Mother, Nehiyaw, Metis, & Itisahwâkan – career communicator. This is my collection of opinions, stories, and the occasional rise to, or fall from, challenge. In other words, it's my party, I can fun if I want to. Artwork by aaronpaquette.net
This is the follow-up story to the article “Nice Folks” which was published on March 9th. These stories are about a gang of seemingly average folks who are taking over multiple Facebook groups, in the guise of free speech, in order to push what very much looks like an anti-minority agenda.
Following the publishing of the first story, despite all pleas in contrary to the story by these people, that they are only exercising free speech of tastelessness – no real foul, they persisted in harassing people as usual. I was one of the people they contacted in an attempt to intimidate me into haranguing the AuntieThis writers to take down their story. True to their historical form, they seemed to pointedly revel in harassment toward people of color, in particular Indigenous women.
It was rather interesting to watch this reaction of concern for themselves, considering their own direct and very public harassment was seen by hundreds for sure, but more likely by thousands. In any case, there is nothing within these story details that has not been put out in the public realm by themselves and their friends.
I find it interesting that people continue to allow these people to fly with their vitriol. I have to wonder if this is in fear or with the view it’s cheap entertainment. Whatever the motives for sitting back, I am very glad to know there are other groups of people willing to step up and counter these growing voices of prejudice.
Last week we had a conversation about one of those “Nice Folks” problems: the kind you have when Nice Folks say the things that run around in their head out loud – and are surprised when people get mad. Surprised and confused; cause they’ve been talking like that for years, and nobody said much about it. If you need an update, you can find it here
Long story short: Margo pulled herself off-line; was in tears for days; worried about her kids – a lot; and went to the police. Or not.
Because she stayed online the whole time – under one of her “alt” profiles, and just kept playing for attention; was laughing about it the day it happened – and ultimately had this to say:
Because, ultimately, it was all about getting the attention.
What Margo was doing was using hate-speech to get attention; and that’s a big…
When our eyes are open, look at what we see all around us and what we have seen historically in our:
Think of all those portraits along the walls of legislatures, libraries, courthouses that we all walk by
This 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.
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.
I’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”?
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.
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”?
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?
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.
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.
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.
How much does Canada owe Indigenous communities for stolen land?
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.
There comes those moments when you sit back and assess why you do what you do. I’ve done this recently in response to the reactions on my posts and comments about Indigenous Peoples based issues.
I originally started writing to throw out my views on general life events. I worked around what I might write and I settled on the concept that my son would know his mother as a multi-dimensional being. For the day that he realizes I am an actual person, I want him to know what I stood for outside of “dinner’s ready and is your homework done”? I want him to know what I learned about the entire human experience.
I wanted to fill in as much of his background for him, in order to spare him and other children in our family, any moment of the emptiness I felt while growing up. There was little knowledge of my family history beyond the shame of what we experienced and what was said to define us. A number of those experiences were based in the fact that I was born an Indigenous person.
I’ve written about some of my childhood and what it was like to grow up facing some of the ugliness of people who had no desire to hide their disdain for Indigenous anything. I was called names that I knew were about disparagement of my culture before I had any idea about the concept of racism. I was only about four or five years old when I first recall being called some of those names: savage, squaw, filthy redskin, whatever it was, I knew enough to know it wasn’t good.
That was far from the last time I’d be called those sorts of names and treated with equal disdain. Those overt efforts to denigrate me didn’t end until I was in my teens. It was most likely the fact that public awareness was growing around the concepts of political awareness and correctness.
It would be three decades before the same kind of voices and sneers would come at me again. I suppose I could count my last posted column to be the first instance of the return events – which caused a loss of some followers of my blog and my Twitter account. The most recent occasion was this past weekend. I wasn’t called a savage, dirty redskin or a filthy Indian this time; they went for my intelligence and mental stability levels before they finished off with a reference to my ancestry.
This foray back into the dark happened while I was engaged in an online conversation. It was within the comments of a national newspaper about the current call for an inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The comments began mostly as denials for any need for inquiry, because the recently published RCMP report seemed to have all the answers already, despite the many calls showing the disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal women as victims overall.
The reasons for denying an inquiry have been solidly reported already, so I won’t repeat them, but it didn’t take long for the conversation to move from that topic to how it was about time for First Nations to take control of their own lives, to get over the past, and to get off the backs of taxpayers.
In defense, I began in earnest to answer the questions and reply to the statements of derision as quickly as they were being posted. With each question, I would get another question or asked about something completely unrelated – the old, deflect to another point to avoid having to admit first point trumped – tactic.
With every answer I gave came the demand for proof, and when I provided reference links to support my statements, I was hit with personal aspersions. Four people at various points each let me know that I was unaware of what planet I lived on, that I was “dense”, “dumb”, “pathetic”, a “nutter”, and finally in summation: “You HAVE to be an Indian”.
Now, I don’t have a problem with being “an Indian”, even the sort that man was insinuating; I don’t deny my moments of mental densities, but I survived the years four, ten, twelve and the three plus decades with heart and soul intact.
While, I mostly repelled the sting of those arrows, they did make me question whether or not I was subjecting myself and possibly my son to potential harm down the road. Was I going to lose more people within my friendship and supporter circles?
I am prepared for any lack of interest or opposition to my views, but I can still be surprised by who those contradictions may come from. It is painful to find out that people you thought gave a damn about you actually didn’t. It is saddening to learn that people you counted on didn’t really have a backbone of their own, let alone your back, and that even people you admired can walk away with each step feeling like a slap to the face.
Here’s the thing about that stronger constitution I now own – it takes a lot less time to get over the hurt of crossing paths with those sorts of people. Now I realize I am losing nothing except future moments of wasted time. Whatever our purpose was to that point, it was served and now, time to move on, God bless.
I wrote a while ago that this was my tap dance, and part of the song is my ancestry. The fact that my ancestry happens to be tied to very real and important issues for my country matters.
I will continue to write of human experiences, of my own triumphs and failures; I will write about what I find humorous, and I will continue to write about affairs Indigenous.
In fact, my next post is going to be about the answers I gave that caused those biting heads to explode in that online discussion. The part about how taxpayers do not support First Nations people and in fact, why taxpayers should be saying a hell of a lot of thanks instead.
(Warning: usage of full racial epithets in this opinion piece, because I don’t believe one is more important or blatant than the rest in this point of view).
Our truths are largely based on what side of a fence we grew up on. One side, one truth is largely equal to merely indoctrination as education, and this is not restricted to religion. It’s about everything we grew up to believe about the world.
Education is not about only learning more about our side of the fence, it’s supposed to be learning about all the other fences too, or as many as we’re able. This should be a lifelong effort, and if not, why not?
Education has always been key in resolving conflict and ignorance of intents. The process gets all muddled up with the yeah buts, if you knew what he/she did, we need this or we need that.
So what’s really needed? What is really needed to live ably and in relative comfort? The big questions are, what is worth killing children for? What is worth demeaning their value as people?
What’s worth a walk up to a child and looking her in the eyes to call her dirty, a camel jacker, a nigger, a redskin, a chink, a honky, or any other of the demeaning terms we need to make up to dehumanize another person? Nothing? Thank the Universe you have not descended into madness. Yet.
I say ‘yet’ because I wonder how many people wouldn’t be able to do that, but do remark loudly and viciously about the lowness of those children’s parents when in disagreement. These are most noticeable in the comment sections of news stories like those about children dying in the Middle East, resources on someones land, or for the change of an American football team name.
Would these same people kneel down to this child and look her in the eyes and tell her that the purpose of their gain is worth her loss of worth or life? We know there are some who will, and have. They have become madness embodied.
This is what’s meant to be feared. They say they do this on behalf of all the people, their people, and unbelievably, they are believed. What fear is the madness based in? Loss? What fear of loss is so great that it’s worth dehumanizing or killing a child over?
That madness spreads like dust, but dust can be cleaned away. How do we stop the advent of madmen? We educate all of our children now. We all have to stop, whenever it’s made possible, to ask if we’ve truly made an effort to look over the top of our fences. Have we really searched for the reasons behind our fears and anger about something, or most importantly, someone?