First Nations

Touch The Pen

A new historical statement I learned over the summer and have since read a few books that mentioned this statement several times:

Touch the pen.

What does this statement mean? Well, it basically signifies the act of signing of a treaty long ago. The treaties between the Canadian government and the First Nations chiefs.

I never knew this happened. I thought the signing of a single “X” was bad enough. Now I have recently learned that the chiefs didn’t even sign the “X” they just touched the top of the pen while the government official signed the “X” for the chief. Yeah, I didn’t think it could have gotten worse but this whole “touch the pen” bit makes this signing of the treaties a whole lot worse.

The chiefs were granted many things from the government officials but a lot of those things have been taken away or the chiefs and their people taken advantage of. It makes me very frustrated and angry that I only learned about these historical events now. Not during history class. Not in a history textbook.

It’s a shame that the true Canadian history is never told. That needs to change.

I am trying to find out more about Canada’s true history and reading as much as I can related to this history because certainly the education system can’t even get it right. Like I said before, I like learning but I hate education.

More about “Touch the pen” (Yes it is an American document but the same happened in Canada. It is a shame)

So you’ve hired an Indian. Now what? Part 1

So you have hired an Indian now what?

Well, I have written about my experiences living and working in a non-Aboriginal setting. What is a non-Aboriginal setting? I think describing this sort of setting has to do more with an organization’s overall goals and reason for operating on a daily basis. When I looked at various Aboriginal organizations or organizations with specific departments dedicated to Aboriginal relations “About” or background information sections I found some common themes:

– Working towards self-determination for Aboriginal people

– Increase awareness and understanding of Aboriginal issues

– Mutual respect/equal partnerships with Aboriginal communities and the organization

An organization or department that operates outside these common themes, to me, is a non-Aboriginal organization/setting.

When I was reading these various organizations/departments background information sections, I found that they all had goals. You know, sort of like a mission and vision statement. I thought that was a really good thing to have because I have worked for organizations who had no clear plan. They just hired an Aboriginal and hoped for the best or for even something magical to happen. For some people there seems to be this idea that all Aboriginals know everything about everything – everything being Aboriginal culture and traditions. We don’t. In fact, not all Aboriginal people’s traditions and beliefs are the same. Yeah, you read that right: we are not all the same. I think that is what is wrong with some organizations who do try to help Aboriginal people: they think we are all the same. An organization may even have good intentions in approaching Aboriginal issues but completely miss the target if they fail to understand this basic concept. What one community or group of Aboriginal need/want, may be completely different from what another community or group of Aboriginal need/want. That actually goes for any community…not just Aboriginal communities. Or an organization may recognize that we are not all the same but what they find in working with certain communities they think can be easily applied to the rest of the communities. It doesn’t work that way either.

So, you are an organization, either operating around those themes mentioned above to aid Aboriginal people/communities or not, but you have hired an Aboriginal…now what? Don’t expect anything magical to happen. That happens only in Hollywood where sometimes real Indians are not even used. Check out a documentary called Reel Injun to see what that statement is all about. Oh, try to remember we are not all the same. That means we have different beliefs, values, traditions, and even a different understanding or awareness of Aboriginal issues. Not every Aboriginal knows everything about everything. And please, if you hire an Aboriginal person, you don’t need to tell them you hired them because of their background/ancestry. They probably have a good understanding. Tell them you hired them because of their knowledge and experience. Keep it classy. Besides, you might make someone else a bit upset in the office. Not everyone can be Indian.

As I write this post, I think that what I really want to say and share is not going to be easily put in one post. So, here is the first of many to come.

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 😉

Wind Talkers Code Talkers

I am writing this post after reading this article titled Code Talkers Have Served The Military Well–And Often Secretly and not long after I purchased (by chance) one of my favorite movies titled “Wind Talkers.”

I never heard the term Wind Talkers before until this movie came out. The movie came out in 2002. The correct term is “Code Talker.” I am not sure why or how Hollywood came up with the title “Wind Talker” but nobody ever said Hollywood articulately and correctly portrays history 100% of the time. I thought about why this title was chosen and I came up with 2 possible reasons:

1) They weren’t allowed to use “Code Talkers”
2) The irony with the Code Talkers is that they were not recognized/honored for their work from 1989 until 2008 (where according to the above article link, the US just passed a Code Talkers Recognition Act to honor remaining Code Talkers of both World Wars). So maybe, the title signifies that their service/work was just figuratively speaking “blown” away (in other words, unrecognized). (Hmmmm I don’t know but if anyone who reads this has another interpretation–by all means share in comments below)

But this movie, Wind Talkers, is a good movie. I mean, besides the title, it shows the inner-conflict between the Native and non-Native marines and some of the obstacles that both possibly had to overcome. What I like about it best is that it shows Adam Beach’s character (one of the Code Talkers) being somewhat of a comic but serious all at the same time. It’s sort of a subtle humor without taking away of the seriousness of the actual bigger story line of the importance of the Code Talkers during the World War II yet the little recognition or respect that they failed to receive. (This movie highlights the Code Talkers of WWII; however, Code Talkers were used in both World Wars.)

Not too many people know about these Native men and their important contributions to both World Wars. The “code” that Code Talkers had spoken/developed was never cracked. According to the Official Site of the Navajo Code Talkers, it was also considered a “secret too important” to divulge. The Navajo Code Talkers were also sworn to secrecy, as noted in the initial article mentioned. The Navajo code was developed by 29 Navajo men known as “The Original 29,” where 600 words were used within the code. On the Official Site of The Navajo Code Talkers, you can visit their page called The Code to view some of the Navajo words used and their English translation.

I did a search of Navajo Code Talkers at my university library (online of course) and I was able to find an entire Navajo Code Talkers’ Dictionary. I don’t know if anyone without an account to this library can find this dictionary online but I suggest you at least try to. It was interesting to see some of the words and what they translated to in the Navajo language but what they were used during the War. Some of the words that I found interesting were:

Navajo Word in English Translation Code word
Dog is patch Dispatch
Deer ice strict District
Small dummy Dud
Big dummy dummy

You can see that they had to know the English Language, or at least develop words that would make sense or sound like the English word for the Code. Like the word “District” when translated from the Navajo language, it’s literal translation is “Deer ice strict.” Say “Deer ice strict” really fast 3x and you will eventually come up with “district.” Interesting.

I know that this history is mostly part of American History, but I wish they would teach it in Canadian History. These Code Talkers had their land first taken from them when white settlers arrived, then forced to live on reservations and then just like in Canada, denied the right to continue to speak their language or practice their culture. Then, after all that, it is their own language (the same one they were denied to speak) that saves the very same country that stole their land from losing a World War a million miles away. Ironic or no?

I hope that one day that stories of history are taught in classrooms, whether they are American or Canadian classrooms, so that others are more aware of the contributions that First Nations people have made to significant historical events. Even though original Code Talkers were sworn to secrecy and some have them have honored this, as noted in the same initial article, schools are not sworn to secrecy of historical contributes of First Nations people–in fact they should at least start telling the real truth regarding the history of North America.

You can see in this picture that I taken at the last youth gathering I attended, one of the youth whose name is seen in the picture (Quinn Meawasige) wrote the following words,

Incorporate an accurate history in Ontario/Canadian curriculum about the true history of Native peoples to create awareness among non-Native students. This way there will be a better understanding of First Nations people.

All I gotta say is, “Well put Quinn!” and I completely agree!

Check out the following links to read more about the Code Talkers

Daphne Odjig

The other day I met with a professor at my university. I was very thankful that he set aside some time to meet with me, as professor are busy all year round. I had a great talk with him about things I wanted to do with my degree and some of the things I was interested in at the moment. I also told him that I was being commissioned to do a painting for a documentary. This opportunity I am very thankful for as well. He then shared with him that he was friends with Daphne Odjig. This is a lady whose work I had just seen the week before. Her work was being featured at a near by gallery called “Gallery Indigena” located in Stratford Ontario. I remember looking at her work and I noticed that it looked like a Picasso Style. He then proceeded to tell me that she was one of the few artists (actually 1 out of 4 in the entire world) that was asked to do a memorial painting in honor of Picasso. The only word I could think of at that time was: Amazing!

And you know what, that is amazing because I didn’t know this and probably not too many do. He also shared that she wasn’t all that “big” in Canada until recently. It’s a shame that artists don’t get noticed until “later.” Ms. Daphne is still living, but as he told me “very sick.” All I can say to that is, I am thankful to hear about all of this while she is still here. It is great because she is female and she is First Nations and she is from Wikiwemikong, Ontario. There are sooooooo many great First Nations people (not just First Nations females) to be proud of and I wish the rest of Canada knew about them or at least more people…not just Canada.

Anyways, I am writing this post to share to the rest of the world about something I am proud of: being an artist, female, and First Nations.

And to also share with the rest of the world, the lovely work and a great great great accomplishment of a First Nations Female who was born right here in Ontario.

You can check out her bio and some of her work at Art History Archive and some of her work at the Gallery in Stratford, Ontario online at Gallery Indigena.

First Nations Under Surveillance?

“First Nations Under Surveillance”

There is this article floating around saying that First Nations are being watched by the Canadian Government. Not like a “oh look how cute” type watching. Rather more like “1984: Big brother” watching you.

I wrote earlier about Indian smokes and an advertisement published by the Canadian government. In the advertisement it states “cigarettes fuel criminal activity” and a picture of “Indian Smokes.” Check out those posts HERE. And, in my political science class, I remember reading a journal article that stated these contraband “Indian smokes” also fuel terrorist activity.

Okay people, we don’t need news articles telling us that “First Nations” are being watched if the Canadian government creates advertisements or scholars write journal articles that tell others these contraband cigarettes are fuelling criminal or terrorist activity.

Even the military had listed extreme Aboriginal groups as terrorists in their training booklet. This article was only publish last year in the Globe and Mail. Apparently, an apology was and is still supposed to be made for the slip up. You can check out this article and others related to HERE.

Furthermore, this article tells its readers that “INAC was given the lead role to spy on First Nations.” Yeah, sounds everyone is just doing their job…

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 😉

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.

Canada & State of Emergency

Warning: This post might anger some.

Here are other posts that I previously written about State of Emergencies occurring in Canada at various times and in various regions:

Thanks to a friend on facebook, I came across this link: Pikangikum Declares a State of Emergency. This is due to drinking water. Water is being flown in. Can you believe that! In Canada, water is being flown to people, and pending weather conditions.

To me this is outrageous. It is even more outrageous that this type of thing has gone on for years. It is even more outrageous that it is rarely addressed in major news sources like Globe and Mail. I did a basic search from the main site google search with the key words “State of Emergency” (Simple enough, right?) and up came more than a 100 searches. Here is a screen shot of the first page only.

State of Emergency

I just have to say I am not impressed. I will tell you why I am not impressed. This past winter a state of emergency was called in Southwestern ON. They needed to rescue Canadians from a winter snow storm. Yup, rescue Canadians from a winter snow storm. A snow storm these people decided to drive in, or that they accidentally were caught in. One man died in this snow storm because he decided to abandon his car and walk in the snow storm. I don’t mean no disrespect to anyone, but really…Who drives in a snow storm? And even worse, who walks in the middle of nowhere in the snowstorm? THIS is Canada people, expect snow storms and expect to stay home because of the snow. What we shouldn’t expect is for hundreds of individuals living in Canada to go without drinking water during cold months, and for days or even weeks on end.

THAT is outrageous.

Yes, I warned you that this post might anger you…and if it has angered you because I just wrote that, then you are experiencing the anger I feel and countless other First Nations people feel across Canada because they live in “State of Emergency” almost everyday, for weeks, sometimes weeks on end (I have never experienced living in a State of Emergency, but I have met other First Nations people who have and have had friends who did live in these states… it’s not something that Canada should be proud of)

This makes me wonder where Canada’s priorities are especially after attending a Liberal party rally in London ON, where I asked Michael Ignatieff, the following question:

You mentioned internet access for all Canadians earlier, seeing that more than hundred First Nations in Canada still have water potability issues, why not drinking water for everyone?**

**You can read the full post with that question and my experiences at the rally by clicking on the full quote.

This is an important time for First Nations people to not only speak up and vote, but to also fight for change because of the current political happenings and the elections. I hope that First Nations people can fight for change beyond just voting, and make their voices heard in whichever way possible.

This is why I started this blog, and I hope others can make their voices heard in a similarly positive way.

I encourage everyone and anyone who feels that they have a cause to be listened to and heard of to speak up.

Like I said in another post, titled Election 41 or #elxn41, if you think you are just one in one million–that is a good thing, because that is a lot of chances for someone to be thinking the same thing you are. Just speak up, or ask someone to speak up for you! Trust me, you are not alone and someone will listen…

Just look at what this one girl did: Shannen’s dream. This is an amazing story, yet so sad that the girl’s life ended early… It is great to see that her fight for her community lives on–it is sad that her community had experienced this (both the school and the loss of a strong, young Aboriginal female).

But always remember people, this post and its information shared here are happening TODAY and in Canada… this isn’t 10, 20, 50, 100 years ago.

This is today, and it needs to change!

Election 41 or #elxn41

I am writing this post after I seen something that someone re-tweeted on twitter. Yup, I am on twitter!.

The re-tweet went a little something like this:

Can anyone name something good/positive the government has ever done for Ab people in return for their home and Native land? Maybe I’m being unfair, but all I can think of is smallpox, residential schools, 60s scoop, housing crisis, disenfranchisement, genocide..

I must first say that some people are going to think I am a bit of a hypocrite when I write this post.

When other First Nations people say things like this, it makes me upset. I am not upset at the government, but rather upset at the people that say things like this. Yes, I know that not every Canadian knows about the “True Canadian History.” I say “True Canadian History” because not everyone knows about the Indian Act and its history, or why it was created, and the other institutions that were created to try to get rid of the “Indian in the Child.”

Yes, some of the problems (well majority of the problems) today can be traced back to these historical happenings. Am I a hypocrite for writing about intergenerational problems in previous posts? Unfortunately, that is just it, these are HISTORICAL Happenings.

It is great that we can acknowledge and know our own history, but what isn’t great is how some young First Nations people bring that up in almost every argument. If I can offer one piece of criticism: Stop. That argument has been over played and over used. Instead of bringing arguments like that of above up in your defense… Argue about what needs to be done TODAY! For instance, one can argue that “True Canadian History” needs to be apart of educational lessons so that others gain a better understanding of the problems that happen today (This sounds counter-intuitive to letting go of the past, yes it does. Someone once told me that it is not my duty to educate the rest of the world about what has happened, but it is my right to fight for change and fight for the future–that’s what I mean by suggesting this argument). One can also argue that First Nations need access to a basic human right: Clean, accessible, drinking water… and maybe even indoor plumbing. One can also argue that we need to hold our own leaders accountable for the decisions that they make for their own community.

These are just some items that can be fought for today. I am sure that there are much more to be fought for and they vary from each First Nation community.

Like I said earlier, I might be considered a hypocrite writing this. This will be my first time voting, and I am 24 years old. Since I was able to vote, I missed out on two elections (that I can remember). I missed out on one because I didn’t know that I had to register, and provide proof of address (I was not living at home, and I went to a the closest polling station near me… was told to back to my First Nation to vote because that’s where my identification address was). I missed out on another one because my address was NFA (yup, no fixed address–not the best way to live). I am pretty sure I may have missed another election because I didn’t care.

Now that I am back in school, and more aware of current situations (other than my own situation), I am excited about voting for the first time more than ever. I owe this especially to my friend Chad Cowie. I want to see change and I want to help others fight for that change (others being First Nations). I keep hearing about in this election, “Nobody is talking about First Nation issues…” or “Leaders need to address First Nations issues…”. Let me tell you, some leaders have been talking about or addressing First Nations issues–some more than others and some only addressing these issues at more convenient times (**Ahem** Example: the English debate… won’t mention any names..).

If you are 18 and voting and First Nations, voting is not the only option you have. If you want to see change you have to fight for change because there are certainly a lot more people out there that believe their own issues (which are not First Nations issues) are more important than First Nations people and their issues. In fact, a lot of people in this country probably believe that they know what is right and that their issues deserve more attention than First Nations issues. That’s reality and that’s the truth when it comes to fight for any right or issues, not just First Nations.

You have to fight for change. Write letters, form a group, create a website… Do anything to bring attention to your cause. You will probably think to yourself, “Well I am just one person out of like a million others…” I bet you are only one person in a million, but that’s a lot of chances for more than one person to have the probability to be thinking the same thing as you. I bet there are one in one hundred chances that someone is thinking the same thing as you are. I bet they are closer than you imagine. You can’t just say, “Great, I am going to vote, but then what.” What do you mean then what? Make sure you follow up, read the news, and like I said before: write letters, form groups…etc etc!

But please…don’t argue what the above individual did. Argue for what needs to be done TODAY and for the FUTURE!

If you really feel like you need to make noise like that above argument, there are ways that fighting for what needs to be done today and ways that you can squeeze in the above argument, but I will say something rather honest: Some Canadians are somewhat tired of hearing that argument, like that of above. Make your argument relevant to today. How does the past affect YOU? How did the past affect YOU? And most importantly, what are YOU going to do to help bring about change TODAY and into the FUTURE!

Ps, Don’t forget to vote 😉