Monday, October 31, 2005
A good friend of mine has been known to say, "I can be bought, it's just that no one has met my price yet." I'm still not sure if he means no one will ever meet his price or he's just being honest. Either way, he makes me laugh. What doesn't make me laugh is the thought of government-funded youth organizing.
The reason I bring it up is because of the debate that ensued after a chief at the recent BC-AFN assembly in Kamloops spontaneously moved a motion to take $1 million from the $100 million and give it to the youth. There was a lot of excitement and debate - very emotional and suspiciously indicative of some guilt and then someone suggested $2 million! In the end, saner heads, or mean-youth-hatin' heads, (depending on your perspective) prevailed and they decided to first develop an overall plan and terms of reference before carving up the loot.
I'm not so concerned about the debate. You already know that I am very skeptical of this trojan horse. What I did find interesting and disconcerting was the online debate by the young people after the fact. Almost all of the young people (I'm 32 by the way) were coming from a place of exclusion and criticism of their greedy older political elders. While I can appreciate this perspective, what struck me most about the dialogue was a strong sense of "when do we get ours?" Sound familiar?
I guess it should not come as a surprise. The parents have cut their teeth in an environment of government-funded (faux) aboriginal dissent. Why should the kids be any different? But kids are supposed to be different. They are supposed to rebel. No? I'm all for finding resources for all of our people, old and young alike and I agree that most young people are left out but damn, what I foresee now is a line-up at the trough.
In my research and experience, I have found that government-funded dissent has never been meaningful or effective for Indigenous people. It has only acted as a means of co-optation and pressure-release. It seems like a no-brainer, but maybe only to a somewhat alienated "radical" like me. Perhaps I had a naive and romantic view of "youth."
I know that compromise is preached by many an astute and reasonable person, but I believe that all of us, young and old need to "check" ourselves. What are we prepared to compromise? How long-term is our vision? Are we really thinking, planning and acting with generations in mind? I know it sounds crazy in today's capitalist dogma, consumer culture, but if we are to remain true to our Indigenous principles and values, we must really change the way we organize and live. The road to Indigenous emancipation is not paved with INAC loonies.
If even ONE person agrees with me, gimme some love...lol. Tell me I am not insane. Post a comment.
Only when the last tree has died
and the last river been poisoned
and the last fish been caught
will we realise we cannot eat money
Thursday, October 27, 2005
I rode my motorcycle to work the past two days (from Port Alberni to Chemainus - about 120km). Wouldn't you know the temperature would begin to drop. Even though I wore my winter riding gear yesterday, I did not really warm up till about noon. I checked an online wind-chill calculator for motorcyclists and according to my speed (about 100km) and the air temperature (about 3 degrees celsius) my wind-chilled temperature was about -13!
So today I wore jeans, waterproof heavy-duty riding boots, my Ballistic pants, long-sleeved shirt, fleece hoodie, Ballistic jacket, my winter riding gloves and nomex balaclava. My arms stuck out a bit and people could hear me coming down the hallway at the office - zip, zip, zip.
Even though I only worked two days this week, thank god today is my Friday! The office I work at is normally open Monday - Thursday. It's been a long couple of weeks, travelling and working lots of overtime (which is why I took Monday and Tuesday off). Most of the time I really like my job, but some parts are downright mind-numbing and spirit-sucking - ah the life of a brown bureaucrat. (P.S. I feel for ya sista!)
So if you are huddled away in some cubicle and could use a laugh or two click here. Just replace my nickname with yours and keep clicking the Sloganize button and let the giggling begin!
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
I received two e-mails from listeners outside the Nanaimo area that were unable to connect to the webcast (www.chly.ca) of Goin' Coastal Tuesday night. It's happened in the past and I always thought the server was down or some other technical difficulty befell our lil webcast, but DJ SuperChow informs me that this is not the case. Apparently, we only have enough bandwidth for about 25 online listeners. So while this sucks for those of you unable to tune in, I thought at least I know we have 25+ online listeners...lol. Unless we are successful in lobbying for more space, the only remedy I can suggest for our loyal listeners from around the world is to tune in early and secure your spot. Heck you may even have to listen to a lil Tuna Fish Tuesday (the preceding show).
In any case, I will keep you updated on any changes. Oh, and if we do have any online listeners from around the Nanaimo area, we ask that you please tune in on your radio (101.7 FM) if you can to make space for your fellow revolutionary listeners.
I wonder what Gil Scott Heron would think about the revolution being webcast? (Reminds me: The impact of the internet specifically on social organizing and education would make an interesting topic of discussion/writing). Anyway, the reason for this little post of course is Goin' Coastal: Your Indigenous Revolutionary Radio - tonight from 6-9pm on 101.7fm, Radio Malaspina or you can listen online at www.chly.ca if you are outside the Nanaimo area.
We've got lots of news, most of it grim but important and of course some cool tunes. Maybe Jimmy Nations will call in and talk about his burgeoning TV career. KrazyFish just reminded me that Cihuatl Tonali would be calling in about 7pm.
You can e-mail song requests to email@example.com or call in and chit chat with the DJ's at 250-740-1017.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
"O wise man, wash your hands of that friend who associates with your enemies." - Saadi (1184-1291)
Awhile back I sent a blog update notification through e-mail and I addressed it something like, "Friends, Family and Enemies." Several people were amused enough to reply and comment and one "friend" even offered to be a new enemy. I said she could be a rival instead. We would try and beat each other (not sure at what yet) but when push comes to shove we would help each other out. Enemies are meant to be vanquished and I will let you take as liberal or creative an interpretation of that as you want.
I got to thinking about enemies again recently and have wondered how real they are and how one must deal with them. Upon hearing the news that one of my cousins was trying to get into the RCMP I responded rather immediately and undiplomatically (Lana says I can be "quick and merciless") in the negative. I stated that Indigenous people here in Canada joining the national police force made about as much sense as a Palestinian joining the IDF. I told my uncle that I hope we (I and my cousin) don't end up on opposite sides of a barricade someday.
Another family member, could not fathom the slightest idea why I would think becoming a police officer was a bad thing. This difference in reaction goes to the heart of what is conceived of as Indigenous on the one hand and a Canadian Aboriginal on the other. Some people think it's great, honourable and certainly better than many of the other social pitfalls that our people often fall into. I think it's unconscionable. I think of Dudley George, J.J. Harper, Neil Stonechild, Starlight Tours among the other nameless and faceless Indigenous people to fall victim to the RCMP.
And I've been writing only about the beat cops. What about the super-sleuthy-spooks? Most people I find, don't even know that Canada has its very own spook organization. When I mention CSIS and the fact that I have been contacted by "researchers" twice they either ask what CSIS is or think its cool. The first time was shortly after I moved to Vancouver Island and the apparent reason for the visit was a (pretty tame) article I wrote for Redwire Magazine.
I admit I was pretty spooked (maybe that's how they earned their nickname) at the time. I mean how often does one get contacted by an organization with the responsibility to "investigate threats, analyze information and produce intelligence; it then reports to, and advises, the Government of Canada, so as to protect the country and its citizens. Key threats include terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, espionage, foreign interference and cyber-tampering affecting critical infrastructure"?
That was 4 years ago. The next time, a man calling himself Donald Curran showed up at the door of a condo I had owned, was renovating at the time and sold earlier this year. Like the first guy (for all I know it could have been the first guy again) he didn't seem to want all that much. He had called me in December 2004 and I brushed him off as I was in the process of getting toasted from my job at the NTC and too stressed out to worry about anything else. So 4 months later he just knocks on my door as I'm laying laminate flooring in Surrey.
Aside from the fact that only 3 people knew where I was at the time, and his access to surveillance (either my mobile phone or e-mail) was the only explanation for him knowing, I was not spooked, but oddly amused. Their reason for contacting me this time I assumed, was my recent departure from the West Coast Warrior Society (another tidbit of intel that was not widely known). I was amused because it became clear that a lot of what these guys do is observe body language. Not a lot of conversation or even discussion about anything terribly important needs to take place for them to begin gathering information about you. So I stood there with a slight grin because it seemed funny that I was watching him watch me watch him.
I have recently become a little more skilled at the art of observing body language. I just finished reading Peter Collett's Book of Tells. Not wanting to be a spy, but actually motivated by wanting to become a better poker player, I picked up the book from Curious Coho Books (buy local). It's an easy read and the author does a good job of breaking down all the different tells that people reveal, mostly unconsciously. What struck me most was the amount of information that is exchanged in a two-minute encounter that neither participant are too consciously aware of, that never the less significantly impacts the outcome.
So the morals of this story...don't be a cop (or a spy!); be nice to Indians; if you want to be a better poker player at your weekly game I recommend Collett's book; yes, I know this is just more fodder for the spooks and; if you are reading this CSIS is probably checking YOU out now! ;-)
Free Your Mind
Friday, October 21, 2005
Well, I'm home after 6 days on the road (over 800km) and believe me, MY bed and MY pillow feel nice. The first thing I did was drop my mom off and visit with my sister and brother (in-law). Baby Kashus was sleeping and apparently he had a bit of a restless day, so I did not want to disturb him. I'm gonna head over there again today and hopefully catch him awake. I'll have to remember to shave extra close because he, probably not unlike a lot of babies, doesn't like stubble.
I have just returned from 3 days in T'kumlups at the BC AFN Special Assembly and 2 days in North Vancouver at the Summit Chief Negotiators meeting. The main focus of discussion at both meetings was the The New Relationship and the $100,000,000.00 (looks more dramatic with all the zeros) that the BC government recently pledged toward its implementation.
While I'm still working out a more thorough analysis of all this recent hoopla, it is curious that the Premier has taken this on in a way that can only be described as a personal crusade. Another interesting point is that while the leadership council had been pushing this initiative from the start, all of them were them genuinely surprised by the $100,000,000.00 (they had originally suggested a budget of $60,000,000.00). Additionally, I will always advocate for promoting an Indigenous way of life and at the least "inherent rights" over "aboriginal rights" any day. Finally, I have not given up hope on achieving justice for our people and in order for that to occur I believe we need restitution before we even consider reconciliation.
Yesterday, I stepped out of the meeting briefly with an apparent groggy-soul-sapped-look on my face. I ended up chatting with one of the guys helping with the catering. As I wiped my eyes and yawned he said, "We have a saying in the south. My grandma used to say, 'If you talk more than 15 minutes, you're lying,'" and further advice on meetings, "Agenda? We don't need no stinking agenda. We just need to do what needs to get done." I think those were the briefest and best words I heard all day.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
I know many of you will think that common notions of "race" are antequated or perhaps more precisely, false. That being said, most of you will know what I am talking about. I have nothing against white people specifically because they are white (I have many white friends myself - lol - sorry, could not resist) and I don't automatically agree with all "Indigenous, Aboriginal, First Nations, Native or Indian" people. My primary concern at this time is the values and principles of Imperialism. Without getting too technical (I'll leave that for Kumtux), the primary values I am opposed to are greed, individualism, and mono-theism among others.
All across the world, and defintely here at home, we can see examples of Imperialism trascending race. We see Indigenous people becoming Aboriginal people. We see the abandonment of community, connection, respect and acceptance in favour of Imperialistic ways, in the name of reality and practicality. Most Indian Act Chiefs lament being historically "left out" and are striving for "their place at the table and a bigger piece of the pie." It is my belief that this is where the struggle for aboriginal rights and equality has led us. This struggle, epitomized by legislative and legal reform may have been well-intentioned and even necessary (creating space for people like me to be able express my rebelious opinions), has now outlived its usefulness.
My final thought for today (well this entry anyway) is that I agree that the first step toward justice will require that Indigenous people shed their Aboriginalist (colonial) ways and then our non-Indigenous neighbours must also shed their colonial ways. At first I thought, "wow, as if it was not hard enough already" but one can see the logic if our goal is a truly peaceful and just society. While not advocating for communism as a model for Indigenous liberation, one can see how difficult it has been for Cuba to live as an isolated nation under constant attack from the United States. It might sound cheesy, but really we do have to find a way to "all get along." A Utopian goal perhaps, and one only conceived of in the long, long term. As for now me must have contention.
Hasta la victoria siempre!
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Consistent with my recent predicament of "thinking too much" just like when I was a hapless teen, I have been thinking about this idea of colonial influence and the process of de-colonization. Perhaps my self-doubt is just bubbling to the surface lately, and you are coming along for the ride, but I have been thinking a lot about how I "see" the world and what exactly is the nature of authentically Indigenous. Now I know there are moments when everything feels right or strong and mostly these are moments immersed in culture and language, but the thinking Indian's world can be a lot more murky.
One of the things that I've recently allowed (owning my feelings...lol) to mess me up is the book, Rebel Sell by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter (maamulth'nii professors from back east). I have not finished it, but basically, it is a critique of Counterculture as a movement. I have never subscribed to counterculture as a movement (not sure if anyone has to the extent the authors assert), but I have certainly worn my share of Che Guevara t-shirts. Their primary argument is that counterculture (such as Adbusters etc.) actually encourages consumerism and is counter-productive, and they seem to make a compelling case but I think they utilize a few too many straw-man arguments, assuming that all leftist people do is look cool....hmm.
This was messing me up a bit because so many of our Indigenous radicals embrace counterculture-esque approaches, but what I am now thinking, "is that all some people are?" The question that inevitably arrises amongst people who genuinely care is, "what do we do now?" Then a friend said, "They are white people, writing for white people." I admit, I was suprised how quickly that made me feel better. And then I began to wonder to what degree am I seeing the world with Indigenous eyes and to what degree am I hampered by colonial sunglasses, even unwittingly and the wheels started turning again...lol.
Perhaps even rebels need vacations...what a can 'o worms that opens up!
Saturday, October 08, 2005
I've just returned from a turkey dinner at my sister's place. My mom came over for the weekend and we had dinner today because tomorrow my family has its weekly language dinner/lesson and Monday my mom has to head back to Vancouver. I guess it was a "thanksgiving" dinner in so far as we ate turkey and mashed potatos and my mom's famous stuffing and gravy (although I was able to intervene at the grocery store to skip the brussell sprouts :p). I see a lot of MSN nicknames include "thanks for nothing" and thanks-taking etc." While I agree that Indigenous people have no place celebrating colonial holidays, its hard to argue when the whole family wants to get together, enjoy each other's company and consume some seratonin-inducing bird.
I do not recall (this seems to happen often) the exact quote from Gandhi but it goes something like this: "we must learn to distinguish between the fundamental challenges of colonialism and the minor irritances." Of course we could debate endlessly on that which we feel is important, and worthy of our finite efforts and that which is merely an irritance and not worthy of our precious time but I think the little guy has a point.
I believe that one positive thing we can do is take these opportunities to gather with our families and not only enjoy our time together but share stories and teachings and make it ours. I think in many ways, we already have. For those of you that still will have nothing to do with this weekend's activities check out this song, Pilgrimz by Shysti from his CD Border Music. Another example of reclaiming a holiday is coming up next week: October 12th is no longer Columbus Day in Venezuela but now the Day of Indigenous Resistance.
Whew! I'm still stuffed, and feeling a little sleepy :I
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
When does mitigating damage or "making the best of a bad situation" do more harm than good?
Has every government-funded program (for Indigenous people) failed or at the best, been only marginally successful?
Awareness and acknowledgment of reality does not necessarily imply acceptance of it.
Many of history's inspirational leaders have this in common: They were all unrealistic, by other people's standards, fiercely uncompromising and many of them were assasinated - King, Malcolm X, Gandhi, Che. Exceptions? Mandela.
Is "semi-sovereign" the same as "half-full?"
I appear to have chosen a pretty lonely road so far. As my mom once said, "Not many people agree with you."
Monday, October 03, 2005
Today I started out feeling thoughtful. By the time the afternoon rolled around I was feeling pretty blue. Maybe I was listening to too many Ben Harper tunes. I like Ben. He really hits the nail on the emotional head, even if it's not your emotion at the time, but too much can wear a guy down.
One of the other things I did today (besides working), was watch a video clip from the 1975 Berger Inquiry. It's a clip of a Dene Chief, Frank T'Seleie of Fort Good Hope opposing the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. He gives a barn burner speech that still inspires and ultimately leads to the successful defeat of the pipeline proposal at that time. He proclaims to one of the pipeline executives, "You are coming to destroy a people with a history of 30,000 years! Why? For 20 years of gas. Are you really that insane?"
I then watched this clip, a revisit of the issue 25 years later :I As you might already know, most of the Indigenous leaders (and perhaps people) including Frank T'Seleie are now proponents of the current pipeline proposal. Even the Deh Cho who have been resisting the pipeline so far, openly acknowledge their position as leverage for bargaining a better deal. Well, if you know anything about me, you will know I find this all quite depressing. I need to go find my copy of Our Word Is Our Weapon to be inspired again.
As a good friend of mine says, "What's it all for?"
I have heard that there are some Dene youth who are still against the deal. I will try and seek some of them out and get back to you. In these bleak times, when so many of our people have abandoned (albeit with enormous pressure) their Indigenous ways of life, have become so assimilated-consumer-mad, we need inspiration and truly meaningful action now more than ever.
I do get down from time to time, but at the end of the day, I am an optimist. What's an idealist, romantic, impractical, wannabe-revolutionary to do?
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Some people are amazed at the amount I read, yet most of the time I feel so under-read, especially on the classics. I guess I hang out with a few people who read more than me which is never a bad thing. Anyway, here is what I am reading right now:
Wisdom Sits in Places by Keith H. Basso. This is the turtle in my literary race with many books starting after and finishing before, but I am still enjoying it. Like the nature of language, the author is very precise in his wording which challenges the reader to really pay attention to absorb it all - at least that is what I am finding. Basso provides many insights into the power of language and place and culture.
Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn. My mom asked me to read this one. I'm not quite half way through, and although I'm not really a fan of most self-help books, and the author is a little annoying, she presents an interesting theory. Basically she proposes that we (human beings) are like walking magnets and that the true key is not "positive thinking" but "positive feeling." I'll tell you more when I'm done.
Our Word is Our Weapon by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. I only wish I started reading this earlier - I bought it a couple years ago. I am finding this book very inspirational, particularly as it relates to the power of dignity, resistance as a positive action and the importance of not selling-out. I have posted two excerpts on my other blog: Kumtux.
Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World by Eduardo Galeano. In case I have not made it evident before, I am a big fan of Galeano. I have previously read Open Veins of Latin America, The Book of Embraces, We Say No and the Memory of Fire trilogy. Galeano manages to deliver books that are well-researched and documented yet accessible and artistic; not an easy accomplishment.
The School of the Americas by Lesley Gill. This one was a gift from my travelling companera, Lana who found it in San Francisco this summer. I am still reading the prologue so I have no idea how it will turn out, but it looks good so far. For those of you unfamiliar, the School of the Americas is located at Fort Benning, Georgia and is where the US government trains Latin-American military officers in counter-insurgency/revolutionary tactics. :p