Response to last post: Conversations (Aboriginals and Canada)

This post is a response to my last post. I am writing to say that I am neither anti-Canada nor am I racist. I can see that my last statement “you are to blame” could also cause anger within non-Aboriginals who do show compassion towards Aboriginals. It could also be a step backwards by that statement. I guess my real purpose of writing that last post is just to give a glimpse of everyday conversation that I encounter as an aboriginal living in Canadian society, and it makes me angry. It makes me wonder what other young Aboriginal people encounter.

I believe the issue facing young Aboriginals (not all but some), are anger issues. I have been told or taught that depression is unresolved anger. That some people who are caught in the grieving cycle get caught in between anger and guilt. I remember the research for one essay I was writing it was read that Aboriginals are at the end of the grieving cycle stage and heading into the recovery stage. I shook my head.

A lot of young aboriginals today are still angry. I can say this because I hear this being said “it makes me angry that people don’t know” almost every other week. Or this anger is visible when you see aboriginal youth in gangs, committing acts of violence, being arrested (Note: Not all aboriginal youth are doing this).

From my own example, after I first tried to commit suicide, I kept telling doctors that “I am angry.” Doctors said “Angry people don’t do what you did.” I was even more angry. I didn’t know what to do with this anger. I didn’t know how to handle it. Nobody told me, it is okay to be angry and it is okay to be upset but what matters is how you handle that anger.

I think that’s what’s wrong with Aboriginal people. They are not telling their young, what happened or is happening to them is not their fault. The abuse. Suicide of family or friends. The current condition of your community (no clean running water/high crime rates/etc). It is not young Aboriginal people’s fault. The healing of Aboriginal people must not forget about their young people.

Some of Aboriginal youth are angry and were angry and do not know how to handle this anger. Some don’t realize that what happened or is happening to them is not their fault. What they need to be told is, what you can change is the future. The future is in our hands. We are allowed to he angry and upset but what matters is how we handle or channel that strong emotions.

Young people must also hold their own leaders accountable. Chief and council not fulfilling their roles adequately? Tell them. Be involved. Educate them, because those leaders are sometimes so removed from their own community that they forget about their community and its needs. Those in power of our own communities need to be held accountable (it is not just about Canada versus Aboriginals; it is sometimes Aboriginals forgetting about Aboriginals and their communities themselves). Go out and pressure your leaders to follow through with their roles as a leader and pressure them to be effective leaders. Pressure them for change. Be pro-active not reactive.

I think what also needs to be shared with Aboriginal youth is that sometimes it is okay to be upset or angry with an elder in your community. (**GASP** Did I just say that?) Many people might be angry with me for saying that, but let me tell you…Not all Aboriginal elders are necessarily doing the “right thing” or doing “good things.” What if an elder does something wrong or doesn’t react the right way to a youth? Who is the youth going to be mad at? Themselves, probably because that elder is considered to be respectful and respected in the community by others. If the youth becomes angry with the elder, then the youth may be considered an outcast. Where does that leave the youth? No where, except with a whole lot of anger inside. This probably sounds confusing to someone outside reading this because it was confusing when I spoke about this to another student at school. He asked me what I meant by it’s okay to be anger. I continued on with explaining to him the grieving cycle, as it was explained to me.

I said to him that I don’t know the grieving cycle off by heart but I was told that sometimes some people get caught in the grieving cycle in between anger and guilt. They are angry for what happened to them. Then they feel guilty for feeling angry. Then they may feel angry for feeling guilty realizing that what happened to them is out of their control or angry that they didn’t handle the situation better. Then they feel guilty again… and so on and so on. This cycle, I was told, can go on for 7-9 years. This is what I believe is happening to our youth. The communities hold their leaders in high priority and their elders are treated with much respect. The communities are sometimes not in the best living conditions (whether in the private or public sphere). The youth are angry. That is what I believe.

Nobody listens to what youth say. They talk about them. They always say, “They are our future…” Yes, we know that. People have been saying that 5 years ago, 10 years ago, and even 15 years ago. I am almost 25 and people are still saying the same thing. I don’t consider myself old, but if I can say that 15 years ago, people are saying the same thing… then clearly nothing has changed.

Someone needs to tell Aboriginal youth: It is not your fault. It is okay to be angry. It is not your duty to educate non-Aboriginals. It is not your duty to defend an entire nation. What matters is how you handle situations that come across your path. It is okay to be angry and upset and frustrated… even if that means being upset at your leaders or your elders because they are not living up to what is expected of them. What matters is how you handle that anger and frustration. What matters is that you take your situation and you work hard to change it, even if someone says “No, you can never have that happen” or “No, nobody will ever listen to you”… It is okay to be angry. The most important thing that youth must learn that it is okay to be angry but what really matters is how you handle that anger.

That is all….

This post was in response to my last post titled Conversations: Aboriginals & Canada.

Residential School Children

This past weekend I was able to attend my university’s First Nations Student Association’s powwow. This powwow had a great turn out and I was very impressed. I was also able to meet a few people that I am interested in working with or at least volunteering with. At the powwow, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had a booth set up and I was able to meet the person who works with the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association. I was very interested in talking with this individual because I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Shingwauk Residential School Reunion. When I volunteered at this event, I had some amazing conversations with Residential school survivors and I also learned a few things from this group of people.

The one thing I learned was this: Keep smiling! When I remember this experience, and even though this group of people were brought together under not-so-great circumstances, they still smiled. I remember seeing them sitting together, eating together, laughing together, and most important still smiling together.

Another thing I learned about this experience is that many of the children who did attend the school and who did die at the school, never received proper burial. This kind of made me upset. As a volunteer, I had a tour of the old residential school which is now a university, Algoma University College. On this tour, we were brought to a secluded area behind the university. There was a trail that led up to this area and specifically into the area which we were going to. We were going to the graves of the priests and nuns. In other words, the graves that did not include the children who died at the school. These graves had big tombstones, fencing around the grave site… clear markers that graves existed there. We were told that many of the children who died at the school either died in the river trying to escape the school or died and were only buried in the front of the school. The front of the school was just a big green yard, with obviously no grave markings.

I talk about this experience because when I visited the Truth and Reconciliation Commission website, I saw an article that spoke about an Aboriginal youth, whose name is Charlie Hunter, that died while at a different residential school and his parents were not notified of their child’s burial. Additionally, Charlie’s burial happened outside Charlie’s home community–his parents could not give a proper burial and could not visit his burial site. As the article says,

For years, their family has unsuccessfully pressed the federal government to have Charlie’s body brought home so that they can visit his grave and talk with his spirit.

The burial of a body is a very sacred ceremony for Aboriginal people and it can be agreed upon for any group of people that funerals help with the grieving process. This process is an important part of healing for anyone, whether Aboriginal or not. If you would like to read the entire Toronto Star article, you can read the complete article HERE.

When reading this article, it made me upset with how the Indian Affairs Minister responded to this situation. Mr. John Duncan simply said in a letter,

He feels badly for them but cannot help…

Fortunately, another part of this story is that there is another couple, the Wilsons, amongst others. The Wilsons helped out Charlie’s parents by donating $5,000 to help bring Charlie Hunter home. A trust fund was also set up. The estimated cost to bring Charlie home is estimated to be at $21,500. Throughout the story, there are individuals who are touched by this story and who are willing to help bring Charlie home. This literally brought tears to my eyes. I thought, if only we could bring all children home to their parents.

Early Poetry….

So tonight I was going through some old poems I had written when I was younger… like 16-18 years. I started to actually write my poems and saving them when I had moved away from my home town (However, I do know there are stacks of books and papers from much earlier poems that I had written when I was kid, in my house I grew up in back on my First Nation).

This is one of the poems I had written almost right after my car accident. I was 15 years old. I can’t find the paper version of it, but when I first moved to London I spent a great deal of time converting the poems that I could find that I had written on paper and trying to find a computer so that I could save them. I always used the library’s computer or the few people I managed to meet–their computers. I did this because when I first moved to London, I wanted to save my writings. (I didn’t want people who I hung around with to read them or find them–I think I would have been embarrassed if anyone read them then… Maybe because I lacked confidence/self-esteem). I moved here knowing nobody, no friends, no family. I couldn’t call home until a month after I arrived–when I started to meet people. You’re probably asking yourself, why didn’t I used a pay phone? When I moved away from home, I felt lost. I felt ashamed. I felt embarrassed. I didn’t even know where I was going to live, which city even… I was literally lost, physically & spiritually….

I spent 9 months without a mailing address or a way for my family to call me to check up on me. I had to call them, make sure to let them know that I was still alive. So, school pretty much saved me. If it weren’t for school, I don’t know where I would be right now–I guess that’s why it really bothers me when people say “Aboriginals get everything for free…” or that “Aboriginals have it best…” or that “Aboriginals shouldn’t get money for education…” Like I said earlier, if it weren’t for school or education, I don’t know where I would be.

As I said before, this is one the earlier poems. I can’t remember why I wrote it, or what I was feeling. Some of my poems from my teen years is pretty dark… it freaks me out even that I could even think to write some of the things I had written. Fortunately for me, I now use writing as an outlet. I realize that I love to write, and that writing has given me the confidence to convey my thoughts (especially after my car accident and my acquired brain injury).

This poem… I left it untitled, and I am not sure why. I would have liked to call it “This poem is me…”, but this poem is not who I am anymore. Maybe it was me then, but it is not me anymore…

This poem is me,
As crazy as it may seem.
Come close,
Come see;
The little girl,
Running around,
So care free.
The little girl,
So neat and clean.
Come see;
As crazy as it may seem
The little girl,
Who cries herself to sleep.

Look at the whole picture: It’s not all about you & it’s not all about me.

So this evening/AM, I am unable to sleep.

I have been thinking about a lot of stuff lately, especially my Letter to the Editor. I know that I would receive some personal emails and viewpoints that I would not agree with. It’s kind of stressful, but I am dealing with it. I am just glad that nobody blatantly said something racist or racial (because that stuff really does hurt).

I did receive one letter in which the writer explicitly stated: I don’t want to pay for anything that happened in the past.

Today, I was fortunate enough to meet with someone today at school from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. During this meeting, it was brought up that foreigners/outsiders to Canada see this country with three characteristics. These three characteristics are:

  1. Nature
  2. French
  3. Aboriginals

In response to this letter, I said to this writer:

It has nothing to do with me and you, it has to do with Canada and how the rest of the world views Canada. I just had a meeting today with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade: I was informed of three characteristics in which foreigners view Canada:

  1. Nature
  2. French
  3. Aboriginal

So these social supports in place, are there to make Canada look more attractive to outsiders. Outsiders see Aboriginals in Canada. If they see them being mistreated by years of injustice, (injustices that have been committed before you were ever born and that continued until I was born and still today), then they wont be likely to come Canada. When you begin to look at the picture as a whole, and not just me and you, you will realize it has nothing to do with you or me.

Yup, I should have just said Thank you for your letter, but I couldn’t. It bothers me that people can’t look at the whole picture. It’s not all about you and it’s not all about me.

Comments to Letter to Editor

Well today I was able to view my comments today from my letter to the editor at LFpress today. The link provided brings you to the letter with comments directly.

In one of the comments, one person asked questions or proposed that I think about why don’t Aboriginals have it best?

Well, that is a very simple question with a very complicated answer. I know that any answer I give him will be further questioned with even more simple questions with even more complicated answers.

Submitting my letter to the editor I know that not everyone will agree with what I have to say. I don’t want everyone to agree with what I have to say. I believe that if everyone agrees with what everyone is saying, you will never change, or improve.

Anyways, I replied to this person. I don’t know if my reply will get posted. I did however refer the individual to the R. v. Gladue appeal decision. Found here.

I hope that the person who asked me why not, knows that I have asked myself that over and over again. Why? The answer is too complicated to discuss in one post and too complicated to even present in a simple way.

I hope the one individual is able to find the answers in the link I provided so that he may believe what the BC Appeal Court Judges have written because even not even my post or answer to the question will ever satisfy the typical Canadian. People need people with formal knowledge, and not real life experience to answer difficult questions.

Suicide Rates & Aboriginals

Today I was at school and I was discussing essays with another student who is in the same class as me.

She choose to write on cultural relevancy and Aboriginal suicide rates. The statistics are that Aboriginals have the highest suicide rates, and the youngest death rates in Canada. To sort of sum what my classmate said: If culture is incorporated into the healing process that Aboriginal suicide rates will be reduced. She also added,

It’s common sense.

Too bad it wasn’t that easy. Common sense. Oh wait, it is that easy. People just fail to listen to what Aboriginal youth are saying. This classmate of mine is also Aboriginal and female.

In the end, I was excited to hear about her essay because I wrote my essay on the same topic…Except I said:

The lack of a cultural identity is associated with high suicide rates amongst Aboriginal youth.

The same thing except just opposite variables.

I can’t wait to hear about her outcome in her essay.

Read one of my earlier posts about my essay titled Suicide.

Heritage Status? Indian Landfill?

Note: The title of this post is taken from the comments that were posted in the globe and mail article. Check out the article’s comments HERE.

This new post can be traced back to one of my first posts titled Helpless.

In my post I highlight the fact that Aboriginal title or rights claim are not a registerable interest:

At time of publication of Prof. Marguerite E. Moore’s Title Searching & Conveyancing in Ontario 6th ed. (April 2010), the Registry Act and the Land Titles Act “do not recognize Aboriginal Title or rights claims to be a registerable interest…[making] it extremely difficult to search for and [sic] identity potential Aboriginal claims.” (p. 503, Moore 2010).

And most recently, globe and mail article titled Widow Loses Court Challenge In Fight Over Heritage Status of Property. The title says it all. However in the article, it states even more,

“There was nothing on the land title to indicate the property had any archeological significance and it wasn’t registered as a heritage site.”

If land with Aboriginal interest is not registerable on titled in Ontario, I am sure that other provinces operate the same way. Just look at Oka, and other land claim disputes that occur across Canada. Wasn’t there a resort out west that had a public sign that shouted, “No Indians Allowed”? I believe so. With this post, let’s not go there.

There should be some sort of recognition of Aboriginal interest on title to land, even if it’s not registered/registerable. It should at least alert its owners or future owners when title is transferred, just like any registerable interest. It will probably avoid situations like this, and future situations that have current or future Aboriginal land claim/heritage (Never even heard of “Heritage Status” until now). Then maybe, it would lead to less dramatic disputes, and less court fees for everyone. Then maybe, the Aboriginals won’t look so much like the “bad guy” fighting for their land.

However, I can get why Aboriginal interest is not registerable on title. Some Land Claims can become pretty complicated, and take years to settle (Having to register Aboriginal interest may scare off potential buyers and reduce development…so it’s better in the long run to just develop on the land, deal with land claims later…instead of now). Did I also mention I suck at sarcasm?

But there should at least be some sort of caution on title, if current legislation isn’t going to validate it. Just a few simple words notifying purchasers/sellers to caution that there is an Aboriginal Interest on title. It may help reduce conflict…maybe?

Just a little suggestion.

PS. I know that this article has everything to do with the Heritage Conservation Act, and not Land Titles and that the incidence occurs in BC…but the fact that this land was not registered as a Heritage site and that the buyers were not aware of the land/site’s significance should be of importance–that means the land/site’s significant importance was not indicated on Title, like any other registerable interest. Heritage status, or Aboriginal interest. When I read this article, to me the bad guy in this picture appears to be none other than the Aboriginals. I wonder if this article could have been written without having to mention that it was an “Aboriginal site”? Just look at the comments under the article. I bet those would not be there if the word “Aboriginal” was not anywhere in the article.

Intergenerational Problems: where is the solution?

It can be agreed upon by many people that the problems for Aboriginal people in Canada are considered “intergenerational.”

That means these problems have been passed down to present generation by the one preceding it, and that that current generation will pass it on to the generation succeeding it.

A lot of people say that change is going to happen because of the present generation (I am pretty sure they said this with the last generation…)

My experiences today I am finding other young people saying the same thing: I am angry. They are angry that other people don’t understand. They are angry because of the uneducated comments some people make regarding Aboriginal people.

I had a relative tell me during a hard time in my life about the grieving cycle, and it was my first suicide attempt. I don’t know why she told me this, but I have remembered it ever since (approximately 12 years ago).

She told me: lot of people get caught in the grieving cycle, in between anger and guilt. People caught in between anger and guilt in the grieving cycle are angry with what happened to them (and what ever it is they are grieving for) and then they start to feel guilty for being angry. Then they feel angry because they felt guilty, and so on. Some people are angry at themselves or are angry with others, when they are caught in this stage. This can go on for years.

In the most recent essay I handed in on Globalization (and how it has not benefited Aboriginal women), one of my sources said that Aboriginal people are on the road to recovery (after being caught in the grieving cycle for years/generations). I beg to differ. If there are current young people, including myself, still saying that they are “angry” with some of the things that are going on around them and some of the things that other people are saying in relation to Aboriginal people, then the only people on the road to recovery is the older generation–the ones who are part of our past. But what about the young people?

When will people realize that young Aboriginal are still angry! They are angry. Some of these young people don’t know why or how they got to be in certain situations that they are in–it’s a part of their past. They are angry and they eventually feel guilty blaming either themselves or other people. Just look around young Aboriginal people (not all, but some–a greater number than the general population), are as Phil Fontaine said, involved with gangs, violence, drugs, risky behaviors, and suicide/self-harming behaviors. These young people need to know that what is happening or has happened to them is not their fault! IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! They need to know that it’s okay to be angry, but they need to know that they should not feel guilty for feeling angry–It’s okay to feel angry and be angry but how you deal with the anger and how you react in response to your anger matters the most.

This is how we show concern for the next generation. We need to tell them: it is not your fault. But we also need to tell them: it’s up to you to choose how you react and it’s up to you to change the future.

When Aboriginal people show a concern for their past, they must not forget about their future.

I guess that is where history comes in: we learn about it, and we can relate it to our problems today–the intergenerational problems. Hmmmm… So is the solution to our problems in the past and healing the older generation, or showing concern for the young and telling them “It’s not your fault”? If it’s both, we must attempt to tackle them at the same time. That is the solution.

This post is in reply to my previous post titled, Past versus present.

Past versus Present

Today, I had the opportunity to sit in on a meet and greet with Phil Fontaine here at my university. Unfortunately, I walked in only half way. I regret missing the beginning of his talk.

I did walk in on something interest. He stated just minutes after I walked in relating to Canadian Aboriginal people’s past saying that we need to fill in the “missing chapters.” In question and answer period with the students, questions were asked. I asked a question relating to one of my essays I am working on pertaining to education and Aboriginal children. My essay’s hypothesis is: Aboriginal students’ confidence levels may increase if Aboriginal history and culture is taught. What I mean by Aboriginal history, is not just the horrible things that happened in the past but also the positive history stories.

Recently, I came up with the idea to put to use my talent of writing and drawing. I love to write and draw, and it’s always been a dream of mine to write a book–whether black and white print or a child’s book. I would really like to write a child’s book, and illustrate it as well. That would be my ultimate dream.

I presented to Phil Fontaine my idea and how I would like to write about the good things that Aboriginal people have done. After saying all this, I kind of felt frustrated because 1) I could not get my actual point across because of my emotions 2) He grew up in a different era than I. I know, not his fault.

I could not get my point across that yes. I acknowledge the past and I would like to write about the past, but what also needs to happen is the positive stories. Growing up, I had my family as my positive support and motivation. I was fortunate growing up because not all Aboriginal youth have this basic structure in their life: family. I looked up to my sisters, my mom and my dad. I remember watching my dad doing his essays for his university degree. I remember watching my mom as well. When I needed help with my school papers, my mom would always say, “Get your dad to edit your papers, he was really good at that.” I remember thinking that I wanted to be just like my dad and be good at writing. I wanted to be like my mom, in all her hard work she done as a student, a mother, a wife, and a community member. My mom and dad were great motivation because they gave us the freedom to pursue what we wanted, and together my parents, would provide the guidance and care as needed. My sisters were motivators because well, they were my first best friends and will always be my best friends.

However, I felt that I was most frustrated in that I could not say that when I was growing up and going to school, there was no motivation outside of school. I am thankful for my family for all the motivation they did provide, because where would I be without them? Phil Fontaine made a point that we need to acknowledge our history, and I acknowledge and appreciate where he is coming from as he is a residential school survivor. However, I wanted to make a point that we need to start young, and motivate young Aboriginal people to stay in school. I believe in my point, just as much as I appreciate his point and background. I believe in my point because if young Aboriginal people do not have the motivation or confidence to stay in school, where will the future of Aboriginal people’s be heading to (I say this as a frustrated young person: History doesn’t matter if you have no future).

The issue with Aboriginal young people is drugs, alcohol, suicide, gangs, violence, criminal activity, as Phil Fontaine presented. The bigger issue is not having the motivation or confidence to avoid those experiences. The issue is not being able to have outside motivators other than one’s own family. This is an issue because sometimes their family is not even a “family.”

If the education of Aboriginal history, both positive and negative experiences, begins at a younger age to both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals, it will bring about a greater awareness to the situation of Aboriginals in Canada. That is my idea, a concern for the future. As these young people grow older, they will be more aware of what happened, and what is happening today (and maybe what the causes are of the present situation of Aboriginals). They will be better able to apply their knowledge to help provide for or at least attempt to provide for solutions to the Aboriginal people’s problems. They may know why there is a lot of substance abuse, and gangs, and violence, and why Aboriginal people are over-represented in the prison system. They may know what causes these multigenerational problems, like those of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse, and why these problems still persist today.

After hearing his response to my question and my idea, I felt that there is still the issue of young versus old, past versus present. We need to bring those two together to realize that one without the other cannot exist: Aboriginal people need their history as much as they need their young, and their young need to know their history to help them realize that the issues in their hometown or community are not their fault–that is the issue today. Most importantly, the rest of Canada needs to know this history in order to help their young, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, to grow and understand each other. That is the solution, in my opinion. Getting rid of the “versus.”

Intelligence & Cultural Assimilation

The textbook being quoted in this post is titled Psychology Frontiers and Applications, 3rd Edition, with appropriate page numbers in brackets following quote.

I had to get this post out and published before I head to bed.

I am currently studying for my psychology test in two weeks. I just finished reading a chapter on Intelligence. In this chapter, various factors that contribute to a person’s intelligence. Some of these factors include, genes, biology, environment and culture.

I am going to go out on a limb when I write this post, but I have to write it!

In this chapter it talked about Italian immigrants were a “danger to the [USA] gene pool.” (393) This quote obviously represents an old and out-dated view that tried to use Darwin’s theory of evolution to create superior and inferior species and animals. These dangers were because Italian American students achieved much lower test scores, which was on the same average as African-Americans. It further states, “cultural assimilation and educational and economic opportunity seem much more reasonable explanations for this pronounced increase in test scores.” (393) The test score increases were only discussed in Italian American students, not the African American student.

I was kind of not impressed with this particular reading for two reasons:

  1. The African American student was never discussed in the second part of the reading, which stated only the increase in Italian American Test scores could be possibly explained as part of “cultural assimilation.”
  2. This first reason leads into my second reason:

  3. It suggests that a particular ethnic group can only be successful on intelligence scores if they “learn” to assimilate into the larger culture.

This makes me quite angry with the fact that Aboriginals were one of the many groups that were supposed to be assimilated into Canadian society. Could it be this attempted assimilation be due to in part to the particular thought during the time? Sure why not. Unfortunately, this is 2010 and readings like this suggesting that a more reasonable explanation behind higher test scores for one particular ethnic group could possibly be because of “cultural assimilation” continue to force assimilation, not just onto one ethnic group but to any group that isn’t part of the “dominate” or “more western” culture.

  • Please read my post on “Extinction” regarding Aboriginals.
  • Read my response, titled Intelligence and Aboriginals, to this “reasonable explanation” of “cultural assimilation” in increased intelligence test scores.