Sunday, February 10, 2019

CAN WE TALK?




MR. DERANGER TRAPPER HUNTER DENE


Unless you have been basking in the sun on a beach on some isolated island and not following the American news cycle you are likely left out of a very important national conversation. 

February 2019 is proving to be a challenging month for US elected officials, in light of documentation and photos that revealed that some decades ago a number of high-ranking elected officials in Virginia posed with blackface, and another presidential candidate claimed American Indian heritage on an American Bar legal form.    

These elected officials are scrambling to hire high profile PR firms to contest these negative stories. The outrage is palpable.  Has this behaviour suddenly become unacceptable? Or is it simply political grandstanding?  Did it come to light purposefully or as a political stunt to shame and hurt the opposition? Or have standards just changed since the 1980s?  Which begs the question: has the public finally lowered its tolerance for racism and, if there was not an upcoming presidential election, would that outrage still exist?

Cultural appropriation, in my opinion, has never been accepted by the Indigenous population in Canada. First Nations have vehemently fought against this type of racism in the public arena, and in the courts. From the Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Indians, the fans’ pretending to Tomahawk the opposition at baseball stadiums, sexy ‘Indian Princess’ and ‘Indian Chief’ costumes being sold at Halloween, fashion models wearing ‘Indian’ headdresses, we have seen endless examples of racism.  This racism is sometimes shrouded under the veil that they are attempts to honour Indians.  But indigenous activists have stood up against it.   

Racism should always be called out for what it is.  In Canada, we have begun a conversation around truth and reconciliation.  When Canada created residential schools it was a blatant attempt to remove all traces of Indigenous culture that left in its midst a horrific legacy by attempting to assimilate first Nations.  In an attempt to rectify this shameful legacy, which some have correctly described as cultural genocide, the government of Canada created the process of truth and reconciliation.  The Prime Minister of Canada publicly apologized for the mistreatment of first Nations in residential schools.   However, his apology fell flat as racist policies embodied in the Indian Act continue to exist.

The incidents in the United States has started a conversation around racism that needs to be continued, not just for elected officials, but among regular individuals, and academics, grassroots people, and professionals.    

Racism is systemic and weaved into the fabric of both the US and Canada, and there is simply no denying it. Most students in the Canadian school system have not been taught the real history of Canadian First Nations. It is only through individual research that one will uncover the real Canadian Indian history.

What are your thoughts on this particular subject? Do you think that First Nations should forget the past? The injustices were deep and cruel. Living under a colonization created much of the problems that exist today. 

Fortunately, the Canadian government's goal to wipe out all traces of indigenous culture, spirituality and governance, failed. 

Where do we go from here? Colonization exists and we are fundamentally caught in a cycle that began when we were colonized. In order to go forward we must accept our history and create a new way forward one that unshackles us from colonization. If we continue to ignore the fact that we have been colonized it makes it more difficult to carve out a new stronger reality of self-governance.       

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