what sparked my mind was the learned ideas of shame regarding same-sex sexual encounters because of the perpetuated sexual violence at residential school. A child’s first sexual experience ultimately defines the way they will perceive and feel towards specific acts and this may lead to resentment in regards to “homosexual” encounters. Furthermore, the gendered separation at the residential schools taught children the colonial views of the roles of men and women and therefore, created a normality. These embedded ideas have left Indigenous people confused because their desire of non-heterosexual pursuing’s are “evil.”

Throughout the story, the author Alexie uses symbolism to describe the vanishing culture of Indigenous people. The dead salmon are a symbol of the rich culture that is presumably disappearing or this is at least the goal of colonialism. However, the narrator describes the ancestry of his people and culture using stars to identify this. For me, this was a powerful comparison as Alexie utilizes irony because the stars represent death and they are a constant reminder to “white” people of what has been destroyed and a reminder to Indigenous people of what is deceased. However, the irony is useful because stars shine brightly in the sky and even in the darkness of colonialism, Indigenous cultures beauty seeps through. The narrator is desperate to be saved from the overwhelming lifestyle in a colonial country, and it is evident that while performing his ritual of picking up hitchhikers, he is convinced that Indigenous strength is not dead. The tough Lummi Indian fighter is a symbol of ancestral warriors, and the narrator craved for a savior. By experimenting sexually with the contemporary warrior, the narrator is rebelling against the social construct of sexuality within the colonial structures. Choosing to dismiss the rules of sexuality and not conforming to the binary classification of what is perceived as acceptable and unacceptable, the narrator frees himself from the embedded ideals. Although this was the first “homosexual” encounter for the narrator, he recognizes that is transformation was necessary in order to open the doors to the possibility of returning home to his people and culture. The narrator is outlining his journey as a contemporary Indigenous man, and this spontaneous change allows the readers to believe that all Indigenous people eventually find their way back home.

Alexie successfully revealed the struggles of contemporary Indigenous people in regards to their sexuality in the short story The Toughest Indian in the World. The topic of sexuality was particularly challenging for me articulate as my family is guilty of stigmatizing sexuality and I believe these ideas of right and wrong behavior were fostered through their residential school experiences. Colonialism is undoubtedly the driving force behind the mixed emotions of non-conformative sexual desires. Institutions are guilty of providing contributing factors of confusion around sexual cultures and the constant struggle of Indigenous people striving to not only survive but also yearning for total acceptance. For me, Alexie does an excellent job at breaking down the many barriers of Indigenous sexuality, manhood in a patriarchal country and his narrative has the power to spark conversations with all Indigenous peoples who are currently combatting internal conflicts within a colonial country.

 

Works cited

Alexie, Sherman. The Toughest Indian in the World. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000. Print.

 

 

   Confronting the Horrors of Indigenous Children in a Colonial Country

Jeff Barnaby’s film Rhymes for Young Ghouls, is a complex movie that touches the dichotomies of social structures using fiction to express the realities within Indigenous communities. The film successfully compares the effects of colonial legacies to the agency of Indigenous people. Although the movie was not a documentary, many of the images and overall story line adequately represent the lives of the past and present Indigenous population. Growing up on a reservation and being exposed to a variety of the impacts of colonial trauma, it is evident that the movie highlights the lingering systemic issues within reservations. The film serves to enhance the national consciousness of the Canadian public by triggering discussions regarding intergenerational trauma that was inflicted by colonial systems such as Residential Schools and the Indian Act. The reoccurring theme within the film outlines the stripping of childhood. This tactic was used to accomplish the erasure of Indigeneity potentially; but, rather than portraying only the hardships of Indigenous communities, Rhymes for Young Ghouls also displays the high-level of resilience Indigenous people had through these times. Specifically, Barnaby purposely makes an effort to exhibit the resilience of Indigenous children under the leadership of a young woman. The film is unsettling and uncomfortable to watch, but that is exactly why it needs to be viewed.

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It is without a doubt that Rhymes for Young Ghouls successfully mocks the Canadian governmental structures by exploiting the harsh realities of life on a reservation in the seventies. The first aspect of the film draws on the ongoing influences of colonial guidelines and the sorrows that haunt Indigenous people through internalized and externalized forms of abuse. By beginning the story with portraying a scene that involves alcoholism, the viewers are reminded of the lethal consequences the Canadian states policies inflicted on Indigenous people. The death of the child in the opening scene allows the movie to escalate rapidly, and this can be compared to the fast spiral of intergenerational trauma among colonial survivors. Childhood trauma is the driving force behind the link to lack of parental methods. Popper with his superiority, samples of the level of maltreatment Indigenous children attending residential school experienced in the scene when he is thoughtfully calling the children down and reminded them that they are worthless and trapped in the school. Although the children in this scene are not the parents of Alia and her generation, this gives the viewers an understanding of why children of the new generation, such as Alia suffer. Residential schools and their tactics to harm children’s self-perception is done intentionally to stunt the growth of the new members of the community. Alia is confronted with little to no options to ensure her security and therefore resorts to assisting the adult crowd of her community to relieve their pain by abusing substances such as marijuana. It is not a coincidence that she wears a mask while proceeding her “duty.” She is aware of the harm that she is creating not only to those who use her substances but also, to her spirit. It is clear that the lack of parental intervention during this scene is a demonstration of the disconnect children have from their parents because residential schools triggered confusion of how to raise a child. Indigenous children, since colonization were subjected to violent situations at their most impressionable ages and were not exposed to real familial values and therefore incapable of providing a healthy environment for their children.

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Alia is bombarded with numerous responsibilities throughout the film. The viewers are unaware of the heroin’s age, but it is evident that Alia is too young to be experiencing the role of taking care of intoxicated adults on their journey home in the first few minutes of the film. The young indigenous woman signifies the ties of matrilineal descent and the customs of traditional Indigenous communities. There are many scenes where she demonstrates not only her ability to keep the family together but also to defend her family members and shield them from the negative cloud of colonization. However, the strongest point for me was the illegal obligations she felt that she had to carry out in order to financially support her family and assist the Indian Agent in scamming the system. Alia, with confidence, spoke in her native tongue when confronted by the Indian Agent when he returned her uncle. This scene symbolized the strong nature of Indigenous women and the unwillingness to conform to colonial standards. Furthermore, the sound of her language also highlighted to anxieties of settler-colonizers, as this act is deemed as rebellious. Every aspect of herself, which includes, language and culture are restricted by the Indian Act. Barnaby purposefully uses a young Indigenous woman to present this role of refusal, to surface the growing issues of patriarchy within a colonial country. Alia is confronting Popper’s illusion of superiority and challenges his notion of authority by speaking in her language that is threatening to him and his power. The corruption of the Indian Agent that is displayed works to bolden the level of violence the colonial institutions and their implanted legislation that dehumanizes Indigenous people.

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As mentioned above, the ability to limit children of their youthful years was a primary goal for the church and state. Barnaby includes a few scenes that demonstrated the importance of adolescent years. These segments in the film serve as contradictions to the school system as they were ineffective with erasing the playfulness of the children. The scenes are important as they act as reminders to the viewers that Alia is a child and her bravery to tackle these complex issues within her reservation sometimes encourages viewers to forget her actual age. The tree house is a vital piece to the story, as it signifies security; it is Alia’s sanctuary, and a place where she can hide from the chaotic lifestyle colonial operations have forced upon her. Furthermore, youthhood is clearly exemplified in the scene where the children collect human waste to prank the Indian Agent Popper. This display of children’s resilience is especially cynical, for the reasons that it shows an adolescent approach to dealing with uncomfortable, complicated issues. Popper, the Indian Agent, and priest, signify the oppressive nature of the systems which features the role of white supremacy. The teenagers took it upon themselves to address the injustices that the Indian agent/priest continuously inflicted onto them and their peers and they handled it in the best way that they knew how too.

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Unlearning the Myths of colonization and how the stories of Canada’s past contribute to our present and future is essential for decolonization to take place. Rhymes for Young Ghouls creates a dialogue for all citizens to discuss the tragedies of colonial forces. Whether it be grandparents speaking of their residential school experience, or a colonial settler asking questions of the truth, the movie has the potential to bring healing to all community members of Canada. This movie demonstrated that high rates of substance abuse, suicide, and family dysfunction among indigenous people is a direct result of the residential schools and the colonial system. It is convenient for our society to not recognize the legacy of residential schools and how the assimilation system promoted injustice for Indigenous and these impacts affect everyone whether they attend the school or not. The ignorance of Canada has allowed colonialism to be an ongoing issue within the country by ignoring the truth and not allowing Indigenous people to overcome the barriers of residential schools. Rhymes for Young Ghouls breaks down these barricades of ignorance within colonial Canada by using fiction to highlight the realities of Indigenous children’s suffrage and more importantly their resilience.

Works Cited

Barnaby, Jeff. Rhymes for Young Ghouls. Montreal” Prospector Films, 2013. 88min.

 

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