Before I get into the meat of this post, I would like to take a minute and say thank you to all of my friends out there. Those of you whom I agree with, I thank you for enlightening me and educating me and even challenging me when we don’t necessarily agree. Those of you whom I generally don’t agree with, I thank you for being yourselves and for the opinions that you express even if in the moment I am a little hard on you. To ALL of my friends I thank you for being Iron to my Iron and sharpening me (Proverbs 27:17).
The next thing to say is that one major element at play in all conversations especially those involving political, cultural and religious beliefs is that of “Confirmation Bias”: “a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses” [source wikipedia.org]. This is the major reason behind my writing of this post. I am 100% guilty of confirmation bias and so have chosen to read what some of my more conservative friends have linked to in a desire to understand, or at least hear, some thoughts from the other side of the issue. In reading some articles from the “white man’s” side of the issue, I have come across 3 common assertions I want to respond to. I am responding to these assertions not because I am an expert: I am not. Not even because I think that what I have to say is original: it’s not. I am responding because I feel that I need to add my voice to the conversation in the hopes that we may come closer to that one last voice,
“That one small, extra Yopp [that] put it over! / Finally, at last! From that speck on that clover / Their voices were heard!” (“Horton Hears A Who”, Dr. Seuss).
1. The #IdleNoMore movement doesn’t clearly state what they are about. I can’t figure them out. They are aimless.
This has to be one of my biggest personal pet peeves about what is being spread around online. This particular movement, from the beginning, has been very clear in stating what they are about: opposing omnibus bill c-45, and educating the public about the abuses being carried out upon the earth and also to aboriginal people, specifically in Canada, but also worldwide. This was clear from the beginning. The very first thing I ever heard about #IdleNoMore was about the opposition to bill c-45.
If someone can’t figure them out, then they have done less than 60 seconds of research on the internet. Not only is there a wikipedia page about the movement already, but in just a few clicks on their website, you can read their first press release. This takes literally, less than 60 seconds. So, to all those people who say they can’t figure them out (including some more connected First Nations people who have gone public with statements like that) I say to you: Keep your opinion to yourself until you have done at least 60 seconds of due diligence.
And then to top it all off by saying that the movement and the people in it are aimless is to ignore all the action that is happening around the world. This movement is creating focus. It’s aiming people in the directions of justice and freedom from oppression.
2. It all happened in the past. The treaties aren’t relevant. The “Indians” just need to assimilate into Canadian culture like everyone else.
I thought this way too. I did. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true. I thought to myself, “the treaties were made so long ago, how can they still be relevant?” Not only that, I read treaty #9 after listening to Ezra Levant and wondered to myself why anyone would want that treaty honored? I was bewildered how anyone could sign such a document and that if they got the chance wouldn’t they just want a do-over? So, I started to read. What I read was enlightening.
The most essential thing to know about the treaties is that they are what makes it so that we, colonial settlers and immigrants, can even live here. Without the treaties we have no right to live here. I didn’t realize the weight of these agreements until I did some reading. And I don’t expect everyone I know to do ALL the reading that I have (60+ articles/posts/essays and 2 books, with 3 more on hold), but of those articles/posts/essays there are several that stress the importance of the treaties to ALL people living in Canada. And since I am one person, I know that there are others out there, influential people, who know this and are sitting on this information…or they’re just ignorant.
To top all this off by saying that “the Indians just need to assimilate LIKE EVERYONE ELSE” is to ignore the historical relationship that the First Nations people have to this land, and it’s to tell them that they don’t matter and that their history doesn’t matter. They were here first. The colonial settlers damaged their land, chased away their livelihood, didn’t respect the agreements the settler government had made, the settler government didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Everyone else, settlers included, are immigrants! We are the ones who should have assimilated. We are the ones who should have honored the agreements. We are the ones who chose to snub our noses at people who before the war of 1812 were considered a military asset and after that war were looked upon as “barbarians” and “savages” unworthy of respect.
We usually demand immigrants assimilate to our “culture”: those who have come to Canada after the British North American act of 1867 in which Canada was formed. And even then, we extend to them the care and compassion that we refuse to give to the nation who was here before us and whose culture and people and land we have raped extensively.
3. The actions by the protesters are aggravating people who would normally be on their side. Blocking major traffic thoroughfares does nothing to bring support and awareness to your cause; it creates immediate animosity towards you. Protesting freely in parks or in front of government buildings seems like a much more productive way to attract the attention of those you seek: the politicians, not the regular Joe who’s just trying to get to work. Hold him up and cost him money? See how much support you’ll get out of that guy.
What surprises me most about this statement, or this kind of statement, is that the first time I actually read this, it was from a First Nations media personality [Anthony Sowan]. The reason I was surprised is that it smacks of an attitude of privilege and oppression. This attitude does not, in fact chooses actively not to recognize that attempts throughout history have been made, many of them peaceful and well organized, to create change. I was then reminded by friends of mine of what happened in the US during the civil rights movement, specifically the example of Rosa Parks and the Greensboro four. These people stopped traffic and made regular Joe’s and Jane’s uncomfortable in the most extreme ways for their time. And I can imagine many people saying things like, “Why are you holding up traffic lady? This isn’t helping your situation. You should just calm down, head to the back of the bus where you belong and then write a letter to your congressman, after all, that’s what they are there for. Good girl.” Patronizing, belittling and completely tries to sweep the issue under the table.
These are the kind of actions that we need TODAY! Not letter writing and peaceful assembly in an out of the way place. The time for that has passed. The average Canadian is completely unaware of their history and the history of this country that we call Canada. Hopefully, by aggravating people, and engaging in active conversation: conversation that challenges people to understand the wider issues involved, hopefully by doing these things the messages will get out there. Our Indigenous brothers and sisters need our help. So what if in this moment we are being inconvenienced; they have been inconvenienced for the past several hundred years. And if it makes you uncomfortable to see these things and to be confronted by our First Nations brothers and sisters, then maybe you should take a moment, look into your heart and think about WHY you feel uncomfortable. Then find someone who understands the issues more, find a book (there are PLENTY out there), find a friend who is as interested in the issues at hand as you are and begin a conversation. Listen to both sides of the issue. I have. I am continuing to do so. It’s not easy. Every day I am infuriated by First Nations people AND by colonial settlers or “Canadians”. No one is 100% right. However, I am part of the problem and I want to be part of the solution.
I have stayed quiet, not idle: quiet, too long.