Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Duncan Campbell Scott: a Visionary Canadian Bureaucrat

In a report at the conclusion of Treaty 9 negotiations, Department of Indian Affairs chief bureaucrat, Duncan Campbell Scott commented, “Do not think…that civilizing the Indian is the work of one generation, or even two. It might take as long as four centuries before Indians merged with Whites and ceased to exist as a distinct people” (p. 199). In Chapter 9 of The Imaginary Indian, author Daniel Francis succinctly summarizes Crown policy directed at the Indian problem from the early days of British military necessity to the egalitarian-minded albeit misguided White Paper of Pierre Trudeau. Francis hints that the Indian problem went beyond the obvious clash over land and resources, “Assimilation was a policy intended to preserve Indians as individuals by destroying them as a people” (p. 201) and “Indians had to be destroyed so they could be saved” (p. 216). The very existence of indigenous people became a constant reminder of the corrupt and immoral foundations of this country. In order for non-indigenous settlers to legitimate their usurpation and occupation of indigenous lands, it required seemingly schizophrenic policies of segregation and assimilation.

The legacy of Indian policy in Canada, from the banning of significant spiritual practices to the forced removal of children from their families and the litany of abuses suffered in residential schools, is a testament to euro-centric arrogance and greed resulting in the dehumanization of indigenous people. The paternalistic approach taken by senior bureaucrats and clergy in the early days of confederation is still very much alive today in mere existence of the Indian Act and the legal doctrine of fiduciary duty. Francis believes that events since 1969 have worked to change the assimilative agenda of the federal government. I disagree.

The most significant act of indigenous resistance of the twentieth century, the so-called Oka Crisis of 1990 created an unprecedented era of co-optation and cooperation. In BC we have the BC Treaty Process and ironically, the new champion of Indian assimilation is the Indian. On page 206 there is a striking photograph of the File Hills Colony marching band. Like many photos of the era, the faces are dark and sullen and the Indians look out of place in their colonial clothing. I was reminded of an experience I had in the summer of 2003. I was a spectator at the Riverboat Days parade in Terrace. At one point the Nisga’a brass bands marched by, proudly displaying the flags of Canada, British Columbia, and the Nisga’a Lisms government (in that order). My companion, a professor from UNBC took one look at the expression on my face and said, “I guess they still have problems with colonization.”

Monday, October 16, 2006

dj dubya...

Today I stopped by the campus radio station, CFUV and have begun the process of finding out how to volunteer and apply for a program. Seeing as they have NO INDIGENOUS (not even ABORIGNAL) programming what so ever it looks good. So here is my appeal to you: Do you have any suggestions for a program name? Dubya's Hour of Power? DJ Dubya's Wild West Show? Radio Rebelde? Ya Basta? Done Gone Coastal? Son of Goin' Coastal?

I need help...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ta-toos, a new pad, school and our future as Quu'as

I just can't keep my nephew off this page...he's so adorable and I love the kid so much. So this past happy-colonial-turkey day we had a quiet dinner with my sis, her husband, my mom, my mom's sis, my pops and Kashus and their Scottish neighbour. I commented to a friend, that I consider it a victory that my sis and I have managed to banish brussell sprouts forever it seems, and at the very least we engage in some decolonization discussion as we munch on our free-range bird.

Kashus' Nuu-chah-nulth name is "Ta-toos" by the way, which means star. A common refrain I know, but it is hard to believe how quickly it seems he is growing. He seems less a baby and more a little boy now. Although I talk to him now, and sometimes in our language (although my father is much better at it of course) I look forward to the day when I can understand what he is saying back to me. Ta-toos reminds me that our struggle to live and thrive and rebuild our societies is a long, generational process.

As I mentioned briefly in my previous post, I have indeed found a new pad, a place to lay my hat and call my own for at least the next 6 1/2 months. It's a small 1-bedroom above and behind a flower shop on Quadra. It seems like a pretty old place as I discovered the walls were still made from lathe and plaster as I put boxes and stuff in the storage spaces. I've almost completed my unpacking and will be ready to host a book club, revolutionary meeting or poker game soon.

Earlier in the week the Nuu-chah-nulth post-secondary students were invited to an NTC-hosted dinner at Macaroni Grill (Damn the Atkins Revolution anyway!) It was good to see some familiar faces and new faces. When I discovered there weren't going to be any speeches I tried to encourage Kelly to say something and then Dawn, but alas they tried to get me to say something. I teased, by volunteering my education = assimilation speech but decided against it.

I jest but I am also serious in feeling that Indigenous students should think critically and honestly about their chosen areas of education and hopeful vocations. What are our responsibilities? Are we different than your average Canadian student? Do we owe our families, our communities? Is not only the preservation but perpetuation of a uniquely Indigenous way of life important? And if so, how do we craft such a life in the face of such strong societal and family pressures todo otherwise?

I have thought a great deal about these questions and am comfortable with my current place and role. I do generally agree that one cannot use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house (and at the same time live a life that is authentically Indigenous and yes I am aware of how essentialist this sounds). I think the decades-long trend of "running in the white man's shoes", while well-intentioned in its conception has led toward many undesirable roads and destinations. I do believe that we need to re-think our roles and directions in life and yes I willingly admit that compromise is an inevitable part of life for most people, but I still believe our ways our beautiful and we must protect and promote those core values and principles that can serve us in this modern world without losing our souls.

Friday, October 06, 2006

...brief update...

I will post in more detail soon. First, I am no longer homeless. I found a 1-bedroom apartment located above a flower shop on Quadra between Tattersall and McKenzie last Thursday and I moved in on Sunday. I don't yet have a phone or internet access but will get working on those soon. I'll post pictures of my pad as well.

Normally, I would write a diatribe on Thanksgiving and all that but I have a couple books to read this weekend and a midterm exam next week, so my polemical ways will subside for the time being.

I'm still looking for good homes for my two dogs.

I've made some new friends at school. It makes me feel 8 again. That's not necessarily a bad thing :D

The clouds and rain have seemed to find their way back to these parts. I need to pull out my waterproof riding gear soon.

Have a good weekend with friends and family, my companeros y companeras.