Full Participating Members of Society?

Reading an article titled “Lack of resources holding First Nations students back: panel”, I am a bit disturbed that Duncan, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, can be quoted saying in terms of the government’s priority and commitments that the government can make:

“…provide First Nation students with quality education that enables them to acquire the skills they need to enter the labour market and be full participants in a strong Canadian economy.”

You can read that full article HERE.

My first concern is with the use of the term “Quality education.” Yes quality education but education that works for First Nations students including cultural education and perhaps improving the current curriculum to include education of FNMI issues in the classroom even for non-FNMI students.

Then he is quoted saying that “that enables them to acquire the skills they need to enter the labour market and be full participants in a strong Canadian economy.” Be full participants in a strong Canadian economy? To me, he is suggesting that we are not full participants in a supposed strong Canadian economy. This type of discourse is what contributes to the stereotypical/racist views of FNMI groups within Canada.

I remember I wrote an earlier post I wrote about Ibbitson’s article on “Drop Out Chiefs” and I wrote,

Ibbitson continues to talk about the “broken [First Nations] education system” as if to say that the non-First Nations education is what works. Well, it doesn’t and it hasn’t been working for years. Correction, decades. That is right, I said it: The non-First Nations education is NOT what works for First Nations students. Just look at the residential school system. It is these First Nations Leaders’ decisions not to support the panel because it is only discussing a band-aid solution for separate Nations within a larger Nation. Remember Ottawa and their party dress? All just to say they did it.

You can read that full post HERE.

As a First Nations student I can’t speak for all, but I can say that what doesn’t work is that thinking we just need to reintegrate and contribute to society as full members. We are full participating members of society. We just have been excluded and continue to be excluded with comments like this.

What is Education?

This week is the first week of classes. Full classes that is.

Tuesday night I had my first social psychology class (okay maybe that wasn’t the full 3 hours but it was a nice introduction). My professor for that class asked some very interesting questions and made some equally interesting statements. A few them relating to education. One of the statements/questions was this,

What is education all about? Education is all about grades. Why can’t you just come to class and think?

I gathered what he meant by “think” was that why can’t students just come to class and just be their own. No, they have to sit there, absorb information, listen, retain information, read information, and then try to regurgitate it all at some point in some assignment or test soon or later to get that good grade.

Interesting enough. I agreed with him. Students are just wired to go to class on time, sit down in lectures, hand in assignments, receive grades. There is no checks in place to see if they actually understand or know why they are doing the work. I think that is a huge problem with education: people don’t know what good it is for especially when you can see other successful people who make it without any post-secondary education at all. In fact, some of the most interesting and most successful people I know only have their grade 12 education. So how do we convince young people, especially young Aboriginal people, the importance of education beyond just going to lectures, handing in homework, and getting good grades.

Well for one, education equals opportunity. I don’t think I would be able to do the things I have done so far in the past 5 years, and since moving London, if I had not gone back to school. Sometimes people ask me why I came London? I seriously had no plan in mind. I just came. In the end, I am glad I made such a move. I had the opportunity to meet new people, people with like-minded attitudes and people with like-minded attitudes help a lot. I also had the opportunity to work in some pretty interesting settings whether it was for volunteer or paid work because I was a student.

The one thing I learned is that people are willing to invest in you, if and only if you are willing to invest in yourself. And any financial officer/banker would say that is true. Most loans are only granted because of a certain amount of assets that reinvested into the loan on your behalf.

Education is investing in yourself.

But why is investing in yourfself important? It is important because it shows that you have control, devotion and most important power over your own self. It allows you to make your own decisions based on your own terms. Yes sometimes not all “self-investment” will be good investing, and this is a perfect example of my past summer employment. I was excited to be going to gain experience in the area of research, and that was research on Aboriginal people. By the time summer was over, I was stressed out, had learned what it meant to work in a “poisoned work environment”, and most importantly learned why it is now more important for young Aboriginal people to obtain higher education, not just because it is the right thing. For young Aboriginals, education is important so that we can have more Aboriginals working to benefit Aboriginal people and not just non-Aboriginals granting opportunities to Aboriginals.

Education, especially for young people and most specifically Aboriginal people, is about investing in your own self and gaining control and power over one’s own self. Education is investing in yourself.

Those Dayum Indians!

I write this post after reading a book about racial language in the English free press. It was interesting. It opened up my eyes to a lot of things that I read in the print/televised media and not just those that concern First Nations. I also write this post after watching Dave Chapelle’s recent radio interviews online.

Here you can watch it here:

Yeah, Dave Chapelle was apparently boo’d off stage in Miami at a Charity event held at the Casino that apparently belonged to the Seminoles. And apparently Dave Chapelle points out in the interview that the reason security didn’t help him out at the casino was because the front row was packed with the Seminoles. So, Dave didn’t do his show. I understand nobody wants to be on youtube or have his show recorded while at a charity event. C’mon Dave, you can’t be blaming the Indians just like everyone else out there 😉

Here you can watch Dave being boo’d off stage–very bad video I might remind you:

I feel bad for Dave. Really I do but really Dave… blaming the Indians?! Taking the easy way out.

Even a recent editorial in the Globe and Mail on the issue of Caledonia had blamed the Natives. True Costs of Caledonia editorial states:

Many simplistically say Caledonia is only about native protesters and peaceful non-aboriginals. There’s more to it than that. Some non-aboriginal protesters say it demonstrates “two-tier justice” in Canada, where first nations get away with mayhem and non-aboriginals are victimized. There’s also truth to that, but it’s not the whole story.

I don’t think this editorial can cover the entire story in one sitting. I don’t think that this editorial properly portrayed what really went down. In fact, the way this editorial was premised automatically puts a negative light onto the Natives. One cannot comment on the complexity of First Nations issues, let alone write an editorial, if they do not fully understand First Nations’ history/treaty rights. Really, they can’t.

Then in another Globe and Mail article titled National Education Panel in Jeopardy as Native Leaders Withdraw Support the picture of a confrontational Indian was painted again. The article starts out by saying that this panel was supposed to be a historical turning point between Aboriginal leaders and Ottawa but one by one more and more First Nations backed out.

I am proud of those First Nations that backed out. Those that stood up for what they believe in and what they truly want. What I am most proud of is that at the end of the article is Chief Day’s comments:

But Isadore Day, the chief of the Serpent River First Nation in Northern Ontario, said he does not see the point of having a panel to tell native communities what they already know: that investment spending and effective delivery of kindergarten to Grade 12 on reserves need attention.

The one thing this article fails to talk about is what the panel was actually meant to accomplish? I mean really do First Nations leaders need to sit around a table and discuss what, as Chief Day states, what First Nations already know.

It will be a historical turning point when Ottawa actuals take action when it comes to First Nations issues rather than holding panels where the First Nations leaders and Ottawa can sit around the same tables, eat the same food, and drink some tea.

All I have to say is time for action and time to stop talking Ottawa.

Oh, and remember peeps, this is just the newspaper and its articles/editorials we are talking about here. If all your opinions on a topic are formed because you read one or two newspaper articles/editorials, then we have a bigger issue on our hands here 😉

Immoral Discrimination

I read this article when it was first published, but did not have a chance to comment on it until now.

Please read the Toronto Star article titled Lack of Proper Schools For Natives is Immoral Discrimination Martin Says.

This article reminds me of an earlier post I had written three months ago after I read about relative depravation theory and was reminded of an incident at an old place of employment.

I wrote a short-short story titled “My Hometown.” You can read the original post HERE. I have also copied and pasted the piece I wrote below for easier reference…

After reading this article, I remember when I said to my mom something similar to what former PM Paul Martin had said, “Immoral discrimination.” I had said to my mom commenting on the situation of school/education relating to access/attainment for Aboriginals in Canada and I told her:

This is not a Canadian issue. This isn’t even an Aboriginal issue. This is a morality issue.

Don’t you just love those moments when someone more important or more distinguished says something similar to you! It makes you feel like you are on the right track, heading in the right direction. Writing this post and remembering what I said to my mom is one of those moments: on the right track, heading in the right direction. I just hope the rest of Canada gets on it too!

Here is the original short-short story titled “My Hometown.”

My hometown

You say, my hometown is just like your hometown… except that it is not.

My hometown is a reserve. It is a First Nation. I was lucky though. My hometown was on the edges of a tiny city. I was able to go to an elementary school and high school, off my reserve yet still close to my home.

My elementary school wasn’t a part of my hometown though. It was your hometown. It was in “town” and it was “off the reserve.” My teachers called my friends “bad,” but she didn’t call your friends anything…but good. My teachers called my friends “stupid,” but she called your friends “smart.”

My high school was the same as yours. It was in the same town, and off the reserve. Except now, my teachers were better than the last. The only difference was your friends called me “stupid” and a “slut,” and your friends made fun of my friends.

My hometown is a reserve. It is not like your hometown. I was lucky though. My hometown had clean running water, not like some of the other reserves my friends were from. My friends were flown in and out of their hometown, so they could earn their education. Your friends were flown down south for family vacation. My friends didn’t try to kill themselves….but I did. My hometown is not like yours. I live on a reserve. You live in a town, a city…My hometown is not like yours.

Let’s make education equal…

This is a screen shot from an email I received today. I wanted to highlight this point exactly (see below):

Education in Canada is anything but equal. In low-income communities, 35% of students drop out of school. In Aboriginal schools on reserves, the drop-out rate is 60%

Go vote: making education equal for everyone in Canada!

Here is the direct link: Teach for Canada. If you have facebook, it is even more easier to vote!

Take A Break: Don’t Get Burnt Out

Today, I emailed my First Nations Liaison Education Counsellor. I gave her an update on my status. No not my Indian Status. Status update on my grades and other things in life, just a quick update. I told my liaison counsellor I was working two jobs for the summer. The second job, I came across just by chance. I emailed someone, told them I was interested in knowing more (because I was interested in knowing more…) and **voila** Seriously, I didn’t expect this second job, and I am very thankful for it. When I see another person who is struggling to make ends meet, whether student or not, I can relate, and I give thanks for the opportunities given to me because I was that person before … many times.

My liaison counsellor, in response to my exciting update, replied with a “Good to hear, but don’t get burnt out.” Don’t get burnt out I thought to myself? Well, someone has to pay my rent, and since I live on my own, the only person fit for that task is … well, me. I sometimes envy my peers when they get to go home for the summer. When I see them talk about their “cool summer concerts” or “cool new car” or “cool new $300 bar clothes”, yeah, I’ll admit… I’m jealous. A bit. But then, I remember all the cool things I have, like my apartment that I work hard to maintain on my own. My cool family, who are there for me when they can be (even though they live far away) and are there for me no matter what. My new friends I made at school, who I see how hard they work to achieve their dreams. Aboriginal or not. I am thankful for everything that I have.

In the beginning, I was worried about this summer. I was worried about how was I going to pay rent? How was I going to afford groceries? Would I have to ask for help from someone? Asking for help is the hardest thing someone can do. Especially if you don’t want to feel like a burden. I told my family. I told my counsellor at school. I almost broke down. I thought: Would I lose my apartment–the apartment that I worked so hard to maintain and care for? Then, one day in an entire different conversation with my mom over the phone, she told me a story about responsibility when I asked her for input on a speech I was preparing. A speech I was attempting to prepare totally unrelated to this post and to my apartment.

My mom told me the story of the little boy who lost his jacket because he didn’t take care of it. She was trying to tell me a story that was told to her by an elder at a conference. She ended up telling me the lesson to be learned from hearing this story, and the lesson is this: if you take care of the things you own, your things will last. That is responsibility. Taking care of the things that belong to you. If you take care of the things that belong to you, you won’t lose them.

Here I was worried about losing my apartment, how I would afford groceries, how I would “make ends meet,” yet I was learning a story on responsibility. If I take care of it, I will not lose it (yes of course, still have to pay rent but that’s like taking care of it).

Sometimes I never know why people tell me things or why people share stories with me, but the more I think how it ties into my life… I believe even more now that everything happens for a reason. Even though I worked hard at maintaing my place, making it my safe-haven, and working hard at school, applying to scholarships, I was taking care of my life. Being responsible. Trust me when I say this: When you work towards the things you want, like really truly want, without any hidden intentions, things happen. Good things. But don’t forget, from the words of my liaison counsellor, don’t get burnt out… Take a break 😉

Maclean’s Magazine Article: Underacheiving Boys

Today, sitting at the doctor’s office, I read a magazine article from Maclean’s titled “Are we raising our boys to be underachieving men? The social and economic consequences of letting boys fall behind.”

Some of the stats from this article include:

  1. On average, boys earn lower marks…
  2. study less…
  3. and are more likely to repeat a grade than girls.
  4. Young men are more likely to drop out of high school…
  5. less likely to graduate university than young women.
  6. They still dominate in engineering and computer science,
  7. Men are outnumbered in most professional programs, including law and medicine.
  8. The average Canadian university campus is 58 per cent female.
  9. At some schools, men only make up about 30 to 35 per cent of the students.

I only had one question after reading this article. It was this, Why don’t they write articles as to why women are still earning less in wages when compared to men, even when the average Canadian university campus is 58% female?

Shannen’s Dream

This video is the plea to the Canadian government to help build a new school on a First Nation where the original school had been ruined because of thousands of diesel fuel that contaminated the ground. The government helped out by putting in “temporary portable trailers.” Or until a new one could be built. This is Shannen’s dream: a school for her community. For more information about this movement go directly to this link: Shannen’s Dream.

It is sad that in a First World Country, some children are still receiving education or lack there of in close below what the rest of the country receives.

There are plenty of videos that show the support for Shannen’s dream. Just makes me wonder where is the support that is truly needed: Canadian government support.

Let’s hope Shannen’s dream becomes a reality.

As the video reads “Hope you’ll remember us. Please don’t forget us.”

Canada… let’s “hope” you don’t “forget” about your future generation.

Check out the Toronto Star’s article on Shannen’s dream HERE.

Check out Shannen’s dream on Facebook HERE.

Open letter… My response

I am writing this post after reading An Open Letter to ALL federal candidates.

This is something I said before:

Don’t talk about us, talk TO us…

One might argue, “Well how do we talk to the youth in Canada?” Well, Canada you’ve created schools. Go to the schools.

One might then say, “Well, youth don’t care…” Yes we care. In fact, we probably care more than you think. We just think YOU don’t care.

One might then ask, as such a question was raised in this open letter, “How do we get youth engaged and interested in politics?”

This last question is a lot more difficult to answer, but I am going to say that youth just need to be encouraged. They need the space and they need the time. Getting youth engaged doesn’t just happen over night. We need to be given the freedom to do what we want, both creatively and intellectually (school doesn’t allow that much of the time). We need to be given the time to do this. School eats up most of our time, so perhaps the answer lies within the schools (Since the majority of young people in Canada can be find in schools for much of their life).

There is a common theme that lies in this answer and it is School.

Perhaps this is a systemic issue (Schools don’t allow youth to be creatively and intellectually challenged; provide for only certain or limited subjects and its content to be taught; eat up majority of a young person’s time and space)

I am not saying school should be abandoned or abolished, but perhaps something needs to change within the schools.

The problem isn’t that youth don’t care. Perhaps the problem is that school doesn’t allow the freedom for youth to show that we care.

So then how do we get youth to be interested and engaged politically? Well, Canada you created them: The Schools.

In the end, I wonder if any of the political candidates have made visits to any of the schools in Canada?

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.