To ‘reconcile’ is to weave a stronger and more vibrant social fabric, based on the unique and diverse strengths of Canadians and their communities (Reconciliation Canada). 

 

chiefRobert-sidebar

“our future and well-being of  all our children rests with the kind of relationships we build today”

The Reconciliation Walk had over 70,000 people join together in Vancouver British Columbia in September 2013 for a powerful walk to pave a new way forward. The  movement is to create a new social fabric where all diverse and unique strengths of Canada come together in unity.  Reconciliation Canada describes themselves as a means to build strong relationships among Aboriginal Peoples and all Canadians. “Reconciliation” means to move beyond the sorry and misunderstandings and join together in unity and understanding of a history and culture. The path they walk represents the journey into a new and “shared tomorrow” (Reconciliation Canada).  Elder Chief Dr. Robert Joseph had the vision of this powerful walk and movement. The walk is a charitable project established as a collaboration between Indian Residential School Survivors Society and Tides Canada Initiative Society (Reconciliation Canada).

I believe that one reason why the Reconciliation walk is so powerful is because it brings forward the knowledge that we are not alone. It reminds me of the healing ceremony in Porcupines and China Dolls where the community comes together in unity to fight their battle together. They do not have to do it alone and the knowledge of this is powerful in the journey toward healing and reconciliation.

Dr. Bernice King was the keynote speaker at the event which marked the 50th anniversary of her father Martin Luther King “I have a dream” speech.

 

Idle No More and Creating a “Web of Relations”

One of the largest movements in Canadian history so far is the Idle No More movement.

“Idle No More calls on all people to join in a peaceful revolution, to honour Indigenous sovereignty, and to protect the land and water” (www.idlenomore.ca)

The movement is not just about Indigenous People coming together in unity, it is about the unity of ALL diverse cultures coming together in support of this movement. Support for creating change and equality among all people. Idle No More creates interconnected social communities to form the “spider web” of relations. Social media plays a large part of this web of relations and creating online publics and communities. Through this movement and the social media behind it, people can engage themselves in the community and as an individual member of the community.  People involved can be up to date on all the events, ceremonies, and/or pow wow’s that are happening the community and raise awareness for the importance of these movements.

mlk_idle_no_more2

 

 

It is time for us to unite in one shared goal – to stand up for our rights and freedom as humans, no matter what our colour, beliefs or traditions are.  The movement is about human empowerment and protection and strength.  It is about creating equality and ample opportunity for next generations. UNITED WE STAND.

Conclusion

Indigenous People and culture has been through devastation due to the assumption that European’s are superior over non-Europeans. This belief has lead to residential schools of the Indigenous People and cultural genocide. The effects are still heavy on the colonized today.  Many Indian People struggle with the idea that they have to live up to this preconceived idea what how they are supposed to act. Euro-Canadians have come up with the idea of the “real Indian” and if that idea is not reached, they sadly become known as the “Vanishing Indian”. Healing takes place when people come together in unity to share their stories. Knowledge that they are not alone is powerful for healing process. People must stand up and fight the internal demons together as a community. Movements such as Idle No more and the Reconciliation Canada walk are just some of the  roads to reconciliation and empowerment among Indigenous and all humans today. All humans need to work toward empowerment and giving all people a voice for the journey toward healing to be well on its way.

 

Thank you,

 

Kim Vannetten, student at Trent University Oshawa.

 

“Healin’ is a Journey – There is no End!”

 . . . Traveller, there are no roads. The road is created as we walk it together (Machado as cited in Battiste 215).

Trauma brings humanity to the edge of human understanding. It can be described as an outer body experience, or in the case of Porcupines and China Dolls, it can be described as a “dream”.  When Chief David begins the healing workshop, he beings by opening up and telling the People that:

“Thirty years ago I was sexually abused in the hostel” . . . One hundred people snapped to attention . . . The sound of so many empty heads reverberating in the community hall woke a million, trillion gazillion demons, dreams and nightmares from their slumbers. . . [James and Jake] lifted Chief David up through the floor and stood him on his feet, then holded their arms, looked up at the ceiling and held demons, dreams and nightmares at bay while their Chief spoke in a loud, thundering voice that vibrated the ceiling. Chief David grew thirty feet tall and spoke of suicides, killings and death. He spoke of anger, rage and terror. He spoke of hurt, shame and sorrow. He spoke of demons, dreams and nightmares. He spoke of the future, hope and healing (Alexie 195-97).

Chief David did something on that day that not many people have the strength to do. He awoke the demons that tormented him and was able to begin the battle of dealing with the demons that have been festering and destroying him. Others then stood up with him in this battle and took on the power to tell their stories as well.  Jake Noland stands and “tell[s] his demons, dreams and nightmares that he was here for the long haul and then some. He was telling them he was going nowhere and they’d better know it. Hew as telling them he was prepared to sacrifice himself for this Chief and People if it came to that. He was telling them he was ready to do battle and to get it over with” (200). Jake becomes inspired to begin his journey of healing but “Healin’ is a journey – there is no end!” (201). He is no longer trying to hide from his pain, anger, rage, and shame.   Through the community coming together and sharing their stories, many demons and nightmares are confronted. The People needed to know that they were not alone. It is the weight of not telling your story that makes these demons multiply and destroy your spirit. The cure in this moment is not western medicine, or drowning the pain with morphine or medicine. The cure is the power of telling. The power of listening without judgement that is so important to the Indigenous culture.

After the People stand up together to face the battle of reality, emotions and demons, “two hundred people began to breathe again. Cool air rushed into the community hall and swept the demon stench into oblivion and it smelled like it did after one humongous thunderstorm, everything was clean” (207). The workshop ceremony acts as a beginning toward a journey of healing. There is no reconciliation with this workshop, but the wound has now been open for the poison to come out and healing to begin as a community. The People have come together in their “spider web of relations” to gain wholeness. Leroy Little Bear describes this sense of whole as “like a flower with four petals. When it opens, one discovers strength, sharing, honesty and kindness. Together these four petals create balance, harmony, and beauty. . . Sharing also brings about harmony, which sustains strength and balance” (Little Bear 30).  Chapter 17 in Porcupines and China Dolls is pivotal for the community as they realize the strength of their web of relations and come together to share and strangle the demons that have festered within.

It is the sharing of the story that evokes the courage to deal with the pain of reality. Telling is the beginning of the healing process. This is seen in Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals. The story is about the main character Victor and his journey toward healing and forgiveness. Victor is so fixated on what is truth and what is lies that he is unable to heal from the pain and forgive his father. He drowns the pain rather than deals with it. However, in the end, it is shown that Victor is able to forgive his father. Once he can forgive, what is left is healing. You cannot heal with out forgiveness.

This scene is powerful as it is the beginning of the healing process for Victor. He is finally able to forgive his father, because without this forgiveness, he will never heal from the pain.

To conclude and lead me into my next post,  I have included this video that states very powerfully, that forgiveness is necessary for Indigenous Knowledge and history.  This forgiveness is what leads to the healing of the Indigenous culture and stops history from repeating itself.

Works Cited

Alexie, Robert Arthur. Porcupines and China Dolls. Theytus Books.British Columbia: 2009. Print.

Alexie, Sherman. Smoke Signals. 1998. Film. 

Battiste, Marie. “Unfolding the Lessons of Colonization”. Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision. UBC Press. Vancouver: 2000. pp. 209-17. Print.

Leroy Little Bear. “Jagged Worldviews Colliding” in Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision. Edited by Marie Battiste.  UBC Press. British Columbia: 2000. pp. 29-33. Print.

Wilson, Waziyatawin Angela. “Indigenous Knowledge Recovery is Indigenous Empowerment”. American Indian Quarterly. University of Nebraska Press. 2004. pp. 359-72. Web.

“Writing Off the Indian”: The Vanishing Indian Reborn

The massive Volume of useless knowledge produced by anthropologists attempting to capture real Indians in a network of theories has contributed substantially to the invisibility of Indian people today. After all, who can conceive of a food-gathering, berry-picking,  semi-nomadic, fire-worshiping, high-plains-and-mountain-dwelling, horse-riding, canoe-toting, bead-using, pottery-making, ribbon-converting, wickiup-sheltered people who began flourishing when Alfred Frump mentioned them in 1803 in his great work on Indians entitled Our Feathered Friends as real? Not even Indians can relate themselves to this type of creature who, to anthropologists, is the “real” Indian. Indian people begin to feel that they are merely shadows of a mythical super-Indian (Deloria 56-57).

The Euro-Canadian missionaries believed that Indian’s were meant to embrace the White culture because they were the superior civilization. Daniel Francis points out that many Euro-Canadian people (falsely) believed that the White way was superior  and that, “Natives were slaves to their environment, roaming aimlessly across the Plains in pursuit of game, worshiping gods which inhabited the wind and the trees. Because they did nothing with the resources of the land – built no cities, tilled no fields, dug no mines – Indians deserved to be superceded by a civilization that recognized the potential for material progress” (Francis 52). The White society saw this as an opporutnity for Indians to join a superior civilization. They believed that those who did not take this opportunity were “doomed to ultimate extinction by their own inexplicable attachment to an inferior, obsolete way of life” (53). This was sadly the case for over a hundred years. North American non-Natives believed that assimilation was truly for the good of the people. White Canadian culture was intoxicated with the idea of progress and since Natives did not engage in this idea of progress, they were demanded to be wiped out. It was not so much the idea that Indian’s must adapt to Canadian culture,  but more the idea that they must cease to be Indians. In turn, the Indian became an image of the past, an image in contradistinction to White society, something that no longer really existed (59).

I have included Taiaiake Alfred’s lecture which outlines the cultural representations of Indigenous peoples and the effects this has on their identity. Native peoples are stuck struggling with what it really means to be Native. Some individuals try to move away from being Native, and some try to act in a such a way that will ‘live up’ to societal expectations and the images that are constructed in social media. Either way, their cultural foundation is threatened and their sense of purpose is lost.

"Travelers loved to take the railway west where they could see the noble Red Man in his natural setting before he disappeared forever" (Francis 45).

“Travelers loved to take the railway west where they could see the noble Red Man in his natural setting before he disappeared forever” (Francis 45).

Alfred’s lecture effectively discusses the idea that the Indian race has been pulled so far from the knowledge of their cultural history that their identity becomes performative. this means that they conform to the representations of either the noble savage, or the righteous warrior, according to the outside world.  Francis points out that travelers from all Eastern Canada and Europe were fascinated with the “real Indian”  and were “curious about what the Indian was ‘really like'” (44).  They tried to observe these “picturesque” beings that they had imagined in their minds but they were disappointed when they realized that Indians did not coincide with the stereotypes. Many Native individuals try to emulate a Native image by the larger society perspective. They are bombarded my images of what it means to be Native which has left them with a huge gap of what Indignaity is.  Alfred points out that this has given us a “Lack of a sense of purpose and who we are as a people”.

Maria Battiste identifies the importance of Indigenous knowledge to the culture in this video. Indigenous Knowledge is the way to reclaiming Native identity. 

Battiste responds that Indigenous people were forced into assimilation and have therefore had their knowledge system threatened.   Battiste outlines the importance of trying to restore and renew Native knowledge’s so our children will have access to the knowledge’s we had in the past. Indigenous people no longer have a foundation or knowledge of how to live in this world as a Native individual because colonization has taken this from them. Some communities still have traditional/cultural memories and knowledge of their own history and this is what needs to be brought back to Indigenous communities. Many communities and families have lost all tradition, culture and rituals due to the Residential schools. Battiste asks, “How do we restore and renew the core of our being and what it means to be an Indigenous humanity?” Efforts have been to deconstruct the Euro-centric humanities and their exclusions and bring forward and reclaim the Indigenous knowledge, communities and languages. This is the way to give our future hope. . .

Deloria Jr. Vine. “Anthropologists and Other Friends” in Custer Died for your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. University of Oklahoma Press. 1998. pp. 78-100. Print.

Francis, Daniel. The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture. Arsenal Pulp Press. Vancouver BC: 1992. Print.

Attempts in “Civilizing” Indigenous People: Residential Schools

“the colonizers taught us that the conquest and ‘civilizing’ of our people was inevitable, that we, too, must give way to ‘progress’ It was hammered into our heads that our Indigenous cultural traditions were inferior to those of Euro-Americans and Euro-Canadians, that there was nothing of value in our old ways and that those ways were incompatible with modernity and civilization. In order for the colonizers to complete their colonizing mission, they were required to make not only themselves believe these ideas, but us as well” (Wilson 360).

When the children were rounded up in cattle trucks and taken to the residential schools, they were not allowed to practice any part of their culture or  even speak their language. These children experienced every sort of abuse from physical, mental, sexual and spiritual and these effects still often remain in First Nations people and their communities today.

porcupines and china dollsPorcupines and China Dolls, by Robert Arthur Alexie, is a story about the journey toward healing after a traumatic history.  In chapter 2, Alexie tells us about the life of a Native family. He concludes that “that’s the way its been for countless generations and there is no reason it’ll ever change” (8).  The missionaries show up and ruin everything that the Indian family and culture has ever known. Alexie writes that when “the missionary tells them to sit, and they do it without thinking” (9). This is the beginning of the assimilation process. The children arrive at the mission school where, “the boys are herded into a large room where a missionary takes a pair of scissors and cuts their hair. No one says anything. They just watch. After everyone hair is cut, they’re told to remove their clothing and put them in a pile. They don’t know it,  but the missionaries are going to burn their clothing along with their hair and whatever else they brought with them” (9). The missionaries attempt to completely wipe out the entire Indian culture. The missionaries attempt to “civilize” the children by powdering them white, because this was thought to be the dominant, normal race. Any one else to deviated from this was “dirty” to say the least.  The children are clothed in uniform so that they could not be recognized. This uniform was to get rid of any thing that belonged to their culture. They were not allowed to speak their language even though they did not know anything else. Alexie writes that “the young boy will have no alternative but to speak his language, and he will be hit, slapped or tweaked. Sometime during his first month, he’ll watch his sister speak the language and he hit, slapped or tweaked” (12). There is nothing that can be done in this moment to change the devastation and abuse that is occurring. The Indian culture becomes conditioned to this abuse until they eventually find it normal.  One article on Indigenous history recognizes this idea that the abuse is “normal” as it states, “the systemic structure of oppression placed on Indigenous peoples has become normalized because within the framework of institutionalized racism and colonization, members of the dominant group are able to misuse their powers, which they have done in so many ways and for some many years, that it becomes normal for them” (Yuen et. al. 270). Due to the intoxicating power of the White society, what should be bizarre to the the Indian culture has become normal, and what should be normal has become bizarre. They soon no longer remember their own language, culture and traditions. Sadly, Indigenous knowledge is threatened as they are forced to conform to the dominant white culture.

Having conformity in hair and dress of the Indian children was one way to adjust the Native peoples to White customs. This was supposed to be a ‘civilizing’ process. To have uniformity was the road to success of acculturation.

Having conformity in hair and dress of the Indian children was one way to adjust the Native peoples to White customs. This was supposed to be a ‘civilizing’ process. To have uniformity was the road to success of acculturation.

Residential schools were the basis of cultural genocide practiced by the Federal Government.  Wayne Christian describes this as “a systematic removal of children from their families, cultural values, and rituals” (Jack 10). Children as young as four years old were taken away and placed in a horrifying, abusive environment with no contact with their families. These children were dehumanized as soon as they walked through the doors. They were stripped of all Indian clothes and had their heads shaved. They were punished for practicing any of their cultural beliefs, virtually eliminating their entire sense of identity.

The Education in the Residential schools was minimal. The missionaries only taught them to be laborers and  trades-men as they thought any quality education would be unnecessary. The children were assumed to be be slow-learners simply because they did not understand due to the language barrier.  One anonymous survivor remarks that, “speaking our language was a major punishment due. This was referred to as ‘talking Indian’ or ‘forbidden games’”. The missionary attack of Native languages was part of the assault of Aboriginal identity and the individual Native person’s sense of worth as an Indian.

                                             

He’s never going to forgive those who lied to him and those who abused him. He’ll never say it out loud. He can’t. They cut his tongue out, and he can’t talk about it” (Alexie 15). 

The healing from this trauma cannot begin until the internal demons are released. This pain will fester inside as you suffer a spiritual death until the day you die.  The healing must begin with stories. It must begin with telling your story and the knowledge that you are not alone. It is crucial to the revival of their culture for every Native individual to be given a voice after so many years of silence and give hope to the next generation of Indigenous people.

Christina Casimir, a Native individual who participated in the Secwepemc Cultural Education Society Project,  recounts her horrifying experience at one Residential school  and ends with this beacon of hope, “I’ll continue healing for the rest of my life. I’ll continue growing and learning. Who knows what my future will bring? But I know I’m moving in a direction where my community will be healthier, and my family will be healthier. I want to make this a better place for my grandchildren and my great grandchildren . . . also, my Indian name is Red Eagle Moon Woman. I’m proud of the name” ( Jack 197).

Works Cited

Alexie, Robert Arthur. Porcupines and China Dolls. Theytus Books Ltd. British Columbia. 2009. Print.

Jack Agnuss. Behind Closed Doors: Stories from the Kamploops Indian Residential School. Secwepemc Cultural Education Society. Theytus Book Ltd.  British Columbia. 2000. Print. 

Wilson, Waziyatawin Angela. Indigenous Knowledge Recovery is Indigenous Empowerment. American Indian Quarterly. University of Nebraska Press. 2004. pp. 359-72. Web

Yuen Felice, Linds Warren, Goulet Linda, Episkinew Jo Ann, Ritenburg Heather, Schmidt Karen.  ”You Might as Well Call it Plant of the Sioux: Indigenous Youth, Imagination, and Decolonization”.A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health. 2013. pp.269-81. Web.

Introduction: Shaking off the Bindings of Colonization

“As Indigenous peoples throughout the world continue to shake off the bindings of colonialism, efforts to reclaim our ways of life, worldviews, and values are a crucial priority and these efforts are gaining momentum. . . the recovery of Indigenous knowledge should be central to the foundation of Indigenous studies programs. . . As Taiaiake Alfred has stated ‘the core of our existence as nations is in our traditional cultures'” (Wilson 360). 

In this blog I will aim to outline how the Indian culture has had their sense of identity and culture virtually taken away from them through colonization.  It is often forgotten that one of the largest genocides took place on Canadian soil.  The effects of this on the Native culture are devastating. The Native culture and society still suffer from these effects today and it is up to this generation to put the pieces back together. Though so many have struggled with finding their identity and have even lost sight of what it means to be Native, they are still here, and there is hope for healing, and for reclaiming the Indian identity.

I have included this video as a way of outlining some effects of the trauma and results of a lost history in the Native culture in today’s society.   The three Native people interviewed have struggled in their cultural identities due to the effects of colonization. It shows how these effects are still prevalent today and it is up to the present generation to pick up the pieces of their culture and continue in the journey toward healing.

A journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous community health explains that “the consequences of colonization continue to haunt Indigenous peoples today as they heal from the social, emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual trauma of their past. Our research shows that First Nations youth who are embedded in community and family systems damaged by colonialism find it difficult to see themselves as agents of change. Colonized relationships continue to reinforce the oppression and marginalization experienced by Indigenous communities (Yuen et al. 270).  The struggle that Indigenous peoples go through as they begin the healing process of their traumatic history is a very real issue in today’s society. The suffering that remains as Native people try to reclaim their identity and culture is often overlooked. Aboriginal communities have been deprived of a voice in the media and as a result society has been unaware of the poverty and despair that is a part of the everyday lives of our country’s original inhabitants. It seems that many Canadians consider themselves compassionate people and have “maintained a sort of blissful ignorance” to Canadian Native trauma (Whitehead & Hayes 2). For many Canadians the social problems endured by First Nations peoples seem to be “sufficiently distant and foreign that they do not figure prominently, if at all, on our social agenda of significant matters to be addressed” (3). Imagining and enacting an alternative future is possible if we work together to create change and healing. 

It is my hope that the larger society might be able to shed light on what can  be done to make a difference in the level of human suffering of First Nations peoples. First Nation peoples’ stories are often told in terms of “alcoholism, solvent abuse, hopelessness, suicide, loss of traditional values, spiritual decay, violence, community dysfunction, educational deficits and the seemingly impotent reactions of insensitive governments” (4). I believe that Native and non-Native’s alike need look together to find a remedy to continue a journey toward healing.

In this blog I will talk about the trauma of the Native past such as boarding schools, and the effects of decolonization on social, emotional, mental, and spiritual identities. This subject is largely complex and is not something that can be fully unpacked or given justice to in one blog.  However, my hope is that this blog will be served as a part of being an agent of change or at least a resource in educating society on this issue.

This quote  is efficient in summarizing what my blog will attempt to delve into:

Throughout the colonization of the Americas and continuing into the present day, Native Americans have experienced genocide, theft of resources, systematic oppression of cultural and spiritual practices, and been denied opportunities to pursue their inherent rights to follow their vision of the American dream. This overwhelming  historical trauma has posed a continuing disruptive challenge to the well being of many Native Americans. In addition, Native Americans were seen as less than fully human and deemed to have been incapable of grieving by the dominant society. This societal attitude along with a prohibition of public grieving rituals served as a disenfranchising Native Americans of their grief and contributed to furthering instead a sense of shame and robbing Native Americans of a sense of identity and cultural solidarity in dealing with their Grief (Rybak & Decker-Fitts 334).

Works Cited

Whitehead C. Paul. The Insanity of Alcohol: Social Problems in Canadian First Nations Communities. Canadian Scholars’ Press INC. Toronto. 1998. Print.

Wilson, Waziyatawin Angela. Indigenous Knowledge Recovery is Indigenous Empowerment. American Indian Quarterly. University of Nebraska Press. 2004. pp. 359-72. Web

Yuen Felice, Linds Warren, Goulet Linda, Episkinew Jo Ann, Ritenburg Heather, Schmidt Karen.  “You Might as Well Call it Plant of the Sioux: Indigenous Youth, Imagination, and Decolonization”. A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health. 2013. pp.269-81. Web.