Saturday, 2 May 2015

A Study in Contrasts: Racism and Blame Versus Mutual Respect and Creative Problem Solving

To date I do not recall seeing two articles published in the same paper which are so diametrically different as found in "Two Row Times", April 29th, 2015.  For starters, one sees aboriginal people (using special terms such as 'Gwahon:we' to set them apart as special) as paragons of perfection defiled by the evil grasping conniving colonial powers of Canada.  The other article may take a swipe or jab at Canada, but it is all from within a balanced and rational perspective based on an understanding of history - not the "party line" to be chanted at rallies and protests.  I will consider each article in turn.

1)  An entire page is devoted to "Editorial and Opinion", which in fact turns out to be nothing but a channel for propaganda, spewing out all the standard hateful rhetoric that I have heard all my life - but little of which can stand up to any scrutiny (e.g., historical investigation).  The segments are entitled, "I'm not your Indian, bro" and "Luv, Resect & Defiance" - "In memory of Misty Upham".

The page begins with mentioning the year 1688 as the year when "visitors to the Americas" came to "claim ownership over us".  In all of my research, I don't recall 1688 as being of any particular significance.  By 1608 the French were in New France, the English at Jamestown Virginia, and the Spanish were entrenched in Florida and lands to the south.  What can be demonstrated as historical fact is that 40 years before 1688 the then Five Nations were engaged in a genocide the scope of which has seldom been seen anywhere in the world.  Ancestors of the Haudenosaunee had almost completed the eradication (murder, torture, cannibalism, capture) of the Huron (Wyandot), Petun, Neutral (Attiwandaronk), Erie, Wenro - wiping them off the map in a complete and successful sweep.  I acknowledge that in all probability my ancestors were among the killers, but that is history - but cruel, indeed. 

The author continues by bringing up the missing and murdered indigenous men and women and pointing the finger of blame at the Government of Canada.  I have followed many many cases and in the majority of them, the community of origin was the source of the problem.  Endemic alcoholism, domestic violence, rape, assaults, child abuse cause many to flee with no street smarts and who become among societies most vulnerable who must turn to the sex trade or other means to merely survive.  Corrupt chiefs and gross nepotism ensure that nothing will get better, even with more billions of dollars of taxpayer money poured into the bottomless pit.  The problem has to be dealt with by the community - assigning blame to those who are working with key aboriginal leaders to find a solution is not going to fly too well.  It will turn many Canadians away from any concern for those unwilling to accept what is staring them in the face, and instead are themselves supposed to accept guilt for a situation that can only be repaired from within.  At the risk of being accused of waging my own propaganda soapbox war, I will drop this subject.

Somehow the author comes to the conclusion that Canadians in general consider aboriginal people to be "their property", and offers statements such as "The Queen is not our Creator" that make absolutely no sense in any apparent context.  Apparently also, "White settler guilt skyrockets into overdrive when the true landlords stand up and speak out ........ "  Read any of the comments to a Yahoo news report relating to aboriginal Canadians and rather than guilt you will see anger at the perceived "rights and entitlements" and the biting of "the hand that feeds them".  Guilt, maybe in the sociology and political science departments of some universities - but out in the small communities across Canada - anger at the injustice of what is perceived as special treatment.

Then of course the mandatory jab at the Prime Minister, embedded in some sort of fantasy about what would happen if Mr. Harper, "dismantled parliament in favour of Haudenosaunee governance what do Canadians think that we would do? Are they fearful of the violent savage they [sic] colonial pop culture created in their minds.  Maybe they are afraid of receiving what they deserve."  I am at a complete loss to know what this means.  There are about 23,000 Six Nations members, considerably less than the Pakistani community east of here in just Brampton.  Is this a less than veiled threat that someday the Six Nations will assume power over Canada and "make things right" - I don't know.

In the second part, this diatribe against all non - aboriginals continues.  I will (as will the author of the second article) later address the absurdity of this we - they mentality.  Here the author uses the tragic death by suicide of an aspiring American Blackfoot actress to turn this event into yet another cut at the supposedly uncaring Government and populace in Canada who refuse to acknowledge that the responsibility for the disturbing missing and murdered women issue is at their doorstep.  Despite the coroner's report, the author resorts to the fact that, "Her father says it was no suicide".  Denial perhaps.  Suicides occur frequently when people seem to be at the top of their game or seem to have everything to live for - that is an unfortunate fact, linked to hidden depression, lack of self confidence and many other psychological factors - many of which in all honesty are unknown.  We don't always know why people do these things, but they do.  I make this comment based on my experience as a former medical and mental health professional.  Why assume that one knows better than the legal and medical professionals and go with a hunch or a belief or with what someone close to the deceased believes.  Using this unfortunate woman's death to launch into a vitriolic attack against Canada is unacceptable.  The following quote is in the "I can't believe they really said this category".  Readers can judge for themselves - "The hatred toward Onkwehonewe [the "real people", used to mean non aboriginal] women is endemic amongst the ocean of euro-centric energies on Turtle Island."

The author ends this page filled with hatred and negativity by further referring to concepts that might not be familiar to those unaquainted with Six Nations history and culture.  The author brings the story of Sky Woman, the good twin and the evil twin into the picture, perhaps to further emphasize the supposed traditional thinking that is being deployed in the article (which is not true but apparently that is beside the point).  I am very familiar with this essential part of Haudeonsaunee creation mythology - but see absolutely no point in its appearance here other than to covertly suggest that Canadians are the Evil Twin and Haudenosaunee are the Good Twin, and as all of us who know the story are aware, the Good Twin is holding his own against the forces of evil (that surround aboriginal communities as perceived by the author of the article) - although the Evil Twin has sworn to go after, "your beloved children fashioned from the red earth".  I won't take the time to comment on the author's unusual interpretation and twist on the creation story.

The author speaks of energies, however it would appear that all that this article has accomplished is to foster negative energy.  The author appears to be a very bitter person, filled with hate toward others.  Does the content of this article reflect the beliefs of all at Six Nations.  Fortunately the answer is no, as clearly reflected in a second article in the same issue of the paper.

2)  The next article was written by Rick Hill, Chairperson of the Six Nations Legacy Consortium, and Senior Project Coordinator at Deyohaha:ge: Indigeous Knowledge Centre.  Normally I do not mention the names of Six Nations persons if I am going to be overly critical, however since I don't have anything negative to say about Rick Hill - his name will be noted here.  He an I may disagree on matters relating to history, however it is a respectful disagreement which is normal between two people, to use an over used phrase hereabouts, "of a good mind".  His article is entitled, "What makes a 'real' Haudenosaunee?"

Here follows some quotes which, in large part without my comments, will speak loudly for a rational and sensible way for Six Nations people to move forward into this century:

-  If we demand respect for our culture, are we required to give respect for others?  Diversity and multiculturalism are a two way street.  However, all my adult life I have heard racist and exclusionary thoughts from the People of the Longhouse. 

-  We seem to have become a vengeful people, and with the introduction of lateral violence, took it out on our own relatives first.

-  Now it seems that anyone without a clan was considered an enemy.  Those with a clan that do not tow the party line are also considered an enemy.  Our community is full of stories of prejudice, bigotry and exclusion.  Not at the hands of the colonizers but by our own conduct toward each other.  After a while, those within the circle became fewer and fewer, but more intense in their hatred of others. ...........  The real question is :  Do we want to stay there?

Then Mr. Hill recounts his change in perspective from one where he refused to stand for the Canadian or American anthems, to having an epiphany of sorts.  Once he became involved in international Lacrosse, however, and when the "Confederacy flag" was developed, he saw, players from other nations that their fans respectfully stood as our flag was raised and our anthem played.  However, the American, Canadian, British and Australian flags were also raised.  After the respect shown to us, I could not then sit down while their flags were honoured.  If we want respect, we have to show respect.

Furthermore, Mr. Hill notes that various petitions to for example the United Nations which, demand their recognition of our human rights to be Indigenous.  Yet in what way do we recognize the human rights of other people within the Territory of the Haudenosaunee?  .........  Can we demand what we are not willing to give?  Are our current attitudes and practices racist or exclusionary?

In support of the above assertion, Mr. Hill notes how the Kahnawake Warrior Society forcibly evicted non-Natives from their community.  Mr. Hill finds it ironic that, Kahnawake Mohawks are comprised of many bloodlines .........  Many Christian converts sought refuge there and Abenaki, Nippising, Algonkian, and Huron blood became mixed.  Mohawk became the language of choice and Mohawk identity was adopted by all. .........  Today, the prevalence of light skin, hair and eyes at Kahnawake, as elsewhere among the Haudenosaunee, shows that intermarriage was a tradition.

In 1981 the Kahnawake Band Council passed a moratorium on mixed marriages, people who 'married out' had to leave the community.  In 1984, the Band Council added a 50% blood quantum regulation in order for a marriage to qualify under the previous regulation and for band enrollment.  This means that your parents had to have 100% Kahnawake Mohawk blood (or any combination of blood from both parents that would add up to 50% in the children).  Ultimately this regulation caused great turmoil at Kahnawake and other communities since it would result in the break up of families, and the relegation of some Haudenosaunee people who defied arbitrary rules to an "other" category.

Mr. Hill then turned the light on his own community, Six Nations, where in the 1970s people were being "excluded" from being considered as "true Haudenosaunee" (my words) for committing any of a series of infractions.  These include converting to Christianity, marrying a Caucasian, voting in any election, taking an oath to any foreign government.

This made it very difficult for many of us.  Many were born of Christian parents or grandparents.  Many had married non-Natives.  Many were required by their work to make such pledges.  Many had served in the U.S. and Canadian military.  Many voted in local elections.  After a while you began to wonder who was left inside the circle.  We had a habit of wanting to push those who disagreed with us out of the circle.  It became a noose wielded by gatekeepers, who required a blood quantum in order to be considered Haudenosaunee.  But how else to protect our inheritance? ..........  Also, the history which includes for example a "duplicitous government agent", needs to be balanced off with what the Peacemaker told us would bring peace to our lives - universal justice.  Not just the justice for ourselves, but for everyone.  In fact, he was very clear when he said that ANYONE can trace the Great White Roots to their source at the Tree of Peace, and therefore learn of the Great Law.  Anyone.  Not just card carrying Natives.

We are facing a difficult time.  It is reported that half of the marriages at Grand River are to outsiders.  How do we create and maintain peace among ourselves first.  Can we use our tradition of coming to One Mind in this matter as well.  Getting beyond romantic notions of an ideal past, we have to deal with the realities we find ourselves in. 

All I can say at this point is, bravo Mr. Hill, thank you for saying what needed to be said, but that which few will touch.  Better for some to live in a pretend world, full of spite and hatred directed at those who are not responsible for the status quo.  Here we would get into the sensitive issue of personal responsibility, often a "no go zone".

As a footnote, just after writing the above post, an article on the Kahnawake "marrying out" controversy appeared online.  It is entitled, Kahnawake mixed couple subject of 'marry out, stay out' protest and can be seen here.  To say the least, the comments to this article are interesting.  They are consistent, and entirely non supportive of the Band Council's decision.