The Metis Nation, The MNO, and a Jarring Report On Identity

As a matter of noting impactful history as it’s occurring, a report presented at the March 9/10 Metis National Council’s (MNC), “Métis Identity, Citizenship & Homeland” conference in Saskatchewan, shocked many in attendance. It uncovered a troubling history that has led to serious issues for the Metis, now currently embroiled in what amounts to a ‘hostile takeover’ of their nation.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, let alone shocked about what we learned, because I am already well-aware of the immense issue for the Metis Nation in having to defend its identity and rights again. I’m well-versed in the history of the thousands of Canadians who more recently claim to be Metis, although many are seriously mistaken at best and others are purely fraudulent at worst.

The report presented wasn’t about those thousands of claims outside of the historical Metis communities, i.e.) those from regions in, and east of, Quebec. It concentrated on the claims of the legitimate Metis Nation’s own affiliate, the Metis Nation Ontario (MNO), one of five MNC affiliates.

Many already knew the MNO was fraught with membership filled with illegitimate claims of Metis ancestry and in 2019 they admitted to an overwhelming number; perhaps 90% of their membership, they said.

That’s an astounding statement and regardless of the accuracy of that estimation, what percentage would they consider acceptable? That wasn’t the only issue at hand. The affiliate was also called into question after working unilaterally with the Province of Ontario government to grant ‘historical Metis settlement’ status to 6 regions in Ontario outside of the Metis Nation historical homeland boundaries. The MNC, its other affiliate presidents and the Metis citizens were not included in that process.

Essentially then, the MNO is therefore mainly comprised of Ontarians of various ancestry who self-declared they were Metis and were accepted and seemingly legitimized by the MNO. If there are enough of these individuals in a particular region, this is taken as proof of the existence of a historical Métis “community”.

In November of 2018, the MNC and the other affiliates, with the exception of Alberta – which apparently has serious leadership [and membership] issues according to statements made at the March 10 meeting – voted to put the MNO on probation for one year to allow time to sort and re-register their members to fit the criteria of Metis Nation identity. Incidentally, that criteria aren’t different from any other world nation, which include immediate relation to the ancestry of the known Metis Nation families. The criteria was unanimously ratified by the Metis Nation in 2002. The MNO participated in that ratification.

Back to 20 years later, and the one-year MNO probation term is over. The MNC, for which leadership is voted for & provided by its affiliate presidents, requested to review the new registers. The MNO responded with an incredulous refusal, stating they had their own ‘independent oversight’ and that the MNC were unwelcome ‘outsiders’.

They’d essentially announced they were a nation unto themselves and they went to Canada directly to try to create that into fact. They called it a ‘self-governance agreement’, which the government called ‘a step toward self-governance agreement’. What that will turn out to be is another story, but a main point is a clause in the agreement that states the MNO will get to decide for itself who is “Metis”.

An easy out compared to having to tell thousands of Ontarians they’re not Metis, some of whom hold influential positions in general society. There are also millions of dollars at stake in annual funding to oversee programs meant for the Indigenous, and specifically for, the Metis. If the MNO were to fail at attaining a new, unrelated pan-Indigenous nation recognized by Canada, that would make some of those members, not Metis, but non-status First Nations. Likely a good number would simply be recognized as non-Indigenous Canadians.

That’s the background to the March 9/10 MNC meeting. Here’s part of what’s stunning. The background historical research used by the MNO and the Ontario Government to justify inclusion of Ontario-based regions/people sometimes reads like a middle school copy & pasted book report. The conflations of ancestral claims are so flimsy in places, that at one point they barely bothered to provide evidence before bestowing the Metis flag to one region.

As is commonly practised by ‘self-identifiers’ in the further east, the Metis titles given by the MNO were based on claims of ancestry in nations unrelated to the Metis; on ancestors who were Europeans re-made into Indigenous; on ancestors that were and still are known as First Nations, whose descendants still live on the same reserves; by claiming First Nations villages were Metis; or as one person at the meeting stated, if a picture of their grandparents ‘looked Native’ to the registrar, they would be accepted. These people now outnumber the legitimate Metis in Ontario.

Excluding the MNO, the fight today is from within, from those who would allow anyone of any Indigenous ancestry to claim to be Metis vs. those who denounce the pan-Indigenous idea over their own unique, rich and richly established history, which included the herculean win in 1982 to achieve the recognition and rights to Section 35 of the Constitution for that nation.

To my mind, it should be abundantly clear. I am a Metis Citizen. Like those in the other affiliates, I proved my ancestry according to the legitimate standards. I know my ancestors stand with us.

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The MNC invite citizens and the public to read the report provided by Dr. Darryl Leroux, doctorate in Sociology and Anthropology, Assoc. Prof., Department of Social Justice and Community Studies at Saint Mary’s University and Prof. Darren O’Toole, Metis, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Statements by MNC November 19, 2020: Tri-council says it’s not leaving Metis National Council, but stalemate continues

RL

Mythical Drops of Blood; Pan-Indigenous Nations Don’t Exist

Calling oneself Indigenous or First Nations is equal to calling oneself European or African. Neither of these regions are a single culture. They are a multitude of nations, customs & traditions. So it is for the Indigenous in North America.

It’s often asked in Canada, “what makes someone Metis”? Asked & answered by the Metis Nation in 2002 and received Canadian recognition of it. The real question should be, “what makes one Indigenous”? Who believes a distant ancestor from a generation over 100 yrs ago or more now qualifies anyone to be recognized as Indigenous? You might be surprised by the number in Canada who think they are – in the hundreds of thousands.

When one says they want to connect with their Indigenous culture, but can’t name the nation they’re from, what then? This is where the Metis Nation is often chosen because of the misinformation it’s a culture that accepts any mixed ancestry. That is not the case, as is being spoken about frequently now by design to educate the public.

The Metis Nation has specific unique languages and customs & traditions of its own. There is a verification process in place for this nation. It is being enforced now because of widespread fraud (intended or not) that takes from the Metis Nation reputation and all opportunities meant for them as an Indigenous people.

So, what about those who got lost in the diaspora caused by Canadian policies? I’m well aware of the separation from Indigenous culture by events like residential schools and the 60’s Scoop. I was one of those kids. I’m also aware that I was lucky to know exactly what my nations are and the names of my grandparents, but I had to search for everything from there to know where I came from, including the customs & traditions of my nations.

Re-connection to one’s culture can only be attained by connecting with cultural centres or relations who can help guide anyone who knows at least their nation. Otherwise we’re really only learning about someone else’s nation and customs, aren’t we?

Although the Cree Nation is well known, I knew I came specifically from the Plains Cree. That was important because there are different Cree nations: Plains, Swampy, Woods, Moose, etc. They all have differences in their languages and customs in the same way any European grouping like the Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian do.

So calling oneself First Nations or Indigenous is not an automatic entry into a grand, pan-Indigenous experience. It certainly looks like that from many people’s promoted experiences of doing just that, but there is dishonesty in that; it does nothing in honouring one’s ancestors or culture.

These efforts only sustain and cement stereotypical ideas as often taught by ‘self-identified/proclaimed Indigenous people’ and onto those Canadian promotional materials using the Plains nations tipis and headdresses to depict an entire culture of cultures. This is rather insulting considering these items were never used in most Indigenous nations.

There are millions of people on this continent from Africa. They have no idea where their families originated from there; a continent of nations. They do not and cannot assume to know which nation is theirs. Some have been very lucky to learn their own historical truths, but most will never know. Unfortunately, this is the case for some people of Indigenous ancestry.

It’s criminal that this sad history persists, but no Indigenous nation is responsible for this horrific stain on Canada’s history. Neither are they obligated to let in just anyone who comes knocking on their door. This includes the Metis Nation. This seems to seriously antagonize a lot of people who want to claim themselves Metis regardless of their history. It may be infuriating and heartbreaking, but that is not the responsibility of the Metis Nation and its people.

So, where do people who don’t know their nations go? I don’t have an answer for that any more than I’d be able to tell African Americans what to do for representation. The only thing that can be done is an ancestral hunt to the best of one’s ability with a heap of good luck thrown in. This unfortunate diaspora is Canada’s doing and what they will do to make it right is the greatest unknown. In all honestly, I doubt it will be much.

RL

‘Alternative’ Metis Nation Alert; Frauds exposed from the west to the east

Updated October 26, 2018:  News reports on fraudulent ‘status’ cards and police investigations, and APTN interview with professor researching the ‘eastern Metis’ groups.

This is not new news, it has been reported in previous years, but it doesn’t seem to quell the ongoing efforts of those who would take advantage of a history not well known nor those who would reward them in the name of ‘reconciliation’ or any other feel-good motivation.

Although I’m aware of several well-known & award winning Canadians who have been exposed as having usurped Indigenous identity on which to build a career, i.e. Joseph Boyden, I’ve just learned of another, the Order of Canada and several other prestigious awards recipient, David Bouchard.

Bouchard, who claims Metis ancestry, was exposed for using the officially recognized Metis (Michif) Nation for his own background and gain, after it was discovered he didn’t meet the required ancestral lineage. He responded by creating ‘alternative metis’ groups, which appear to be based in some idea of a pan-Indigenous society. Let’s make it clear, Indigenous nations are nations as much as any other in the world.

Bouchard originally participated in the 2002 inclusion of the official BC Metis Nation arm of the recognized Metis Nation, but his application and involvement was rescinded when he failed the organization’s own requirement of meeting a current line of five direct generations to the prairie Michif people, history, culture, etc.

His ancestry was related to one Algonquin woman ancestor born in 1621. In 2008, he added to his lineage, a Chippewa grandfather and a grandmother from the middle-U.S. nation, the Osage,  circa 1800s. These nations are not related to the Metis Nation. These additional details were provided in 2013 by a U.S. genealogist who declared Bouchard a Metis. Unfortunately for Bouchard et al, that’s not how citizenship inclusion works. The research declared Bouchard as having mixed ancestry, but that research must then be taken to the Canadian situated and recognized Metis Nation for verification and then it is they who grant inclusion into the nation. It is understood that an updated application was not submitted to the Metis Nation. No word on whether or not the Osage Nation accepted him.

Although Bouchard’s level of involvement in the 2011 creation of the alternative group, the “BC Metis Federation” is unclear, he went on to create his own alternative national group, the “Metis Federation of Canada” in 2013, with Karole Dumont-Beckett, as first registrar and Sebastien Malette as “legal advisor”, and Johanne Brissette, aka Qalunnette or Abitawiskwe. Neither of these groups require lineage linked to the Michif history. Dumont-Beckett went on to create yet another group called the “Metis Nation of Canada” in 2019.

One does not simply proclaim oneself to be Metis any more than one may proclaim to be Scottish or a Canadian. There are parameters to be met and a connection to any long-lost or Indigenous ancestor is not one of them. Nor does claiming ancestors prior to the ethnogenesis of the Metis Nation make anyone Metis. How is it people don’t recognize there were no Metis until then? They ignore the fact the Michif don’t call their own originating ancestors, Metis. They are recorded as they were, by their original nationhood, just as Canadians identify their ancestors by their originating nations.

The level to which these people have done damage to the reputation of the recognized Metis Nation and to the people who they sign onto their organizations with the same level of ancestral connections – which is to say non-existent to barely, has many in the Indigenous communities stating these kind of mis-representations could & should be considered  fraudulent.

They harm the recognized Indigenous peoples by mis-representing history, snatching opportunities in employment, awards, grants, scholarships and any other avenue meant to lend a hand up to the marginalized, and they mislead thousands of people into unwittingly believing they too belong to a community.

They go further though. They have members who seek out and harass anyone who speaks out about them by swarming on social media, contacting employers to claim all sort of reverse harassment, to threatening lawsuits.

The Metis Nation is an established nation with history of verifiable detail for centuries. For example, as a member of this nation, I could only state on my application my “Metis” – my Michif ancestry, not my Cree, Haudenosaunee, or any other Indigenous nation to which I’m related.

The details of these organizations are publicly available, as are the officially recognized Metis Nation on their own and the Government of Canada’s websites, yet award, grant or bursary organizations, employers, and especially the Canadian media have not thought to act on determining who is officially recognized, as they hand out opportunities meant for the Indigenous. The unfortunate result are long waiting lists for recognized nation members often held back for years, if not entirely rejected.

There is no pan-Indigenous society or ‘nation’ that one with any hint of Indigenous ancestry can run to for representation. Any who claim this are frauds. If one feels they belong to an Indigenous nation, then seek out the particular nation you believe you’re connected to.

On a personal note for those who falsely claim Indigeneity, you are doing so at the cost of opportunity for my child, myself or  my relations, although I suspect you already know that. I can only say – shame on you. May you face the price for impinging on the last bastion of our sovereignty – our very identity.

A visual on who may qualify as a Metis Nation citizen

BC Metis Nation order to rescind membership: David Bouchard MNBC membership application rescinded

November 2018 Metis National Council & Manitoba Metis Federation release statements in protection of Metis Nation sovereignty and definition.

Dejah, The Warrior

This is a re-post for my dear friend, Glo, in tribute to the amazing life and soul of her baby, and their loved ones. It’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years. Already. I can’t say exactly how it feels for Gloria, Robert & Rayne, but I would like them to know we remember with them. We share in their heartrending memories and in support of their amazing capacity to move forward in strength, purpose and love for each other and for life. They couldn’t live a better legacy for their son and brother… 

I hardly know this young boy who impacted my life and so many others so profoundly. What kid is all that interested in their mother’s friends anyway? And so, I came to know him mostly through her, our Glo.

She is that quintessential statement of strength and courage, which can almost sound like a cliché, but it isn’t when it’s applied to a parent facing one of our worst fears.  Which is what happened to her and she, true to character, faced that nightmare fully and head-on.

He was only three years old when they were told he had cancer.  It was horribly bad news.  Most kids who get this kind of cancer have a pretty good outlook, but for some the challenge will push  to the limit.  This was to be the case for him.

I can’t imagine having to look at my baby’s sweet innocent face, and into his trusting eyes, knowing what they knew was to come for their son, and try to prepare for that.  How unbearable could it have felt to know the awful truth of what was in store in some ways, and not have any idea or certainty about anything else?

The only thing that turned out to be absolutely certain is that this kid had something else too – a hell of a fighting spirit. Those innocent eyes masked a strength that could rival a grown man’s, and that was good because he used it fully. It was what carried him beyond the lines of expectation.

As it turned out, his backup arsenal was also beyond outstanding.  His shield of steel was the love and faith of his mother, and his dad and sister were the center of his phalanx.

Phalanx is a perfect word for his story.  I’d stumbled around for a while looking for a way to describe all the people who joined the power of this boy’s circle. My son said, “That sounds like you’re talking about a phalanx, mom”.  I asked what that was exactly. After he explained, I thought yes, that’s exactly what they are.

A phalanx is defined as a compact or close-knit body of people, a formation of infantry carrying overlapping shields and long spears.  Perfect.  That’s what they were – overlapping shields of love and spears of hope. The rest of that foundation was formidably filled out by all the family and friends who rallied around them.

No matter their role as those weapons of love and hope, every one of them, including the calvary of determined medical personnel was there in common spirit.  All were there to throw everything they could at that God-damned tumour.

They did it well for ten amazing years.  It wasn’t a smooth trip for sure, but they fought those ups and downs with purpose. He and his family were also determined to instill something meaningful into what would seem to be a senseless, painful ordeal.

He moved to the center of an organized effort to finally stop cancer in children.  He and his family charged alongside an organization called Kick For A Cure, whose role is to fund the research that will finally “kick cancer where it hurts”.

Part of the fight for a full life was trying to be just a boy who could play and learn like everyone else. Why should any child have to fight to be just a 5 year old or an 8 year old? The balancing act to just be and to be a helper in the bigger picture becomes another unexpected fact of life, a new normal.

The day came when balance was made impossible, and it became an effort to just hold on – to a few more hours spent wrapped in the bond of fighters who’ve survived together for so long.  To a few more minutes of saying I love you, and for that one more heartbreaking second to look into each other’s eyes.

When children get so sick, when they die, we are all devastated.  We cry and feel deeply because for those moments, born to us or not, they all become our babies.

Maybe we ask God or the Universe, why or how?  Maybe one day we’ll have all the answers, but for now, at this moment, I need to believe that the Universe said these things to him:

Thank you, Dejah.

Thank you for enduring the pain of the fight for so long.

Thank you doing for so much work in such a short period of time to inform and teach about childhood cancer.

Thank you for all that you’ve given and taught to your mom, dad, and sister.

Thank you for all that you’ve given and shown to your family and friends.

Thank you for the sacrifice you gave to medicine that will one day make this illness less devastating for another child.

Thank you for the way you brought your community together over and over again, and got them all thinking about love, and for reminding them that, it is the only true purpose.

Your work is done Dejah, and it was done in superhero excellence.

You’re finally pain free; dance wildly in joy.  You’ve earned it, kid.

You will always, always, be a kick ass hero.

Dejah Milne
February 4, 2000 – October 5, 2013

dejah

Photo by Cher Milne Gennaro‎, Memories with Dejah

 

RL

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The story of how Dejah affected his community and the people around the world was captured during his beautiful service tribute and in how his story was shared around the globe.

 

What is Metis Again?

Updated September 22, 2018

There’s unfortunate long-held misunderstanding of what being “Metis” means. That confusion has only grown messier in the last few years by increased numbers of various groups looking for recognized Metis identity, if not as entirely new nations altogether.

The misperceptions have lead to outright strife throughout communities, acted out in mild contentious chats to vicious trolling attacks on social media to threatening job losses and lawsuits.

Canada didn’t help this confusion when it formally recognized the western Metis Nation without clearly spelling out that following the steps to ‘self-identification as Metis’ also requires proving that you’re related to this nation. In other words, your relations must be of the known Metis ancestral names on record, language, history & culture from within this western Indigenous community. Thus, I could not put my Cree or other relations on my Metis application.

Canada’s not clearly stating that serves to inspire some to claim their Indigeneity by choosing to be Metis, a very mistaken concept. It is the Metis Nation itself that chooses who to accept in their nation – as does every other nation in the world.

People of no Indigenous ancestry have also been re-inventing their heritage in order to apply themselves, unchecked & un-vetted, to positions meant for the Indigenous in work & arts opportunities, education grants, and governance. Several of these interlopers have been uncovered within the last decade.

From there, groups work by literally re-writing history to usurp harvesting rights from First Nations and to demand retailers provide them rights that even the recognized Metis Nation don’t have – tax free gas & merchandise. Copies of meeting minutes from the “Eastern Metis”, detailed concern mainly for those ‘goodies’ and did not address a single issue plaguing the Indigenous in Canada today.

These groups are prolific, overwhelmingly white, many racist-based including three that merged and changed their name from the “Association for White Rights” to the “Eastern Metis”. They claim well over 20,000 members in Quebec & contest Innu land claims.  In Nova Scotia the self-identified Metis are fighting to claim the harvesting rights of the Mi’kmaq. The Mi’kmaq vehemently oppose those claims because they state, as does the Metis Nation, that there never were historical Metis settlements in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.

Currently most people, even some indigenous people, believe ‘Metis” simply means a mix of any Indigenous with non-Indigenous ancestry – generally something European.  While the Metis Nation is comprised of some French & British men and the word ‘metis’ is French for mixed, this is not what is meant when it comes to defining the formally recognized Metis Nation.

This nation began forming in the 1600/1700s, solidifying in the early 1800s between a relatively small group of specific and well-documented Indigenous women, generally from the Plains Cree, Saulteaux, Assiniboine, and Dene nations and their French, British/Scot men. Their following generations went onto marry other members of this Metis grouping or their original First Nation tribes. The recognized Metis Nation’s battles alongside their ancestral nations for Indigenous rights, and having been persecuted and killed for doing so, is a well-established record.

The idea that being Metis is the simple work of dividing each generation by another half with white people is incorrect. That ancestry is currently known as mixed or “non-status First Nations” people, known as part whichever original nation(s). It is not, at all, the romanticized idea that the Metis lived one foot in the ‘white world’ and one in the ‘Native world’. The Metis were and are Indigenous.

Just to clarify further, there are also mixed ‘Status” First Nations people. Many of these cases are from families where a First Nations man married a white woman and full status was granted to she and their children. Not so for Indigenous women, who lost all status for herself and her children if she had children with a white man – the original non-status First Nations.

I understand why many want to identify as Metis because of the western Metis Nation federal recognition as ‘Indians’, but wanting it and being it is not the same thing. I do however, strongly believe verifiable non-status First Nations fully deserve the sorely lacking recognition and representation. This is in contrast to growing groups who feel it’s their right to claim Indigeneity on face-value, claiming persecution when asked for bona-fides. They seem to feel they’re above the routine requirement of all Indigenous to provide records of proof to claim status or membership into nation. No nation is obligated to accept anyone.

I’m not entering into the role of declaring who is or isn’t Indigenous. That’s not my fight. My personal expectation is that any individual or group looking for formal Indigenous  recognition have to meet the standards of nationhood that the western Metis Nation did: a distinct language, unique & established customs and traditions and a documented current line to historic Metis communities. If there are other mixed ancestral groups meeting these standards, by all means pursue it, but without denigrating the western Metis Nation for having achieved it. Your fight is with Canada.

Many groups asserting they’re Metis, regardless of the known parameters explain their line to the Metis is based in the claim they were ‘especially’ discriminated against, and so ‘hid out in plain sight’ all this time as a life-saving measure. How do they then square this with their claims of holding ‘known historical land bases’ that tie to them even today?

How does one publicly renounce their heritage for several generations by hiding out and living as and in non-Indigenous communities then come back now to claim their presence in those communities constitutes making those communities now Indigenous?  Qualified historians cannot establish these claims.

I’m very aware of the difficulties some of us have in finding our roots, however most indigenous families were well-documented by Canada for its own nefarious purposes. It’s not as easy to ‘cheat’ one’s way through Indigenous ancestry as one might think. To those who try, I can only say – shame. Shame on you for stealing the only thing any one person undeniably has a right to – their inherent identity.

If one is only seeking status in the hopes of attaining the mythical understandings of Indigenous rights, I’ve little sympathy for that. If you haven’t lived a day as an average Indigenous person in Canada, you are far removed from rights still being ferociously fought for, even as they are actively being reduced in Canada.

For those genuinely feeling the call of their Indigenous grandmothers in their hearts, do seek the home fires of your true nations. Honest peace and celebration is found within the real teachings of our culture(s). Programs dedicated to these efforts prove that.

We would all like easy resolution to our issues, but despite how some want to define Metis, there is more to it than simply throwing any and every nation into the mix.

RL

August 1, 2019: A guide to eastern organizations claiming to be Metis and their histories.

November 1, 2018Self-made métis, by Dr. Darryl Leroux.

Tens of thousands of Canadians have begun calling themselves Métis, Darryl Leroux finds, and now they’re trying to get the courts to agree.

Oct 24, 2018:  ‘Alternative’ Metis Nation Alert; Frauds exposed from the west to the east

Oct 3, 2018: Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia and Métis sign historic Memorandum of Understanding affirming both Mi’kmaw and Métis nationhood in the face of proliferation of “Acadian-métis” claims. Commit to support each other’s sovereignty into the future.

Oct 1, 2018: A 2007 list of known organizations usurping the rights the Indigenous across Canada.

White Default – This Is Only a Test, But Please Adjust Your Settings Accordingly

Close your eyes and imagine a fire fighter, then a police officer.  Next, imagine Santa Claus. Take in what you see.

Imagine, Jesus. Yep, we all saw that same one,  didn’t we?  Long blondish-medium brown locks and blue eyes?  Why is that – when, at the time and place He was born, He would have been the only ‘white’ person in the region?

Let’s take it to another level.

When our eyes are open, look at what we see all around us and what we have seen historically in our:

Fairy tales
Money
Newspaper mastheads
Senate halls
Legislatures
Courthouses
Think of all those portraits along the walls of legislatures, libraries, courthouses that we all walk by
Police stations
Fire Stations
TV shows
Movie stars
Corporate boardrooms
Physicians
Teachers/Professors

Hand circleThis is only the beginning of trying to define our world’s cultural reference point called ‘white default’. This simple exercise of closing eyes to imagine our world in everyday fashion is quite effective for beginning the understanding of why we see things differently.

Despite the origins of people of color in our Western areas and those added willingly or not,  our world is still awash in ‘whiteness’, particularly in positions of authority. We need to be asking why is that and not pass it off with simplistic replies of convenience or avoidance.

I admit I only heard this term ‘white default’ not that long ago, thanks to a note on Twitter. It made me realize how deeply the teachings of my life had been ingrained in me without conscious or critical thought.  Which, given some of what I’ve lived as an Indigenous person is saying quite a bit.

I read an article explaining this phenomenon of recent understanding in Salon Magazine called, “How can white Americans be free”?  The writer, Kartina Richardson, said that, “The default belief that the white experience is a neutral and objective one hurts both white and American culture”.  I suggest that’s very applicable to most of the world.   She goes on:

“…The beginning; in the beginning there was Whiteness. This is the glittering starting point. This is The Default. This is what we measure everything else against”.

“Whites are free from the constant awareness (and subsequent constant paranoia) of existing in another person’s world. Because The Default has so successfully dominated our subconscious, because our egos have been shaped by it from the moment of birth, we perpetuate it in micro ways while fighting inequality with more obvious actions”.

We know this though, right? Because we did the eyes closed exercise and saw what we did.

Let’s close our eyes again and this time, let’s imagine all those portraits in those fine institutional halls as brown or black. Pay attention to your reaction as your imagination walks by them.  Now, picture Jesus as black or brown, how does that feel?  Odd, strange, uncomfortable?  And yet, the likelihood that that is how He actually looked is 100%.  Still, that is unacceptable for a large swath of people, Christians or not.  Interesting, no?

It’s that discomfort, one must realize, that is felt every day from the other side of the ‘unwashed’ fence, as in the not whitewashed, people of color.  This is what is at the centre of the differences. It’s only the beginning of why there really isn’t a level playing field for all to prosper and succeed.

Kartina expands the thought as this: “Whiteness as The Default keeps brown people in subjugation by convincing them that every part of their being, physical, spiritual and emotional, exists within a white narrative. When you are made to exist within something you are forced to be smaller than that which contains you. This is precisely the basis of racist thought. Brown existence, brown consciousness is smaller”.

I have certainly come to know what she is talking about.  I have encountered that first-hand, particularly by some people who thought I was getting ‘uppity’ when I began to write about the inequities and misconceptions about Indigenous peoples.  What I wrote was somehow seen as an attack and yet, I merely gave factual details to update old ideas and misconceptions.  Even that much myth-busting was too unsettling for some.

It showed me how strongly some people want to believe in the notion of their worlds, as opposed to what actually is.

How bizarre is it really though, when people of color are told their Creator is really a white guy who was actually born black or brown?

These demands to adhere to the whitewash are currently sealed into the cement of our societies. This is why it is so damned hard to get past the barriers that should not have been there in the first place, especially for the peoples who are the original inhabitants of said lands.  The fear of change and/or difference is at the heart of the need to keep plugging on this issue.

We know change is hard, even for the better. It’s not that white people are being asked to change their visions of Jesus or Santa, but mainly to revise the idea that only their visions can be trusted for themselves and for the rest of the world.

Those are the very thoughts that have created the environments we’ve been working to change for centuries now. This is what affects how people of color may or may not succeed in these standards set by white default.

It means that we have to consciously check our own thoughts and the statements we teach our children with, until that one magical day when the norm for our societies is equal representation in all those areas of everyday life and authority.

If you’re still not convinced that we have to actively pursue true color-blindness when it comes to true equality, check out this latest report published in the New York Times on January 3rd called, “Racial Bias, Even When We Have Good Intentions”.  Even blind tests produce the sadly expected results.

We really need to get to work, people.

RL

KING: Dylann Roof’s journal once again shows the danger in the myth of white Jesus
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-dylann-roof-journal-shows-danger-myth-white-jesus-article-1.2939039

White people… “are conditioned to the myth of white superiority from the moment … in fact, before birth, we are conditioned to the myth of white superiority” – Jane Elliott
href=”https://www.facebook.com/404147323119785/videos/447071435494040/”>https://www.facebook.com/404147323119785/videos/447071435494040/

For those interested in exploring privileges from a non-Indigenous viewpoint, I recommend a great organization working hard for mutual understanding: http://www.truepartnership.org/white-privilege/

An excellent article on White Fragility:  White Women’s Tears and the Men Who Love Them
http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/white-womens-tears-and-the-men-who-love-them-twlm/

Taxpayers DO NOT Pay For First Nations; First Nations ARE Taxpayers

Part 2 to September 22, 2014 post:  Pathetic and Dense; You HAVE To Be an Indian.

I’m not an authority on all things Indigenous.  I am only an authority on being one. Despite my great-grandfather, being an Indian signatory on Treaty 8, most of the information regarding our history with government oversight is new to me, as I expect it will be to most of you.  What a shame this statement is.

use your heartbeats wellI’ve condensed a huge amount of myth debunking information here, which I sincerely hope you’ll find interesting, enlightening, and worthy of sharing.

If you’ve ever read general media stories on Indigenous issues, coupled with what you likely learned in school, it wouldn’t be surprising if you have very light, usually unfavorable understanding, of First Nations peoples. Too often we’ve been portrayed as drains on society’s purse and guilt strings.

The headlines, commentaries, and letters to Editors that I see daily certainly provide ample evidence of that.  We’re at a place now where we can rise to counter the myths and we should.

My son has been in our local school district’s Aboriginal Program since 1st grade and though his lessons have included more cultural detail and none of the talk about Indians terrorizing settlers that I’d learned, there’s wasn’t much beyond that except one disturbing lesson.

It was only 3 yrs ago, within the general curriculum, that he was taught that Indigenous children forced into the infamous residential schools was a good thing because they were able to get an education. For the record, those notorious schools are not ancient history; the last of them closed in 1996.

Apparently, those school lessons remain much the same for the general curriculum and Aboriginal program until graduation.  There are no details added such as why the original Indian/Aboriginal/First Nations reserve system was created, what the rules were for living on them, and how they’re funded.

This is mainly what’s behind the long-held misconceptions about what and why things are the way they are. I don’t think this is by mistake.  I think we were all misled by early and some current governmental efforts to hide, subvert, and muddy the details of Indigenous history and issues in Canada.  I think there was disinterest by most media who, given generous benefit of the doubt, were likely unaware of the full picture too.

As more demands for governing transparency are made and more communications technology becomes available, we’re all learning far more, which benefits the Indigenous greatly by finally being heard in more vast and accessible ways.  Government records are being posted online for all to review, including the many Indigenous peoples catching up in education.

As mentioned in my previous post, some of my recent discussions about First Nations were rife with that lack of education and full of bitter assertions, derision and accusations against First Nations. When I contradicted their understandings, barrels of outrage erupted.  The chats quickly devolved into calling me names and mentally unfit.

 The highlights of the madness that ensued are these:

  • Since when do First Nations people pay taxes”?
National Post Missing Women Sept 18 2014-3a

We give you our taxes!

The majority of First Nations people do, in fact, pay all taxes. Of the 1,400,700 Indigenous as of 2011, which includes registered and non-registered First Nations, Metis, Treaty, and Inuit, all are required to pay income tax and the same goods and services taxes as everyone else.

Most of these people (+70%) do not live on reserves. The fewer numbers who live on reserves, and who can now earn income on reserve land, do get some income and goods and service tax exemptions, but not near the often assumed levels of ‘privilege’.

As for those other often touted ‘free funds for Natives’, I’m a card carrying legitimately recognized Metis and I have yet to find any funding to meet my medical needs or for continuing education outside of the same channels for everyone else.

  • …“How do all the chiefs get away with taking millions while their band members freeze, with no clean water”?
National Post Missing Women Sept 18 2014- quesstion

You’re dense; Chiefs steal

There are 3,000+ elected First Nations officials in Canada.  They’re required to turn in over 160 to 200, financial reports per year to the department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC, known as CIRNA effective 2018). Chiefs who misappropriate funds exist but number less than the annual mismanagement cases we find in the Senate. How are any bands able to consistently outwit the 4,000+ employee AANDC, when it is literally their job to read & approve the reports they demand of these bands?

Assembly of First Nations Interim Chief, Ghislain Picard made a good point when he said, it’s too bad it’s these exceptions that are trumpeted and viewed as the norm instead of no outrage for the many more Chiefs who are grossly underpaid.

Despite the heavy demands of the role, the average band Chief makes an average annual salary of $60,000 (updated in 2015 from a previous average of 36,000). Many are making far less than that, as low as $0.00 to $25,000 annually. They get no pensions nor entitlements as those provided for Prime Ministers, MPs, or Senators.

  • “When will they finally stop living off of taxpayer’s backs and stand on their own two feet”? 

First Nations don’t live off of taxpayers, in fact, quite the opposite, their resources have generously subsidized Canada.

National Post Missing Women Sept 18 2014-11 - facts of history

The common misunderstandings of facts

Although, the 1876 Indian Act was used to brutally coerce government control of Indian economic and resource development and land use, Canada was formed through legal negotiations rather than war.

Treaties were agreements meant to sustain Indigenous rights and uses of land and resources equally with European newcomers. They are not invalid ancient history documents; there have been several additions since, right up to the current Harper Government.

The Indian Act outlawed First Nations from acting for their own economic development. This has only recently been somewhat revised and many reserves now generate their own monies in addition to the transfer funds they get from the ‘Indian Trust Fund’ which is overseen by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, (AANDC). They’re often referred to as ‘federal funds’, but that term should really be, ‘federally managed Indigenous funds’.

Must deny facts to retain right to argue

The monies that were/are supplied to this trust fund came from part of the resources taken off of their lands. Note to people who insist it was started with taxes: the Bank of Canada and the taxation system didn’t even exist at that time.

This fund is substantial, billions of dollars, and the Government of Canada still decides how those funds will be distributed to the bands.

The country of Canada, when unable to manage with the rest of the resources from land and taxes, has actually lived off of that First Nations trust fund from time to time, paying for things like general Canadian infrastructure and economic stimulus plans.

Indian Moneys Program: https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1445002892771/1445002960229#06
http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100032350/1100100032351
https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1426169199009/1426169236218
Indian Oil & Gas Cda
http://www.pgic-iogc.gc.ca/eng/1100110010002/1100110010005
Chapter 8 – Preservation of First Nations Capital Trust Funds
http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1382702626948/1382702680155
Appendix B – Rates of Interest on Capital and Revenue Accounts

This is only part of a rather large story, but writer, Elyse Bruce who regularly covers Indigenous affairs further speaks to the points.  If you follow her link, you will also get a picture as to why there is chronic under-funding to First Nation’s people who were made to live on reserves and into the Arctic regions to maintain Canadian territory:

…”the monies due the First Nations peoples from natural resources has been taken into consideration as part of First Nation revenues”.

…  “the First Nations Trust Fund isn’t the only money that belongs to First Nations peoples that is handled by the AANDC”.  

She’s referring to the fees for the licenses, permits and other instruments to individuals and organizations for exploration and development on First Nations land, and the Indian Moneys Suspense Accounts under the direction of the AANDC.

…”If the resource exploration and development projects weren’t on First Nations property, there wouldn’t be any need for AANDC to involve itself ergo the revenues generated from “licenses, permits and other instruments to individuals and organizations” is First Nations revenues, is it not”?

“In other words, there’s all kinds of money that belongs to First Nations peoples that isn’t part of the First Nations Trust Fund, (and yet) the AANDC controls all of it”.  

So where have all those extra funds been going?   Could it be, that Canada is in debt to the First Nations Trust Fund? First Nations have been asking for transparency of that account for years.

They’ve also been asking for autonomy in administration of their funds, education, and social services; however this has not been a successful effort.  This was very nearly accomplished with an agreement set to be signed in 2007, called the Kelowna Accord.  It was cancelled by the then next incoming Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

One more note that begs sharing, in my opinion:

“Anyone crying that FN’s should disappear from the world and assimilate, might as well be advocating for Canada itself to be dissolved because that is the only way to dissolve the treaties. Like it or not, dissolving Canada puts us directly under international law. Like it or not, under international law, you must prove right of discovery. Like it or not, right of discovery belongs to FNs and Inuit under international law, meaning the lands and resources would revert to FN’s and Inuit, which is worth a lot more. Like it or not, this is why even Harper’s government has entered into Treaty as well as using Inuit right of discovery to secure Canadian jurisdiction over the Arctic’s vast resources”. –David King comment, from the Westcoast Native News, “A Short Note To Correct Canadian Misconceptions About Indians Living Off “Taxpayer Monies”, September 23, 2014.

Most, if not all of this, should be common knowledge to the average Canadian citizen, after all it’s their history too. Given the speed with which we can share information now, I feel cautious optimism that most Canadians will finally understand the issues and the reasons behind them.

These details are a huge missing piece of esteem building block for people of Indigenous ancestry. We don’t all have a full understanding of our own history. We deserve this. We deserve recognition for the stunning contributions of the Indigenous Peoples on behalf of Canada even while being purposely oppressed or denigrated for the consequences of that history.  Surely, this is worthy of respect; it’s certainly worthy of placement in all school history books.

Unfortunately, there will always be people who will continue to deny the worst of our history despite its evidence. There are citizens, leaders, and purveyors of history who say it’s time to just to move on. How do they propose successfully moving from point A to C, if we don’t acknowledge the hows and whys of point B?

Knowledge changes everything. All of Canada benefits when her history is fully known. The scars of that history can heal only if they’re truly and fully acknowledged; the fears that hold that back, hold us all back.  Those fears are based in the idea of losing something, but the facts show that there is only everything to gain.

Click to access sg0612_aboriginal_myth.pdf

 

RL

My boy – I will always hope that whatever your challenges are to be, you will always know that you are lovingly surrounded and supported by a thousand of your ancestors.  You are a great spirit, with the wisdom of the eagle and the heart of a warrior.

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” -Albert Einstein.

Washington Redskins Racism Cuts Far Deeper than Wanted For the Team Fans

It’s all so simple really, what’s at the bottom of the fight over changing the name of the Washington Redskin’s football team.  The real deal point that hits home the hardest about the debate is the word racist.  Not racism; it’s the full-on, take it personally, title of racist.

The idea that they have, for generation after generation, celebrated and cheered a term built upon the bloodied bodies of human beings is incomprehensible.  It should be.

After all, regardless of the mouthpieces who speak in support of it, another truth is that the New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09majority of those team fans are really just your average, basic, decent citizen and neighbors.  They’re the same people who’d help you shovel your walk; they’d rush to help someone in an accident.  They send donation after donation to help people devastated by wrath of nature disasters.  They’re the same people you’d likely enjoy a coffee with at a local school or church event.  Like most anyone, they will move heaven and earth to protect and cherish their children and community.

They will also do the same to protect that inner sensibility to remain good people.  Good people are not racist.  Therefore, that “R” word is the issue, but not really the term itself; it’s about the people who are changing their truth’s history of it.

The campaign to bring out that ‘truth’ is everywhere.  Social media is fully covered by various groups in support of the talking points put out by the team’s organization.  They include the origin of the term, the number of teams with the name, the original honor intended, and so on.  The team has put up a page on their website dedicated to the issue.  There are constant interviews given by their P.R. reps in radio, podcasts, TV, and newspapers.

The team owners created a charitable organization dedicated to the plight of Native Americans – although the altruistic intentions are vociferously debated given the timing of the new generosity and the requirement of highly visible team branding attached to what is given.

The information available for the entire issues’s history is ample and readily accessible, and yet its existence is denied over and over.  The engagement of hundreds of Native American tribes and groups is almost wholly ignored. The organization at the head of the issue, the Change the Mascot organization is never referenced.

The irony in the labor to ignore the voices of Native Americans by declaring this is only an effort by white liberals serving a politically correct agenda is completely lost on them. They’ll state sadness and regret about the Trail of Tears, but if there is such a thing as opinion genocide, there is a good case for this being an example at work.

How do decent people seemingly willingly embrace racism?

redskins fan trail of tears  How is all of this even possible by these same decent people of regular everyday life?

kc  chiefsTo get an idea, we’d have to ask what it would feel like, within the dawning of the realization, that what Native Americans are saying, is true.  What does the evidence of horrible realities behind nearly 80 years of mythical stories of supportive honor do to the average heart?

What does it mean and what does it say about everyone who ever supported the team?  What does that make every celebrating and cheering owner, employee, player and fan over those nearly 80 years?

Despite a likelihood of racism within some of the mindsets, for the most part, for the rest, in a word, it would have to be: ignorance.  We’re talking about mostly just ignorance.  For over two centuries there has been a deliberate effort to hide the history of Native Americans with even more fervor than the attempts to silence them today.

The concerted work to erase the attempted genocide of the America’s Indigenous Peoples includes omitting and revising facts in school history books.  Governments even today will avoid the word genocide despite loads of buildings holding their own records detailing:

  • the creation of reserves, reservations,
  • the breakup of families and the creation of residential schools to break the cultures and assimilate them,
  • the demand to manage virtually every aspect of life on those reserves and reservations.

The most the average citizen learned about Indigenous people amounts to pemmican recipes, tipi making, and how they caused great harm to the poor besieged settlers on their land.  This is just fact, and in truth, because of that even many of the Indigenous peoples have yet to learn their own histories.

So, it is in these cases, that we can say to people:  we understand. We can’t condemn someone for racism unless they are informed and educated about the point of issue.  To be sure, there has been a lot of informing going on and the aid of social media has been helpful in spreading the news even faster.  There have been a good number of successful inroads because of this, but make no mistake, there is still a huge amount of ground to cover in North America.

For those informed and educated, but still insist on the old beliefs, I suppose the notion of change itself is even harder to embrace.  There’s not much that can be done about that by us, but for all the rest, the truth of the words by slave abolitionist, William Wilberforce stands in this as much as all inhumanity:

“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you didn’t know.”

RL

Thank you, to Mike Wise – Washington Post Sports Writer, for sharing this piece at CSN Washington Post.

Thank you, to my readers who have shared their own experiences and/or views in reply to my previous piece detailing many of the specific arguments,

103 People Unfriended Her, How Many Would Do the Same to Me

freshly-pressed-rectangleI came across a Huffington post about a woman who posted pictures of herself on her Facebook wall that caused a collapse in her social circle.  The headline said “When Beth Posted These Images on Facebook, 103 People Unfriended Her”.   

The headline effectively grabbed my attention, but what the story really did was zero in on the heart of one of my own deepest fears.  It cut to a deep vulnerability that even I don’t fully understand, but it’s one that has held me back from engaging as fully in life as I possibly could.  I can’t do that until I can somehow get to a place of true peace about it.

canvas-scars-e1402024284679The pictures that Beth Whaanga, the woman in the Huffington piece, posted were semi-nude images of herself featuring her scars from a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy.  They were taken by a photographer leading a project called, “Under the Red Dress”. It endeavors to share a pictorial story to inform and support anyone who has or may be affected by breast cancer.

I found the project a beautiful and amazing effort and I applaud Beth’s astonishing courage. It was those 103 friends though, that stayed with me longer than the point of her story.  They represented the maybe 103 reasons I have an issue of my own.  Like Beth, my body has been criss–crossed with several large and deep scars, not from cancer, but another serious chronic issue. I find despite my confidence in life generally, I haven’t yet been able to re-gain confidence about this new reality of my own image.

I know some of my friends might be surprised to hear this, but maybe not a few who knew me from long ago when I was more carefree in my pre-health issue, pre-pregnancy and pre-surgical body.  I received plenty of positive attention back then, and I am sure that, despite all equality efforts to move past this, I won some business benefits because of my appearance.  Looks matter.

In seeming contradiction to what I’m saying so far, I do have a full life, in large part because of those scars.  My priorities absolutely honed in on family, community, purpose(s), and I do live to serve as best as I am able, but.  But.

  •  But now there are tremendous differences in my body and there’s not much I can do about it without the resources that I might employ if I had them.
  • But now I don’t know how to dress in ways that are really about highlighting my best, and not hiding the changed stage starring scars that come through the fabric.
  • But I have no idea how many more scars will be added.
  • But I don’t want anyone to see them. Hey, when even your loved ones grimace….
  • But what if I really like someone and then….?  How many of the 103 are on my path?
  • But what if I’m not enough for someone to see past them?
  • But, what kind of person would be attracted to this? Ugh! What kind of person would be attracted to this?

Cripes, I didn’t even want to tell anyone I had them, and now that I have, it’s still safe to say that there will be no pole-dancing in my future.

Yes, I know I am not my scars.  That, on the surface of it, considering that I have been able to claim at least 4 of my 9 lives, this shouldn’t even be a factor in my world.  I’ve been told to wear my scars proudly, as the badges of (literal & figurative) survival. Truth be told, I would say the same to someone else.  So then, why aren’t I able to do that for me?  Why can I stand up for Beth, but not me?

I’m one of those people who believe that there are no real coincidences and that I was meant to see this story.  It compelled me to review myself again and honestly and directly confront the part of me that holds me back from feeling whole again.  I believe in my whole spirit, but I haven’t yet worked out how to truly infuse that into my life experience.  I know that next to that, one new step is allowing me to entertain the idea of another relationship. (Yes, girlfriends and parents, I know you think the time for a new man is overdue, but…).

In the end, I have to live with myself, and I find that hard enough in some of the ways I’ve shown.  I’m not sure if I will ever live with someone else again, but if I decide that’s for me, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to get to that place of peace first.

So there, I’ve said it out loud. Sort of.  Maybe this note is about just getting to honest acknowledgement that this is real for me and the real me.  Perhaps the scars are a step in my overall purpose. Maybe someday I will be as brave as Beth – not for  pictures, but in her confident acceptance.  I don’t have the answers yet, but I hope to one day.  This is a story written mid-struggle.  For now, the only thing about life that I’m certain about is it’s uncertainty, – and how much I love my boy.

RL

Can Somebody Else Take the Call?

When charity hurts…

I’ve had to step back from all the social responsibility input I get from my social media lately. It is through these that I am most often reminded  that we don’t have any shortage of needs for all of our peoples.

I have clicked the ‘like’ button for several sites of social causes and in return I receive several messages a day on what needs attention, awareness, fixing, improvements, money, assistance, care, input, management, volunteers, and uprisings of various degrees – pretty much constant pleas for pretty much everything I have to give.

So many calls for my pennies, my dollar a day, my only $35 a month automatic debit, my Canadian Tire money, my empty cans and bottles, and used household items – pick-up included.

They use the most affecting photos and film clips to grab  my attention for their 2 minute plea, and hats off to their creators, they are very effective. (Must take notes for my  charities).

The posts fly by so often and in such variety that being overwhelmed with a complete sense of helplessness and guilt can happen quite suddenly and deeply. I want to help them all.  I wish I could help them all.  I throw my hands up in prayer for them all.

I tell myself that we can only do what we can do, but even so, I have to work to regain my social care equilibrium.   Take a break Mona. Whoa Nelly. Slow down Sally.  I find myself clinging to the Starfish Story.

We can’t help everything even if we want to.  We have to choose.  Making those choices is hell sometimes, but oddly this is where sanity starts to come back for me.  When I start to realize it doesn’t matter what I choose, it matters that I choose to help – period.  Breath in, slow and easy.

Not being able to answer every call for help is not the same as ignoring them.  That is someone else’s ringtone we’re hearing.  I do believe they’ll get it.  Exhale.  In the end, I think we tend to gravitate to causes that answer a call to healing within ourselves, and then we move on from there.

We better all brace ourselves though.  According to recent Costco displays, the really big season of giving is just around the corner.  Sigh.

RL

Starfish Story

The Starfish Story (an adaptation of part of an essay, The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley)