Posts tagged "aboriginal"

Australia’s history…not so different from Canada’s history. 


You can access the whole timeline here

(via fuckyeahethnicwomen)

The chairman of Canada’s truth and reconciliation commission says removing more than 100,000 aboriginal children from their homes and placing them in residential schools was an act of genocide.

Justice Murray Sinclair says the United Nations defines genocide to include the removal of children based on race, then placing them with another race to indoctrinate them. He says Canada has been careful to ensure its residential school policy was not “caught up” in the UN’s definition.

"That’s why the minister of Indian affairs can say this was not an act of genocide," Sinclair told students at the University of Manitoba Friday. "But the reality is that to take children away and to place them with another group in society for the purpose of racial indoctrination was — and is — an act of genocide and it occurs all around the world."

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were forced to attend the government schools over much of the last century. The last school closed outside Regina in 1996.

The $60-million truth and reconciliation commission is part of a landmark compensation deal between the federal government, the Crown and residential school survivors. It is about halfway through its mandate and has visited about 500 communities, where it has heard graphic details of rampant sexual and physical abuse.

The commission has taken 25,000 statements from survivors so far and has heard from about 100 people who worked in the schools, Sinclair said.

Their legacy has left an indelible impact on Canadian society, he added. The commission has heard stories of survivors continuing the cycle of abuse with their own children.

Even those who worked at the schools are not immune. Many of them were victims, too, and suffer lingering guilt and shame.

"We’ve had teachers come forward to us and spoken to the commission … about how they so hated the experience of teaching in a residential school that they quickly left," Sinclair said. "They never put the fact that they worked at a residential school on their resume and they always kept that fact hidden from everybody, even from their own families."

Just as children of school survivors suffer with their parents’ pain, so, too, do children of those who worked in the schools, Sinclair said. Children of staff members also attended the schools and still grapple with what they saw and experienced there. Some watched their parents become deeply depressed later in life as they came to realize what they had been a part of.

"In many ways, they also feel victimized by having been in residential schools. There is a great mixture of experiences here."

The commission is expected to release an interim report shortly about what it’s heard so far. But even halfway through its mandate, Sinclair said, it’s clear work will take much longer to complete.

There are between 200 million and 300 million government documents on residential schools policy and about 20 million photographs. The commission has only managed to copy about 14,000 photos for the record, he said.

Canada will have to work hard to undo the damage done by the schools long after the commission has finished its work, Sinclair suggested. Generations of children — both aboriginal and non-aboriginal — have been brought up on a curriculum that dismissed aboriginal culture and history as worthless and inferior.

Another consequence is that there is a spiritual void in many aboriginal communities, Sinclair added. Churches that once had strong congregations in aboriginal communities have moved out and elders who could pass on traditional spiritual teachings are no longer living.

"It took 130 years to create this problem. It’s probably going to take us 130 years to undo it."

Read more:

Not a form, it is genocide.

Anishinabe elders have long prophesied that aboriginals and Canadians will be able to move forward when they build the 8th fire of justice and harmony.

A new CBC documentary is using that as the jumping-off point for a four-part series titled, aptly, 8th Fire. It premiered on January 12 to accolades from the aboriginal community, with responses lighting up the Twittersphere and other social media outlets. The second episode will air on Friday January 19.

Hosted by Winnipeg-based CBC journalist Wab Kinew (Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation), 8th Fire takes the viewer on a journey through aboriginal country and demonstrates why it is time to build a new relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples. Politicians may speak of resetting the relationship between the Canadian government and the country’s aboriginals, but this series shows how the status quo plays out on the ground.

The series is laced with interviews with aboriginal artists, writers, academics, service providers and activists, all sharing their deepest experiences, struggles and triumphs. Its opening episode, “Indigenous in the City,” revealed the multi-layered and often times complex inter-relationships between Canadians, aboriginal people and so-called urbanites—aboriginal people who call the city home.

With half of Canada’s aboriginal population living in cities, 8th Fire says it is “time to get to know your neighbors.” Episode 1 was written, produced and directed by Ryszard Hunka, with music composed and performed by Cris Derksen.

On a well-represented quest, host Kinew takes us to large cities like Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg. Topics discussed range from racism, gangs, child poverty, residential schools, the Sixties’ scoop to homelessness—each anchored with a human-interest story.

Canadian rap group Winnipeg’s Most opened up about their past, which includes trouble with the law and what it’s like living in the city and trying to escape becoming targets of stereotypes and misunderstanding.

Also profiled were cartoonist Steve Keewatin Sanderson, Plains Cree, of British Columbia; Lee Maracle, a writer from the Stó:lō Nation; Kent Monkman, Cree, a multimedia artist from Toronto, and Jordon Tootoo, Inuit, an NHL player with the Nashville Predators.

But this documentary isn’t just about aboriginal celebrities. There are also moving personal accounts, such as the one by Herb Varley, a resident of Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside whose father struggles with his addiction to drugs.

Or Nakuset’s story: Executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, she was adopted at three by a Jewish family and ordered by her adopted family to tell others that she was Israeli and not of aboriginal ancestry.

A consistent message in the documentary is that because of a shared colonial history, one doesn’t have to look far to find these stories.

But is anybody listening? Many aboriginal people say they know the history of contact and its impacts. Why doesn’t the rest of Canada?

8th Fire posits that to bridge the cultural divide and rebuild the relationship, Canadians must listen and take an active role in creating a better relationship with aboriginal people. While it will take time for this to happen, if social media is any indication, people are talking.

Twitter was on fire. Before the documentary premiered there were hundreds of tweets with the hashtag #8THFireCBC—and that exploded city-by-city as the show aired in each province. Comments came from aboriginals and non-aboriginals, with @betasamosake tweeting, “This needs to be a weekly series,” and @MsWelbergen chiming in with, “Great Program! Looking forward to next week and the eventual DVDs to use in the classroom!”

“I think all Canadians should watch,” tweeted @CaraMcGregor.

For some it hit very close to home.

“Well 8th Fire was excellent, very well done and desperately needed in this country, but for me personally really hard to watch,” stated @chicosez.

The Aboriginal-Canadian relationship has been under the microscope lately, what with the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings, United Nations involvement in the country’s problem of missing and murdered aboriginal women, the housing debacle in Attawapiskat and the education crisis facing Pikangikum over its moldy school, among other issues. With aboriginal topics featuring so prominently in the news, the series lands at an opportune time.

via cassket

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Lee Maracle is a celebrated author, poet, educator, storyteller and performing artist. She’s a member of the Stó:lo Nation of British Columbia, and is a descendant of Mary Agnes Joe Capilano, known as the Princess of Peace of Capilano Reserve. Maracle is also the granddaughter of the renowned Chief Dan George, and two of her four children are performers, Sid Bobb and daughter Columpa, a multi-disciplinary artist, who is also a playwright, songwriter and Artisitc Director of the largest Aboriginal Theatre school in Canada.

Lee is one of the country’s most prolific First Nations’ writers, and was first published in the early 1970s. She is a member of the Red Power Movement and Liberation Support Movement. Maracle has been the Traditional Cultural Director of The Centre for Indigenous Theatre and has worked as an instructor of dramatic composition and theatrical representation. Maracle’s works reflect her antipathy toward racism, sexism, and white cultural domination.Among her novels are Ravensong, Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel and Daughters Are Forever.

She is one of the founders of the En’owkin International School of Writing in Penticton, BC, and Cultural Director of the Centre for Indigenous Theatre in Toronto. She mentors young people on personal and cultural healing and reclamation. Her own difficult youth left indelible marks, she says. “I got beat up at school everyday because they didn’t want Indians.”

In Maracle’s world view, intimate and integral connections bind women and the environment.  “Feminism begins with considering the earth our Mother.  All violence against earth is violence to us.”  The passing on of “women’s knowledge” is essential to the healing of people and the environment, she believes.

Maracle sees “reclaiming ourselves” as the central project for Aboriginal peoples in the twenty-first century.  “I think we have to find a way to live as Aboriginal people and as Canadians, which means dealing with patriarchy and misogyny at the personal level.”  In this process of cultural reclamation, addressing such issues as violence against women and children and the rape of the environment are essential.  Maracle describes the understanding of the interdependence of gender, environment and race as “the gift of Aboriginal people in this time.”

In 2001, Maracle was appointed Distinguished Visiting Professor of Canadian Culture at Western Washington University to engage in activities focused on promoting Canadian culture and awareness.

She is currently the Aboriginal Writer-in-Residence for First Nations House, and an Instructor in the Aboriginal Studies Dept. at University of Toronto.

Watch 8th Fire8TH Fire draws from an Anishinaabe prophecy that declares now is the time for Aboriginal peoples and the settler community to come together and build the ’8TH Fire’ of justice and harmony.

(Videos and quotes @ Lee Maracle)

Embodied in my truth is the brilliance of hundreds of Native women who faced the worst that CanAmerica had to offer and dealt with it. Embodied in my brilliance is the great sea of knowledge that it took to overcome the paralysis of the colonized mind. I did not come to this clearing alone. Hundreds walked alongside me – Black, Asian and Native women whose tide of knowledge was bestowed upon me are the key to every CanAmerican’s emancipation.”
“Sojourner Truth told you already, ‘Ain’t I a woman?’ She asked the white feminist movement on our behalf, a hundred years ago, and the white women of North America have yet to face the answer. She served up the question; we need do no more.


Most importantly, there are stories that define who we are and how we came to be ‘us’. Stories that have shaped our identities and continue to negotiate them as new stories take us to different destinations. This story is about ‘someone’ within me that I did not know even existed. A story about coming to Canada. A story about an unforeseen collision. A story that continues to weave its threads to this day.
Canadians always have questions. Specifically, ‘white’ Canadians always have questions that come with pre-packaged answers. Everywhere I go, I frequently get asked, “Where are you from”?

I generally reply, “I am Indian”, which is usually received with great confusion.

“You are Indian”!!!?

I can see the wheels of identity categorization churning in their heads and to avoid awkward silences and bring the conversation to an end, I follow up with, “Yes, Indian, as in from India.”

“Oh! So you are East-Indian. Why didn’t you say so”?

When I came to Canada, I had no idea that I was East-Indian. All my life I had considered myself to be Indian. I suddenly felt the weight of my new identity on my shoulders leaving me wondering if I was in the right temporal location. The identity ofEast-Indian comes from the time of British colonialism in India. They had established the East-India Company to manage trade affairs and it eventually became a part of the colonial enterprise. When I hear the term East-Indian, it automatically inscribes upon me the identity of still being a colonized subject. It seems like no one informed my interrogators that India gained its independence some seven decades ago.

I am a colonized time-traveller in Canada.

After spending some time in Canada, I started hearing horrendous comments about the ‘backwardness’ of Indians.

How they were lazy.

How they were drunks and unfit parents.

How they were living off welfare and spending the money on alcohol and drugs.

How Indian women were loose.

All of this infuriated me to no end and I wanted to find these Indians that people were talking about. Where are these Indians you speak of? Maybe if I could find them, I could find out what all this talk was all about. They are making all of us look bad. And then it all came crashing down.

In my first year of university (my third year in Canada), I had gone out to a restaurant with some of my dorm-mates. All of them ‘white’. We ordered our food and drinks and paid casual attention to a hockey game going on. As the evening progressed, my friend Tom introduced us to his friend Jared (who is ‘white’) who had come to join us. We had the usual introductions and as I said above, he asked me where I was from. To which I replied, “I am Indian.” We sat down and enjoyed our meals peppered with light conversation. After that, I got up to have a cigarette. As I put on my jacket with a cigarette dangling from my lips, Jared looked up to me and said,

“You must get cheap cigarettes, huh”?

I had no idea what that meant. He thought that I hadn’t heard him properly and went on to explain himself.

“I mean, cigarettes must be quite cheap on your reservation.”

For a nanosecond, I was completely dumbstruck. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly, two different worlds collided without being asked.

He thought I was aboriginal.

My being was abruptly intertwined with aboriginal peoples’, without our consent, and a mistake of six centuries of colonial hubris was shaping who I was/am.

Let us rewind for a minute. The story of Columbus is well known. He sailed the high seas to search for India and landed in what is known as the ‘Americas’ in modern day linguistic currency. The peoples’ he encountered were labeled ‘Indian’ and Columbus continued to believe he had landed in India till his death bed. The identity of ‘Indian’ was/is violently inscribed onto the lands, bodies, languages and a multitude of aboriginal nations that were/are richly diverse.

Fast forward to present times and the label of ‘Indian’ is still being upheld by Canadian institutions and modern day racist vernacular. Aboriginal peoples’ are still being dehumanized and defined by the colonial legal framework of the ‘Indian’ Act. The immigration of ‘Indians from India’ threw a wrench in this neat tidy category of Other. There could not possibly be more than one ‘Indian’. A whole new twist to the ‘Indian’ problem was afoot.

No worries. An easy fix.

The ones coming from India are ‘East-Indians’.

Aboriginals are ‘Indians’ or ‘Red-Indians’ depending on the grade of racism one subscribes to.

East-Indians’ taken from India to the Caribbean during colonialism as slaves and/or indentured labourers are ‘West-Indians’.

Done and done.

My alleged East-Indianness is derived from two different colonial projects. One through the direct subjugation of my people’s and the other through the subjugation of aboriginal peoples’ of the Americas. It might not have been apparent above, but I was not offended that I was mistaken to be aboriginal.

I was, and still am, upset about the superimposition of a history of a diverse group of aboriginal peoples’ on my being to which I have no authority to represent.

I was, and still am, angered by the fact that my being was not under my control, and with the careless utterance of a label I was asked to bear the weight of pain that was not mine and could never be even if I wanted to shoulder some of it.

I was, and still am, enraged by the fact that I am continuously portrayed as a colonized subject and forced to fit within a colonial category of individuals that my forefathers died fighting against so that we could be free.

I was, and still am, disturbed to see that the only type of aboriginal person that can be imagined is one who lives on a reservation apparently living off the largesse of Canadian tax payers.

This seemingly benign account about identity-politics is one of the stories that has shaped me. It is one that has sharpened my senses to how colonialism still affects our lives in overt and covert ways. It is a story about ‘becoming Canadian’ and the swallowing of colonial baggage required in the process. It is about immigrants and aboriginal peoples’ caged in stratified colonial spaces that overlap at the behest of colonial masters. It is about the inextricable alliance between us in the anti-racist/anti-colonial struggle that needs to be nurtured and brought to the forefront.

I refuse to be East-Indian. I was never East-Indian and I never will be. I was born Indian and I will die as one. If these colonial labels are discarded by state institutions and in daily discourse, then maybe I will die as a Canadian.

by HarshZ (via The ‘Indian’ Problem! « It Is A Harsh World)

Racialized communities experience ongoing, disproportionate levels of poverty. In other words, people from Aboriginal and ethno-racial minority groups (communities of colour) are more likely to fall below the low income cut off (LICO) and to have related problems like poor health, lower education, and fewer job opportunities, than those from European backgrounds. While it is possible for anyone to experience low income and reduced opportunities, individual and systemic racism plays a large role in creating such problems. Discrimination means that members of racialized communities are less likely to get jobs when equally qualified and are likely to make less income than their white peers. It means they are more likely to live and work in poor conditions, to have less access to healthcare, and to be victims of police violence.

 (via Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change)

Sherene Razack is professor of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Her research and teaching interests lie in the area of race and gender issues in the law.  Her courses include ‘Race, Space and Citizenship;’ ‘Race and Knowledge Production’ and ‘Racial Violence and the Law.’  Her most recent book is entitled Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims From Western Law and Politics. She has also published several books on feminism, race, gender and imperialism, including  Looking White People in the Eye: Gender, Race, and Culture in Courtroom, which explores how non-white women are viewed in classrooms and courtrooms.

Razack’s book makes clear why we must be wary of educational and legal strategies that begin with saving ”Other” women. It offers powerful arguments for why it is important to examine who are the saviours and who are the saved, and what we must do to disrupt these historical relations of power.

Zoe Druick: What is the significance of the term “unmapping” in the title of the book?

Sherene Razack: When colonisers first get to a place they intend to own, one of their first acts is to map it and give it names. Mapping enables them to feel in control and to know themselves as owners of the space. It is always about identity as well as a material act of possession. When you unmap, you ask questions about the claims and the identity-making process that have gone into making maps. You ask, for instance, about what the land was called before it was mapped. You unsettle notions that the land was simply theirs for the taking. To unmap is to consider that there is nothing innocent about mapping, that it is a process born of and consolidating certain power arrangements.

ZD: Can you explain the phrase “space becomes race”?

SR: It is probably more accurate to talk about how place becomes race. In the book I begin with an example from Canadian history. It was an offence under the Indian Act to be intoxicated on an Indian reserve. This law marked an Indian reserve as a special kind of place, one where the normal rules of society did not apply. Anyone in that space earned the mark of being somehow abnormal or different (and negatively so). Of course the people who are most likely to be on an Indian reserve are Aboriginal peoples. To have such a law is to mark as degenerate and lesser Indians. The place is thereby effectively collapsed with race.

ZD: What are the implications of this book for Canadian studies?

SR: Scholars in Canada often over-rely on American work and we are plagued by an insufficient body of work on how race operates in Canada. While ours is a white settler society that shares many of the characteristics and history of other settler colonies, such as the United States and Australia (and the book is therefore of enormous interest to them), we also have some specific aspects that we need to consider. For example, we have a slightly different method of colonization (not better or more benign but different). As well, we have powerful national myths that insist that there is no racism here and that we do not have a violent colonial history. This book should help to shatter these rather destructive myths.

(via  Sherene Razack interview, Sherene Razack, editor of Race, Space and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society & Sherene Razack – Racism Free Ontario Initiative)