Past and Present Indigenous Lifestyles

Summary of The Legacy

Marie-Soleil Larocque

The Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada , called Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, is one of the most well know reports made about the past and present conditions of First Nations peoples in Canada. One of the chapters of this document, The Legacy. goes over the living conditions of First Nation peoples that are, according to the Commission, the direct result of the effects of Residential Schools and other discriminatory actions inflicted upon their peoples by non-Aboriginal citizens and the Canadian government.

Among the main points of “The Legacy” is a concern for child-welfare for Aboriginal families. According to the Commission, a “2011 Statistics Canada study found that 14,225 or 3,6% of all First Nations children aged fourteen and under were in foster care, compared with 15,345 or 0,3% of non-Aboriginal children.”(138) In other words, the rate of Aboriginal children being taken away from their families is quite higher in comparison to that of non-Aboriginal children. The reasons for this situation are many. To begin with there is the fact that a lot of the child-welfare agencies are not supervised by First Nations people, but by regular child welfare agencies which cannot understand the needs of those children and can have racist attitudes toward them. Also, when Native children are taken from their families, they are not placed into proper foster families. Their foster families are often not equipped to deal with Aboriginal children and their cultures, leading, more often than not, to these children ending up within racist or abusive families. Moreover, “in some part of the country, Aboriginal children who came into contact with child-welfare authorities are significantly more likely to die.” (141) The most commonly given reason by child-welfare authorities for taken the children away is a lack of proper home life mostly resulting from poverty. However, what is not often explained is that these conditions are a direct result, or legacy, of the residential school period. Indeed, Native children sent to residential school in Canada “were denied an environment of positive parenting, worthy community leaders, and a positive sense of self-worth. … [Children were removed] from their communities and [subjected] to strict discipline, religious indoctrination, and a regimented life more akin to life in prison than a family … [they] were more a child-welfare system than an educational one.” (135, 137-138.) The effects of the harsh treatment of residential schools resulted in an inability of Native people to reach a proper educational, emotional, mental and physical state for themselves. They lost their sense of identity and transmitted those negative perceptions to their children. Abused children often grow up to become abusers themselves since it was the only method they knew and lack of positive contacts during their childhood was reflected in their attitude toward their own children. However, those problems could be resolved, according to the Commission, through “more funding and research into preventive services that can support Aboriginal families.”(143) The Commission also feels that Aboriginal child-welfare should be operated by Aboriginals and “in accordance with [their own] traditional laws and traditional justice systems.”(143)

This lead to another point of The Legacy, that is the concern of education among First Nations people. Indeed, the poverty experienced by Natives is a direct result of their lack of effective and appropriate education. According to a census made in 2011, “29% of Aboriginal adults [did] not [graduate] from high school [in comparison to] 12% in the non-Aboriginal population.”(146) This gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal come firstly from the after effect of residential schools. Indeed, those schools were created as a way to destroy Native culture and to assimilate indigenous children into Western culture. However, residential school children, more often than not, never learned beyond elementary school subjects and were subjected to denigrating behaviour and mental, physical and even sexual abuse during those years. Those conditions became a big reason behind the lack of higher education in the Native population. Consequently, this lack of education makes it really hard for indigenous people to find employment and they often end up having to rely on government funds. Furthermore, the government gave little funding toward the foundation of good and up-to-date Natives schools. For example;

since 1996, funding growth for First Nations education as been capped at 2%,        an amount that as been insufficient to keep pace with either inflation or the            rapid increases in the Aboriginal student population. Meanwhile, between 1996 and 2006, founding to provincial and territorial school systems increased annually by 3,8%, almost double the increase for reserve schools (148).

In the end, the Commission calls for a reform of their school system. They demand more funding and better access to quality education.

Another point brought up by the Commission in The Legacy, is the increased loss of indigenous languages and cultures as a result of the residential schools. A great majority of the Natives children who went through the residential school system lost their because speaking their mother tongue was harshly punished. As a way to lessen the burden on their children, older generations often did not teach the children their ancestral language. Nowadays many Aboriginal languages are known only by the elderly and are close to extinction. The same for their culture. Many rituals and traditional ways have been lost to western culture through the effect of residential schools. Some of these children even further lost their identity when their name was taken from them and exchanged with either a number or a new Western name. The Commission calls for better funding toward programs to reclaim indigenous languages and cultures. It also requests that the Canadian government acknowledge the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.”(153)

The Legacy is a very well-described source of information about the present conditions of First Nations peoples in Canada. It explains how things happened to this point, how they are in the present and hopes for the future generation. The facts are even more shocking when the Commission makes comparisons between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal situations. The name of the Chapter was also well chosen for it represents both the legacy indigenous people received from the older generations but also the legacy they are giving to the present generation and the one they wish upon the next one.    

Work Cited

Truth and Reconciliation . ““The Legacy”” Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the          Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Canada: TRC. 31 May 2015. PDF Files.

 

 

Four directions teachings- Ojibway

Hanne Brockow

The four directions teachings website was created to protect and promote indigenous knowledge and their cultural philosophy. To honor the indigenous oral traditions, every teaching segment is presented in the form of an audio narration that consists of an elder sharing their stories and knowledge. There are teachings of five different nations: The Blackfoot, the Cree, the Mohawk, the Mi’kmaq and the Ojibway.
The teachings of the Ojibway are from the elder Lillian Pitawanakwat. She explains five out of the seven sacred directions of the Ojibway in more detail and tells stories to help the listener understand the teachings, as telling stories is a common form of indigenous teaching and learning.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 12.37.02 PM.pngShe begins by explaining the teachings of the Center: The center is about oneself, about the fire that is within us and that has to be maintained. It is about being good to ourselves and to others. The center is represented by the rose because life is like a rose, with its thorns representing our life’s journey. We need the thorns, being the difficult parts of life, so that we can learn from them and grow, just like the rose.

She then goes on to explain the four directions of the medicine wheel, beginning with the East: The east represents spring and the beginning of life in the physical world. To be born, a spirit has to ask the Creator if it is allowed to go on the physical journey. If the request is accepted, the spirit will enter the physical world at its birth as a child. However, not only humans have got a spirit, but every part of nature. All life has got a spirit, which also includes water, fire, wind and the earth. To thank the creator for life, the Ojibway people offer tobacco as a form of thanksgiving, to show that they are grateful for all life.

The next direction is the South: The south represents summer, a time in which everything is thriving. It also represents youth, the stage of life between adulthood and being a child. It is about finding ourselves and looking after our spirit. During this time we learn to listen to our intuitions and our spirit who helps and guides us. But that is not enough, during youth we need other people to help us, like-minded people as well as elders and our ancestors. The cedar is associated with this direction as well. This plant is there to help us and offers us its cleansing medicine for body and soul.

After that, Lillian Pitawanakwat talks about the West: The west represents autumn, the time of harvest. It also stands for the stage of adulthood. In this direction we learn to accept constant change and death. It is like the sun that sets in the west, which can be seen as the death of a day. The west also represents the heart, which is our evaluator and which helps us to understand the cycle of life and to be in peace with our life and death. And because strawberries look like a heart, this is the plant that is associated with the west. There is a story, about two brothers that always play fight until one day the younger brother dies by accident because he falls on a rock and hits his head. The older brother can never forgive himself and everyone else, until one day many years later there is a strawberry plant growing on his brother’s grave. The moment the older brother eats one of the strawberries he is finally free and he can stop blaming himself and the creator for taking away his brother’s life. So with this story and in this direction we learn, that finding peace comes from the heart and not the head, and that death is a form of freedom, a freedom to go on.

The last direction is the North: The north represents the winter and the rest period. It’s about caring for our physical body, to rest it when it is tired and to eat and be aware of what we eat. It is also the time of reflection and remembrance, so it is during this time that the elders are honored. The north is the place of wisdom and of storytelling. It is where we learn from our ancestors, which is why it is important to stay connected with them, because it is the ancestors that share the teachings and who we learn from.

From the whole medicine wheel in total, we can learn that every part of life is beautiful, even though it involves sadness as much as joy and death as much as life. It is all about the balance of the wheel and the balance of life.

So all in all, it can be said that this website can be very useful to understand the old indigenous way of thinking about life and living. Even though it is sometimes difficult to grasp the way of thinking because it is all so different from the western point of view. But thanks to the videos and the easy handling of the website it is accessible and understandable for everyone, young and old. This is especially important in our times in which more and more indigenous knowledge is being forgotten and more and more Native Americans only know about Western life and culture.

Work cited

Pitawanakwat, Lilian. Four Directions Teachings. Canadian Culture Online Program of the
Department of Canadian Heritage, 2012. Web. 2 Apr. 2016.
http://fourdirectionsteachings.com/main.html

 

 

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Native Name Usage

Aboriginal References in Team Names in Professional Sports

Gabriel Guimond

None can avoid it. The history of the First Nations still plays a considerable role nowadays. I should also add that Natives have inspired more than one. Thomas King, who has spent almost his entire life working on the First Nations cultures argues that one “can only watch and marvel at the way in which the Dead Indian has been turned into products” (King, p.56). The proof is there, for example in companies labeling their products and sports teams with North American indigenous names. Here are a few examples of different merchandises linked with Indians: Dodge, one of the biggest car builders, has named some of their four-wheel drives Grand Cherokee and Dakota; the painkiller for joints and muscle Lakota; and tobacco producers branded in the early 1900’s their chewing tobacco Redman. Besides these products, many are the sports team with a name corresponding to one of the North American’s First Nations. The question is: why use Aboriginal names and where does the idea of using such names for sports teams come from? There are numerous sports team exploiting the First Nations designations. However, this paper is focused on the professional teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks from the National Hockey League, the Major League Baseball clubs Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians, and the Washington Redskins from the National Football League.

As you know now, we live on a continent that has been influenced for centuries by the North American Aboriginals. King confirms that we live in a place where our culture is believed to be a “popular culture littered with savage” (King, p.53). The Chicago Blackhawks from Illinois State is one the famous teams from the Original Six NHL clubs founded in the early 1900’s. The Hawks’ name was retrieved as an act of remembrance of the Native soldiers who defended the Illinois State during the World War One. The Blackhawks were the tribes living in that states at this time. Using such a Native name for a professional team was a show of respect towards the First Nations. The club founder Frederic McLaughlin said it was used as an icon (The McLaughlin Years). Many critics have been challenging both the logo and the name of the professional club. What has been said is that having names representing the ancestors of those who have Indian blood is such a shame and it is disrespectful as well as racist. In other words, those people think that opponents still think in the old way when Whites thought they were superior to Africans, Chinese, or Muslims (Cox, 2010).

While Chicago Blackhawks is the only professional hockey team using a Native name in the NHL, the MLB has to two teams with names referring to tribes. First of all, in the South East of the United States, there are the Atlanta Braves. The first of the two Georgian club logos was a male Indian face wearing a Mohawk hairstyle with a feather stuck in his hair. The second is the team name written in red and navy blue accompanied by a tomahawk chop. The chop on the logo, which has been kept throughout the logo changes, is the official object qualifying the Atlanta Braves. In fact, in order to root for their home team, spectators wave their right forearm up and down like a chopping action and sing a sort of “Indian-sounding” song. It represents the tomahawk chop retrieved from the team logo. According to Steve Wulf from Sports Illustrated, the Atlanta Braves got their name from an Indian warrior in 1912, which signifies that the Atlanta baseball club players are “fighters” too (Wulf, 1982).

The second MLB team using an Aboriginal name are the Cleveland Indians. The club was first named Cleveland Nap in honor of their manager Nap Lajoie. When he quit the team, the club owner renamed the Ohio club “Indians” as a thankful mark of respect of the Native American Louis Sockalexis, who played for this team (Indians History Overview).

The club’s logo is a redskin smiling cartoon Indian with a feather in the back of the head. It has been criticized by more than one for maintaining Native Americans stereotypes. However, after numerous meetings discussing the possibility of changing both the logo and name, the owner Paul Dolan maintained the actual design once again in remembrance of the First Nations (McGraw, 2015).

Then, the last but not the least, the team who has created the most reaction about their name and logo are the Washington Redskins from the NFL. The team logo is an old-looking dark redskin Indian seen on his left side profile, wearing two feathers. In 1933, the co-owner George Preston Marshall changed the name to Redskins when the team moved from Boston to Washington. The change was made in order to avoid any confusion with the Boston Braves, which had Indians as the team name (Banzhaf, 2014). Conversely, after a survey, fans responded positively regarding the impact of the Native name on the team. In other words, fans do not want any change concerning the team’s name. On the flip side, many have characterized the professional club’s design as being offensive. During a Tribal Nations Conference, the President of the United States of America strongly reacted regarding the controversy. Barack Obama said that “If [he] were the owner of the team and [he] knew that the name of [his] team, even if they’ve had a storied history, was offending a sizeable group of people, [he]’d think about changing it” (Smith).

According to the web site Five Thirty-Eight, there are more than forty-two thousand sports team in North America using Native American references for mascot names and/or team names. The top-three most used names are Warriors, Indians, and Raiders. A lot of people think these names and logos are offensive towards North American First Nations people. However, the common point between these teams regarding their names and logos was for the purpose of respectful remembrance. Even though Thomas King argues on the fact that Indian Tribes’ names have been turned into products, there is something more than just the product in itself, especially for sports teams. The First Nations were considered as warriors; just like the players, they have fought for something. The question remains whether or not it is appropriate to equate fighting for land and people or cultural survival with fighting to win a game.

Works Cited

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_sports_team_and_mascot_names

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sports_team_names_and_mascots_derived_from_indigenous_peoples

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/nov/05/obama-supports-effort-native-american-mascots-redskins

https://newrepublic.com/article/115106/ranking-racist-sports-team-mascots-names-and-logos

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Indians

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2014/05/04/redskins-mascot-nickname-indians-wahoo-chiefs-blackhawks-braves/8705159/

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-2128-native-american-mascots-people-arent-talking-about/

http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/2010/05/28/cox_offensive_blackhawks_logo_has_got_to_go.html

http://blackhawks.nhl.com/club/page.htm?id=46778

Wulf, Steve (1982-08-09), America’s Team II, Sports Illustrated

Daniel McGraw (April 11, 2015). “Native Americans protest Chief Wahoo logo at Cleveland Indians home opener”. The Guardian.

“Defense of “Redskins” Name Shattered – Pressure to Now Change “Racist” Name Grows”. May 29, 2014.

 

Native vs European Cultures

Qimmiit Man’s Best Friend

Emmanuelle Frennette

Native people always had and still have different behaviour and traditions that are largely unknown to non-natives. For example, dogs are their best friends and they are an important part of their everyday life. Dogs are useful in many fields by helping their owners accomplishing their daily routine. As in some non-native homes, the dog is practically a member of the family; but in Native families, he receives a name that fits his character and physical appearance.

Firstly, the main task of the dog in Inuit tradition is mainly to carry heavy loads during winter and summer. At a young age, the Inuit dog starts to be harnessed to a sled for the pleasure of the children in the village. This was a way to tame the puppies so they can perform harder work when they are adults. After, the dog was harnessed with others on a sled to get him used to a heavier load. As soon as a dog was big enough to pull. he would go to work with the adult dogs. Each dog was carefully observed during growth to detect his character. Some dogs were more intelligent from the start so they were trained to be a lead dog. The lead dog was called “ Isuraqtujuq” and was responsible to maintain order amongst the team while carrying a sled. Depending on their length and physical condition a dog was going to have a different position in a team; the leader has the longest trace and the second one is the track maker, “Tullasuti,” because he is the strongest and a good puller. All other positions were determined by the temperament and ability of a dog. The dog was also used as a hunter to help Inuit people hunt seals during winter. Some of the most intelligent dogs had special skills and had facility to find seals. They were also used to carry heavy things around like logs to build houses in a village. Also, when people were travelling, dogs were able to carry packs for approximately fifteen to twenty miles a day.

Secondly, dogs were an important member of each family because if you had a dog you were able to survive and to provide food for your family. When a young man was old enough to have his own team, a member of his family would give him a lead dog. This was a way for him to start providing for his own family. The dog was there to protect him while hunting and to train others dogs. When getting older, the man would pass on his lead dog to his son as a sign of protection. The son was now able to go hunting with the men of the village because he had his own guard dog. This was an unconditionally important tradition that was crucial in every man’s life in order to be able to provide food for his family. Also, according to Inuit philosophy, the dog had spiritual power. They had a strong spirit and they were capable to protect their family from any spiritual dangers. Some shamans used dogs as spirit helpers while doing their rituals. Dogs were also useful to save people from unfortunate situations of any kind. They were also helpful to save people from some malicious spirits; so dogs were, at some level, guardians of the sleep for their family.

Thirdly, dogs were so important in Inuit life that they were treated with great respect amongst the community. Dogs always had plenty of food and rarely suffered from starvation. Even if the family did not have enough food for everyone their dogs were still eating because this was a sign of hope. “There were times that the family went hungry, but if the dogs were well fed, then the family worried less”. This means that, if your dog is still alive, you still have a great chance of killing while hunting. Dogs have a keen sense of smell and they were better to track animals to ensure the survival of the family or clan. Inuit were always giving them high quality of food and not regular dog food because they were their most valuable weapon for hunting. People were feeding them with blood broth, with guts of seal, to give them extra nutrients to keep them super healthy. Even in time of starvation for a village, people found ways to give food to their dogs, even if it was only dry pieces of meat. This was a way to keep them healthy for future hunting trips to search for food. As a last resort some people ate their dogs because it was a question of survival; however, eating their dogs diminished their chance of survival in the future. “ When the dogs started dying off, the Inuit would start to die next”. It is a clear demonstration here that without their dogs, the Inuit population was not able to provide food on the table for their families.

Finally, dogs in the Inuit community were raised and fed in such a way as to increase their future aptitudes as hunter, protector, and man’s best friend. Dogs received special treatments depending on their future purpose in life. For example, the Inuit gave special or uncommon food to their dogs so they can have special extra skills to hunt seals when they are adults. Specific training was given to dogs so they would become stronger or great fighters, with the goal of teaching them extra skills. Inuit people also strongly believe that doing “good things” can increase the chance of having a stronger dog. Overall, they made sure to keep all their chances on their side in order to have the strongest and most intelligent dog possible. For example, in some regions “ The first tooth a boy lost was hidden in a piece of meat and fed to his dog. This ensured a close relationship between the boy and the dog”.

After reading this text I strongly believe that Inuit people have great traditions for their surroundings. It is really important to treat animals with respect and not like an object. I think that they are a great example for our society and we should all incorporate some of their traditions in our daily routine. Nowadays, we do not have to go hunting to provide food for our family, but we can integrate dogs as a special member of our family, by treating dogs like equals and giving them more respect within every family. I was also really surprised to learn that tradition about dogs because it was the fist I had heard of it. It is interesting to learn more about another culture to fully understanding them. I think it is admirable and I deeply respect Inuit culture because they have an interesting and deep relation with their animals and natural surroundings.

Work Cited

Course Handbook: ANG456: Native Literature: Inuit Identity p.117-126

 

 

The Myth of the Savage and the Beginning of French Colonialism in Americas                                              by Olive Patricia Dickason

Venessa Labelle-Bilodeau

The Myth of the Savage and the Beginning of French Colonialism in the Americas is a study written by Olive Patricia Dickason. In this book Dickason describes both the French and European perceptions of the New World, and the actual encounters. It is a study of the relationship between the early French settlers and the Amerindians. The third chapter of her study is titled “To Each a Place and Rank.” This chapter talks about the lack of order and civility in the native community according to European scholars. She goes on to explain the many different reasons why Europeans have named natives uncivilized and savage.

Europeans believed that there was “a great chain of being” which was closely related to Christian Ideals. Their belief of the order of the world was as followed; the Holy Trinity, the angels, the arch angels, the Aquatic Belt, the firmament, the seven planets and the four elements. In the center of all are men. Amongst the species some were considered to be imperfect, such as wild predators. Europeans did not understand how it was possible for other civilities to have a different value scales than they had. They explained this by stating that the Amerindians were hommes sauvages. By trying to understand this phenomenon, colonizers created many contradictions amongst their own people and the natives as well. She goes on to describe Ptolemy’s explanation for the different skin colors and physical appearances of the natives. Ptolemy claimed that for geographical and climate reasons, the skin may vary in color and resistance. But this explanation did not apply to the New World. The colours did not vary but stayed quite similar from the Artic to the Equator. The explanation Europeans gave for this was that they have arrived only a few hundred years before the Spaniards and the climate had not yet had an effect on their physical appearance. They also suggested that climate and geography also affected attitudes. Pierre Charron stated that the differences are caused by the internal temperature, the north being cold, the south being hot and the middle being temperate. Girolamo Cardono on the other hand stated that the violent change in weather was the main reason why there was savagery in the New World.

Europeans soon realised not only that they were physically differentfrom indigenous people, but that they also had different cultures, but most of all, that in one civilization they had multiple customs. Not only did customs vary in different areas but they varied amongst the indigenous people themselves, and customs were also passed down from generation to generation. Europeans did not like this because it could mean the end of the Christian culture. Cultural diversity lead to the introduction of evil which eventually leads to degeneration of culture. Europeans felt that they were superior; thus they wanted their language and culture to be predominant. But the New World presented many different languages and customs; hence, they were challenged to spread Christianity. Europeans were stunned to learn that they had similarities with the beliefs of Amerindians such as a similar story of a deluge and the use of a similar calendar. Eventually, Amerindians agreed to wear clothes, but this was because of the European problem to accept civility with nudity. In European culture the more extreme your clothes were, the higher you are in the hierarchy. Thus the nudity of the Amerindians gave some kind of proof to the Europeans that the “savages” had no social order. And many resisted the demand for civility by the Europeans and often took their clothes off at night or when going out for a walk.

Adding to the nudity of the Amerindians, was the fact that they were unconcerned with riches, unlike the Europeans who based their economy on riches. Renaissance Europeans depicted them as being without culture, stating that they had no writing, money, iron and grain. They also lacked an Alphabet, arts and crafts and printing. Amerindians had gold and iron in abundance, but did not care much for it as the Europeans did. They did not see it as a valuable object, but rather as material from which to make things. They used it for many different things such as fish hooks, breast plates, rings for ears or nose and bracelets. Eventually Europeans were told the story of El Dorado, where many riches still remained. This story has been part of our culture ever since but the treasure has never been found and its mystery has driven many non-natives mad. The desire to incorporate the people of the New World into the Great Chain of Being still remained, thus they started to incorporate them into the arts. They started to put them into paintings. Europeans thought that eventually maybe it would make the indigenous people more like Europeans if they could be depicted in art. Europeans called the Amerindians an immature society because of their customs of cannibalism and human sacrifice. Montaigne stated that this was close to what Europeans did and that they should not argue this custom. The reason being that Europeans would burn people to death as a punishment or would torture them. He argued that cannibalism was as cruel as torturing.

Dickason ends her study by stating that Renaissance Europeans never fully accepted Amerindians as their own. Although they have never left behind the idea that natives should be humanized. What she found outstanding among the many scholars she has referred to was that must of them had written of the New World without ever setting foot in it. Most of their writing were of stories brought back to them by seaman. What Europeans disliked the most about the New World was that they had developed without Christianity, but still they were happy, healthy and lived long lives.

In conclusion Dickason gives a vast explanation of the Renaissance Europeans view of the New World. Her text gives many excerpts by great scholars. In my opinion this gives the text much more depth as it gives concrete examples of the image Europeans had of the natives in the New World. Although we may not know all of the writers she mentions, we can easily understand their importance. In is interesting to see how Europeans felt superior to other civilities and unfortunately such attitudes still stand in our way of thinking about minorities today.

Work Cited

Dickason, Olive Patricia. The Myth of the Savage: And the Beginnings of French Colonialism in the Americas. Edmonton, Alta., Canada: U of Alberta, 1984. Print. p.43-59

 

Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples

Estelle Grenier -Robillard

Linda Tuhiwai Smith is a Native author from New Zealand. In Chapter 5 of book Decolonizing Methodologies, the author affirms the existence of imperialism as a state under which Aboriginal communities still live. She attempts to explain “the new language of Imperialism” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 97) and colonialism and how it is still accurate to use these concepts to describe sociological realities. She is confronting the common ideas that tend to diminish or delegitimize theses concepts in sociological studies.

The author explains how Aboriginal knowledge and philosophies are appropriated and used by the Western world in its process of domination. She demonstrates how Native cultures, Native philosophies, Native bodies and Native Knowledge are commodified for the benefit of the capitalist system. This commodification takes multiple forms. For example, Indigenous people are dehumanized in the name of science because of the Western vision of the world. Any “cell-lines stolen, patented or copied” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 98) for scientific experiences resonate with past experiences of Indigenous bodies being dehumanized for producing scientific knowledge. It is, then, impossible to deny the colonizing process that was and is happening in the appropriation of Native bodies by Western Science (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999: 100). Western Science is trying to create knowledge about these bodies denying the self-determination of First Nations in the understanding of their own bodies.

Another form of commodification of First Nations identity is how Aboriginal cultures and spirituality are appropriated by white people for profit. The author affirms that there is a “current fashion of patenting anything likely to be desired by others in order to both control and profit from it is placing great pressure on Indigenous communities to protect themselves” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 101). How the world is now developed with the Internet helps creating mass consumption of certain cultural elements that are sacred to Natives. More so, virtual arts and cultures are created with the new technologies, we now know, and are sold as Aboriginal culture. According to Thuhiwai Smith, this reality is producing “static stereotyped images of what is accepted by white Australians as being Aboriginal” (1999 : 102). Cultural differences are now virtually created by the production of cultural commodities that are constructing what can be considered as Aboriginal. The process of delimitation, by white people, of who and what is Indigenous is historically central to the experience of Natives within the process of colonization they have been going through (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 102). The author wants to expose how Aboriginal spirituality is appropriated by white people that gain and profit from it and why this is part of a colonial process.

It is also central to the text that the Western and Indigenous belief systems are contradictory. The center of this contradiction is the Indigenous belief that “the earth is a living entity, Mother Earth” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 99). The Native alternatives to capitalist process of destroying the environment are there but are against Western dominance. “Indigenous peoples have philosophies which connect humans to the environment and to each other and which generate principles for living a life which is sustainable, respectful and possible ” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 105). A capitalist vision is essential to the Imperialist system in which we live, and it is contradictory to Indigenous visions of the world. While Indigenous ways are all about sharing and caring for nature, Mother Earth, and each other, capitalism appropriates any natural resources for the benefit of a small group. This is denying the well-being of humans, plants, animals, and the interdependence of everything that is living on this planet.

It is important to understand that, from a native perspective, the word post-colonialism is a reference that implies the end of colonialism while Aboriginal people still experience a large realm of what could be defined as colonialism. While Native communities are dealing with collective trauma, they are recovering from the fragmentation of their identities and are maintaining “collective memory and critical consciousness of past experience” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 98). Colonialism and Imperialism may have changed there ways of expression but are their effects are still entangled in very complex ways.

Linda Tuhiwai Smith demonstrates how Colonization and Imperialism are still happening in ways that are adapting to the evolution of Western Dominance. This idea seems very important for a radical understanding of society and for studies that have a desire to participate in social justice. It seems relevant to keep theorizing the concept of Colonialism that is central to the sociological reality, especially from a Native perspective. It is primordial to be listening to the voices that have the sensibility to understand the impact of Western dominance on oppressed groups.

Work Cited

SMITH, L.T., Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples.

Zed Book: Royaume-Unis. 1999, p.95-106.

 

Summary of Native Books

Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian

Chapter 7 – Forget About It

Philippe Fontaine

The Inconvenient Indian is a book by American-Canadian writer Thomas King of the Cherokee nation in which he describes the many issues faced by First Nations throughout their shared history with European settlers and descendants. In chapter seven of The Inconvenient Indian, King discusses this much discussed idea that is for the First Nation people to ignore the past and focus on the present. The general idea would be that the current generation cannot be held accountable for the misdeeds of their forefathers and so Indians should devote their energy to building themselves a better future rather than squabble about the past.

King gives the past a generous cut-off year of 1985; generous because there are certainly people alive not who worked against the welfare of the Native people before 1985. Yet, it is also a good date since no one would argue that 1985 is not modern, nor that actions from 1985 would not have repercussions in the 21st century. The author begins the chapter by listing various events which have in some way left a negative memory in the mind of North American Indians. Some of them were outright traumatizing deeds such as Reservation Schools in Canada, which saw priests and nuns physically, sexually, and mentally abusing multiple generations of young Indians. Accounts of this do not miss, with life stories such as They Called Me Number One (Sellars) and Out of the Depths (Knockwood) reminding us just how terrible Native people were treated at school in Canada until very recent years. The list provided by King is substantial and meant to illustrate just how much would have to be forgotten by the First Nations before they could start to build afresh.

The second part of the chapter deals with those events after 1985 that operated and still operate with prejudice against Natives. King for instance discusses how the “two generation cut-off clause” of Bill C-31, an addition to the Indian Act which notably determines who is legally Indian, will lead to a drought in the Native blood pool. That is, unless legal Indians only marry other legal Indians there will ultimately come a time when, because too many non-Indians joined the Indian blood pool, there will be no Indian as per Canadian law. In the same time frame, the Meech Lake Accord of 1987 reinstated Quebec’s (as well as the other provinces’) powers in choosing its immigrants as well as recognizing Quebec as a distinct society. Compounded, these two points enable Quebec to strengthen the position of its relatively culturally homogenous population. The dichotomy of the treatment received by these two societies is what King finds appalling. “Canada was the confluence of three founding people, Aboriginal, English, and French, but [Bill C-31] acknowledged only the English and French streams” (King).

Most of King’s other examples of post-1985 discrimination against Natives display either the Canadian of the American government favouring non-Natives over Natives. In the United States, laws were voted to take advantage of Native businesses such as casinos. However, Native land in the US is mostly sovereign. As such it is not affected by state laws, only federal ones as well as any law voted by respective councils. Gambling in the United States, however, is regulated by states, meaning that any dollar made from Native casinos would not return a cent to the United States government. Using as an excuse the need to provide standards to Indian gaming, the federal government passed a law which, among other things, levied a fee on Indian casinos based on their individual gross revenue (United States Government Publishing Office).

King’s cynicism toward future Native-government agreements is easily perceived in this chapter of The Inconvenient Indian. Indians have been cheated and exploited in the past in the same way that they are being cheated and exploited now. North American governments have a long history of claiming to do things for the good of the Indians only to cheat them out of their land and culture. When the present is just more of the same resented past, it is easy to understand that Natives cannot simply forget about it.

Works Cited

King, Thomas. “The Inconvenient Indian : A Curious Account of Native People in North America.” Toronto: Anchor Canada, 2013. 159-192.

Knockwood, Isabelle. Out of the Depths : The Experiences of Mi’kmaw Children at the Indian Residential School at Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. Fourth Edition. Black Point: Fernwood Publishing, 2015.

Sellars, Bev. They Called Me Number One : Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2013.

United States Government Publishing Office. “An Act to regulate gaming on Indian lands.” 17 October 1988. Government Publishing Office. 26 March 2016 <https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-102/pdf/STATUTE-102-Pg2467.pdf&gt;.

 

 

Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian:

Chapter 4 “One Name to Rule Them All.”

Marc-André Fontaine

The chapter begins when the author reminds us of a question too many of us have asked: Why don’t all white North Americans kill off all North American Indians?

He then proceeds to say we simply got bored of it; we found something better to do as time went on.

This might be wrong. It likely is because white North Americans became more civilized and understood that the Natives were just as human as they were. Indigenous people were there first and our ancestors took so much away from Natives while they should instead have treated them with respect.

Next, he talks about the dichotomy between savagism and civilization that we accept too easily as obvious. He uses a play, Waiting for Godot, to make a comparison with real life.

Sadly, most of that is true, when talking about Natives, many people act as if they were talking about savages, though lately we may also find people who talk of them as pitiable beings who were mistreated for too long and that should now be protected in extraordinary ways.

In the history between the Europeans and the North American Indians, there has been a lot of exchange and cultural contact. First, when Europeans were fewer, there was a lot of trade, of commerce, but then the Europeans ended up being much greater in number and wars ensued: the Seven Years’ War, the American Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812. After these, Canada and the United States of America were pretty much two nation states as stated by King.

These two nations split the continent in halves, all north of the 49th parallel was Canada’s while all south of it would belong to the United States of America. This included everything, even the people who were not members of either nations.

While the U.S. did take the lands “legally” within their own system, they took it from the Natives by force instead of consent with the U.S. Articles of Confederation and the 1790 Trade and Intercourse Act. These pieces of paper, signed by no indigenous people at all, basically let the U.S. government do whatever it wanted with Indian lands. While it is true that contracts, treaties, acts, and almost all official papers should be respected, making one without both parties involved and consenting is not something that should have been allowed back then, and still should not be now.

Thomas King next states that he cannot find a joke to make about a few decisions the U.S. Supreme Court took in 1823, 1831, and 1832. These three decisions together made the Natives part of the government’s property, as they could not be considered a foreign nation and had no right over their own lands upon which they had lived for far longer than the European settlers. While this may have been legal for the white North Americans, the Indians should have had a right to be free from these laws, as they already had their own lands, since long before the white North Americans got there.

The same thing happened in Canada in 1876 with the Indian Act. According to the author, the role of these decisions were to allow the countries to organize the Indians, as they were too numerous in the settlers’ opinions. This is also where this Chapter becomes interesting, as it seems to explain the name of the book better than the author himself did in his interviews.

He next explains that the natives had too many different cultures and that imposing European settler culture upon Natives all was too complex due to the sheer number of indigenous cultures. To fix this problem, the “Indian” persona was created and became the representation of all Native tribes. With this, the North American population would easily understand who the law referred to, and the lawyers did not need to think of every different names and cultures while making laws to target Natives.

This is basically a part of the title, the “Indian” was created in this way.

Then what King calls “Plan A” began. This plan was used to make Indians appear as a problem in everyone’s eyes so as to gain the approval of the settler population to push the Indians out of the settlers’ way.

The plan used treaties to make the Indians agree, once a problem showed up, to move off of their lands and be relocated into other areas. These treaties were not always signed freely or by relevant people since Indian cultures were different and sometimes no single person was able to act as the representative of all the tribes, unlike our presidents and our Prime Ministers who represent vast nations.

An important idea the author highlights is that these treaties were likely not supposed to last for long, as the Indians were presumed by settlers to be a “dying race” that would disappear within the next few years to come.

As they were shoved around, as they died of European illnesses, and even when they were no more a real threat, the government still deemed Indians a nuisance, or as King said, they were still an “inconvenience.” In this way, the title of King’s book is explained, but the chapter still has much more to say about these events and treaties.

Back then, one of the reasons that was given for the removal of the Indians was to protect them against settlers. By keeping them further away from settlements, they would not see as many of the bad things we did, which would, supposedly, let them keep their culture clear from our influences and also make sure they would not attack the Europeans simply for the way they acted against nature. It also ensured that North Americans would not hate them since the Indians would be further away in the country.

Another reason for isolating them was that Indians already had more than enough for their survival, too much even, according to the government of the United States at the time.

In 1763, there was a law stating that white settlements should go no further than the Appalachians but Thomas King believes this law was only to let the government wash its hands of the conflict with the Indians at that time, as settlers were not well equipped to deal with such things. It would also help keep the peace while settlers got better equipped because Indians would not be preparing against attacks or raiding the few settlers that were staying put on the coasts.

This kind of law obviously did not last long, as no one running for politics wanted to stop their voters from living wherever they wanted, largely because politicians were afraid they would lose votes and not be re-elected.

The list of tribes removed from their own lands by treaties signed by individual Indians is appalling: “Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, Cherokee, Shawnee, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Sauk and Fox, Osage, Kickapoo, Wyandot, Ho-Chunks, Kaskaskia, Peoria, Miami, Delaware, Illinois, Modoc, Oto, Ponca, Seneca, Cayuga, Tsukegee, Quapaw, etc…”

Among these these were at least 17,000 Cherokee, and of those, at least 4,000 died on the way to relocation, but these numbers are approximate and many historians say the numbers may be higher while some say they could be lower. In total, at least 75,000 Indians were relocated during these dark times.

A bit further north, Canadians did not have such a policy of removal, simply because it was named differently and happened a few decades later. The reasons behind it are explained as being worse though, according to King, since the Canadian government wanted to relocate the Indians to destroy their culture and force them to adopt Canadian culture.

Another amusing part of history is how short “forever” seems to be according to precedent actions of the law in Canada. For example, there is Francis Bond Head’s treaties that should have protected a few Indian tribes that were relocated, but after only 20 years they were relocated again, despite the treaties and the signatures.

Some people tried to do better, such as James Douglas from the Hudson’s Bay Company, but he eventually had to retire and whoever replaced him did not care as much for words and papers, these Indians ended up relocated once more.

Despite the fact that the government wanted to deal with Indians as if they were its property, when it came to helping people, they definitely prioritized the white settlers as proven by the 1935 Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act which served to compensate and relocate farmers from certain lands, but completely ignored the Indians who lived in the same area, because they did not pay taxes.

In 1942, the government tried to relocate 2,000 Mi’kmaq, but this project failed to the point that the Canadian government gave up in 1949, leaving a community on welfare and not relocating the Mi’kmaq back where they could be at home. Despite this blatant failure, they tried relocation again and again, with different tribes and in different regions, during the 50s and 60s.

To summarize, the North American government took rights they did not have and they should not have done so. Our ancestors did terrible things that we should likely want to apologize for, and yet some people still ask questions such as why is it that we did not kill every Indian? Worse, the government still has not righted most of the easily righted wrongs and it still causes more grief to the Indians to this day.

Work Cited

King, Thomas. “Chapter 4 – One Name to Rule Them All.” The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious                     Account of Native People in North America. Anchor Canada, 2013. 77-98. Print.

 

 

History is the stories we tell about the past

Audrey Ruffaut

“In the end, who really needs the whole of Native History when we can watch the movie?” (King, p. 20)

History: such a simple word with so many meanings. History: one of these words that do not know any time or space limit. In the first chapter of The Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King is both a critic and a defender of History. Thomas King is one of the most famous contemporary Native writers. In the year 2012, he wrote The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America, a non-fiction book about the relation between Natives and Non-Natives in North America. His aim is obvious: re-write and re-teach History through stories. “Forget Columbus” gives us a great idea of the tone and the content of the book as well as King’s opinion on what is History. How does Thomas King explain the misconception of Native history?

I would firstly mention that humour is a key tool in the passing on of his message. The first time I laughed was when he parodies the scene of the arrival of Columbus. It is a sarcastic scene where he denounces the choice of historic facts and what place are given to them in History. In all history books, the North America History begins with the “discovery” of the continent by Columbus. No one can deny it. It has been told and taught for too long for us to question it. The humorous depiction of Columbus’ ships arrival is designed to be conformed to the imaginary vision people have when they talk about the discovery of America. This vision of a “great man (…) flag in hand, a letter of introduction to the Emperor (…) tucked in his tunic” (King, p. 2) is deeply fixed in all minds. Moreover this colonial vision has been reinforced by many stories and movies. Thomas King takes the example of the story of Pocahontas. He meticulously confronts Pocahontas’ myth to the real story based on historical facts. He wonders himself about the reasons that lead people to idealize stories. His answer is clear: to create more “Kodak moments” (King, p. 2). Kodak moments are stories or more precisely images of stories that are worthy of an imaginary world and persist through movies and cultural misrepresentations. The Walt Disney movie Pocahontas produced in 1995 is one among others. Even if it was meant to be a fictional romance rather than a historical documentary, its reception as a “story based on real facts” has carried on what King called “Vanished Indians”, representations along with all the stereotypes non -Natives have of Indians: feather costume, face painting and wilderness.

This representation raises another major qestion: who writes History and for whom? The answer could appear obvious and I would be tempted to say that History is not written by some individuals but lived by everybody. I would be tempted to say that today is already History but you will laugh at it. And you will be right, because reality is quite different. In reality, there are historians who write a chronological History, a succession of dated events, facts, figures and of characters who had been here and there at some point. The answer I would give to the previously raised question is: ethnocentrism. The truth is that History is shaped according to the dominant ideology, and it is not a native one.

I would like to carry on with the concept of “organized forgetting.” It is a key concept in the shaping of History. Organized forgetting is the idea whereby a majority forgets and denies important parts of History. It is mostly unconscious because of the internalization of beliefs by repeated discourses and images. The example the most obvious is the colonial discourse. This discourse rationalizes the fact that America was an empty land, Natives were savages and that settlers brought something to them. In reality this discourse is completely subjective. From a Native point of view, it appears even absurd. Jeanette Armstrong was one of the first Native writers to denounce the one-sided vision of colonization in her poem “History Lesson”. Thomas King begins the chapter “Forget Columbus” with an extract from “History Lesson” (Armstrong) in which Jeannette Armstrong describes the violent arrival of settlers. It gives an upside down image of the settlers who are depicted as savages. By quoting “History Lesson” right at the beginning of his book, King reveals his willingness to lead the same battle. His method consists of telling facts and stories that no one has heard about. The succession of figures, names and dates can make the audience feel dizzy though. I think it is to emphasize the fact that History is much more complex than what we learn in books.

In conclusion, “Forget Columbus” is an appealing chapter which introduces really well Thomas King’s work. Humour, disturbing facts and astonishing stories are used for one unique goal: the duty of collective memory fighting against organized forgetting. This goal is often the same as that of other Native writers who write as defenders of their History, who write not to be forgotten.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Jeanette. «A History Lesson.» s.d. Print.

King, Thomas. «Forget Columbus.» King, Thomas. The Inconvenient Indian, A Curious Account of Native People in North America. USA: Anchor Canada, 2012. 1-20. Print.

 

 

Othering and Gender in Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road.

Pascale Tremblay

Three Day Road was well received by Canadian readers. It has even been one of the finalists for the 2006 Canada Reads contest (CBC radio). The former columnist for The Globe and Mail, Bronwyn Drainie, exposes her opinion on Joseph Boyden’s first novel. She discusses the focus of the book and the author’s humanization of “the Other”. I would like to draw specific attention to these two aspects of her book review and provide pieces of evidence supporting Bronwyn’s opinion.

First of all, Bronwyn Drainie claims that the book: “joined an impressive shelf of Canadian fiction centred on the First World War, but it changed the focus on that disastrous conflict radically by telling the story from the point of view of Xavier Bird, […]” (Drainie). It is true that this book focuses more on racism, drug addiction, and many other themes than warfare. Indeed, it is not clearly mentioned if the main characters are aware of the political reasons leading to the war. On their way to the train, they ask themselves questions about what war will be like. Their questions are oriented towards their insertion in the group. Will they be separated? Will other soldiers take them for plain Indians? Will authorities cut their hair (Boyden 59)? They do not ask themselves about the political reasons behind this war. Even in the parts of the narrative taking place on the battlefield, most of the elements of the text are oriented towards their condition as aboriginal soldiers. Hunting skills, racism, drug addiction, brotherhood, cannibalism are the main themes of the book. Moreover, Aunt Niska’s stories have nothing to do with World War 1 directly; however, they have great importance toward the understanding of the main characters’ story. Her storytelling brings the readers away from the war into the aboriginal world.

To consider people less worthy because they are not “one of us” is one of the effects of the “othering” process. (Othering 101: What Is “Othering”?) According to Bronwyn Drainie, Joseph Boyden’s writing: “fully humanize[s] ‘the Other’ and give[s] him his rightful place in the country’s history” (Drainie). By describing the story from aboriginal characters’ perspectives, the author exposes their thoughts and feelings to readers. Therefore, readers can see that aboriginal people are more alike than different.

The squaw is one of the stereotypes treated in this book. According to Professor Emma Larocque: “the dehumanizing portrayal of the squaw and the over-sexualisation of Native females such as Disney’s Pocahontas surely render all Native female persons vulnerable” (Helen Hobbs 274). In Three Day Road, Niska is a victim of the over-sexualised portrayal of Native females. She feels deeply attracted by a white Frenchman. He treats her as a Squaw and uses her sexually. Niska describes a sexual intercourse with a white man who brings her in a church. Even if she does not push back the Frenchman, the vocabulary chosen to describe the scene shows that she was not fully consenting. By showing the sexual scene from Niska’s perspective, the author makes readers feel anger towards the way the white man treats the aboriginal woman. The words used by the Frenchman also depict the way white men used to perceive and treat aboriginal females: “You are nothing special, just another squaw whore. I took your power away in this place and sent it to burn in hell where it belongs” (Boyden 174). Describing the scene from the aboriginal female perspective counters the dehumanizing portrayal of indigenous women. It makes readers empathize with her situation.

Elijah and Xavier are also considered as “Others” and are dehumanized. Instead of recognizing that they are skilled, white soldiers explain their talents with stereotypes. For instance, Elijah and Xavier are excelling on finding their way in the dark and instead of acknowledging that they are more skilled as hunters than the other soldiers, they compare them to animals: “Elijah tells me Breech says that it is our Indian blood, that our blood is closer to that of an animal than that of a man” (Boyden 101). This excerpt is a good example of how white people dehumanized the aboriginal soldiers. Since the book includes chapters on the main characters’ life before the war, readers are aware that their ability to hunt and to orient themselves in the wild are due to their life experiences and have nothing to do with blood animals. Elijah and Xavier strive to fit in and want to prove their value to the other soldiers. There is a wonderful scene encapsulating Xavier’s desire to be accepted: “If I can do this I will no longer be so much the outsider. I will gain respect” (Boyden 109). Indeed, by winning the shooting contest he earns his fellows’ respect: “It strikes me then. None of these who are here today can call me a useless bush Indian ever again (Boyden 109). The desire to fit in is a feeling that all human beings experience in their life. To depict aboriginal soldiers who do everything to be accepted makes them look more human. Finally, the fact that Elijah and Xavier willingly enroll in the army and are excellent snipers gives them their rightful place in the country’s history.

In conclusion, I agree with Bronwyn Drainie’s opinion on Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road. Emphasis upon the main characters’ issues and the importance of their life before war changes the focus on the conflict involved in their personal struggles. Also, describing racism from the victims’ perspective fully humanizes the characters and makes readers empathize with them. Now that the focus of the book and the “Othering” aspects have been discussed, it would be interesting to look at other elements of the book in a further analysis.

Works Cited

Boyden, Joseph. Three Day Road. Toronto: Penguin Group, 2008.

Drainie, Bronwyn. Literary Review of Canada . n.d. 24 March 2016.

Helen Hobbs, Margaret. Gender and Women’s Studies in Canada: Critical Terrain. Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2013 .

Othering 101: What Is “Othering”? 28 December 2011. 27 March 2016.

 

Chapter 8! The Real Dilemma!

Grégory Fortier

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It is a well-known fact that the indigenous people of North America are not the population that has the best living conditions. These conditions are explained and enounced in certain literary works. Thomas King is a Metis author who decided to bring to light these hard living conditions and injustices in a non-fiction account titled The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. Each chapter concern a specific matter that indigenous people have faced. In this essay, I will focus on Chapter Eight which explains how making some things different between the government and the indigenous people might not really help that much. I will summarize, comment on, and contest what King says in this Chapter and also make some things clearer than they are.

To begin with, Chapter Eight is about indigenous rights, sovereignty, and having control over their land, budget, and life. It is not like most of the other chapters in which King uses humour and emotions in his writing. It is a lot about real facts and current problems that this population is going through. To summarize the Chapter, it really explains how Indians of North America remain handcuffed in terms of taking care of their own people, their own budget, their own territory, and their own lives. The present situation is due to the fact that all the laws, treaties, and agreements that were made in the past, up to a hundred and fifty years ago, have to be complied with. Even though things have changed over all these years, the indigenous people of Canada and the United States still have to comply with what was decided by a government that was not theirs.

To continue, the chapter starts with this quote “What we need is a cultural leave-us-alone agreement in spirit and in fact” (Kings. 193). He uses this quote to grab the attention of readers and it works. It also tells us what he is going to talk about. King explains what North American Indian people have wanted for many years; to be free from the colonial governments that control them and to make their own decisions. Many factors prevent this from happening. First of all, the aboriginals wanted to have their sovereignty. To help the understanding of what sovereignty could do for them here is a definition: sovereignty is a country’s independent authority and the right to govern itself (Meriam-Webster). According to what King says, Indians already have their sovereignty, but it is not real. Here is why, according to King: “When the population of a ‘nation’ is a few hundred people, or even a few thousand, we are kidding ourselves, aboriginals or non-aboriginals, if we think that sovereignty can be anything more than partial” (194). What it means is that the sovereignty that indigenous people have is only fictive or symbolic, and they cannot do anything with it. The outcome of this is that they no not really have real power over their fate. Also, the author gives us an example of something that the United States Indians did in order to have a control over their lives. They created and owned casinos and made money with it. They used the casinos’ outcome to buy lands and make as much as possible the American dream possible for them. This attempt failed because some municipalities went against this and old treaties that were created, were used to what they were doing (page 213). It is not the only think that the United States did with the indigenous population. They decided to use many of the indigenous territories like the ones in near San Diego, Oklahoma, and Washington as a garbage dump (King.207). The population of this territory did not say a word about it because it gave them an employment and they badly needed one. It is unfair that the only opportunity for work that they had the chance to get is to work in a rubbish dump. Finally, this is only the major part of what Thomas King explains in chapter eight, but there is much to talk about.

On another note, Thomas King provided much information about the living conditions that are controlled by governments from either Canada or United States. The major problem is that the indigenous population are not able to get the right to take their decisions because of all the laws, decrees, and treaties created in the past years. Even if this chapter is interesting in the way that it makes readers aware of why Indians of North America are having a difficult time, there are no solutions given. King argues that there is no hope for Natives to govern themselves because every attempt they had, did not end well. King is not mentioning any possible solutions. Even the ending is not so optimistic “What do Indians want? The good news is that you could choose from any of the above and be right. And you’d be wrong.” (King. 214). Yes, it is an ending that makes the readers want to know what they want, but it is also pessimistic because it sounds as if the indigenous people themselves do not know what they want. Luckily, readers can realise that the faith of indigenous people is not so dark when they continue reading the following chapters. To finish, I think that Thomas King informs people a lot about what happened in the past few years concerning the living conditions and the desires of Indians of North America, even though I felt that he seems quite pessimistic about this throughout his book.

To conclude, Chapter Eight is full of information about what the indigenous population of Canada and the United States want and about what they did to get nearer their goal of governing themselves. This chapter is quite dark because everything that is mentioned ends with a negative result, but that gives the readers the will to continue their reading. This book is really unique and interesting because I was able to learn more about the Indian people of North America than I did in all my years of study.

Works Cited

King, Thomas. The Inconvenient Indian a Curious Account of Native People in North America. Canada. Anchor Canada. 2013. Print.

Meriam-Webster. Sovereignty. Web. [http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sovereignty]

 

 

Eden Robinson on Sharing Sacred Knowledge

Gaëlle Lovergne

Eden Robinson is a Haisla woman, born in 1968, who grew up near Kitamaat in British Columbia. She is the first Indigenous woman in Canada to become internationally well-kown. This Indigenous woman published her first novel Monkey Beach in 2000. It begins with news that Lisa’s brother, Jimmy, is missing at sea. Then it travels back through a series of flashbacks as Lisa-marie Michelle Hill tells us her story and her extended family’s story before this event. Lisa takes us on a supernatural journey. Indeed she has supernatural abilities; sacred knowledge, beliefs, her people, all are depicted in the novel in such a way that we can feel the struggle between a certain cultural identity and mainstream settler society.

First, Indigenous people have a different culture, one that is much more oral than scriptocentric. They tell stories and all through the book we can feel that Lisa loves the stories that the Elder, her grand mother, Ma-ma-oo tells her. Oral tradition is really important for the natives: « If someone’s speaking, you have to listen, Ma-ma-oo said. » Lisa and Ma-ma-oo believe in stories such as the one of th B’gwus. However, her mother and father say that they are just fairy tales, that they are not real « It’s just a story. » There we are, a gap between their cultural knowledge and the mainstream society is developing. Indeed Lisa’s parents seem to have forgotten their tradition;they have adapted to the new age while Lisa is closer to Ma-ma-oo and traditional indigenous culture.

Lisa is depicted as a resistant child, acting like her Uncle Mick who refuses to be silenced : « He wore his message t-shirts : Free Leonard Peltier ! Or Columbus : 500 Years of Genocide and Counting ».Mick was also in the American Indian Movement and sang « Fuck the Opressors » while Lisa’s father has a conservative worker and a passive Indian « ‘This whole country was built on exploiting Indians for-‘ ‘Mick,’ Dad pleaded ».   Mick is depicted as irresponsible as a child whereas Lisa’s father is depicted as an adult, a responsible man.

Popular culture seems to have been adopted into their way of life, Ma-ma-oo watches soap operas, they smoke like it is candy but traditionally it lifted prayers to the gods, and Elvis. What a story with Elvis Presley ! Indeed Lisamarie is named after Elvis’s daughter and her uncle Mike is keen on Elvis Presley’s music « Dad told me Mick was very happy I’d been named after the King’s daughter ». or «’Elvis is dead’ […]Mick took off for almost a month and we later learned he’d driven to Graceland. »

There is one thing that Indigenous people had to  deal with and that left major consequences: Residential school. As a matter of fact it destroyed many people, made them lose their identity and their traditions, and it caused many to drinking heavily while others committed suicide:  « Just Mick and my mom went and it fucked them up ». Lisa’s people are halfway through their Indigenous traditions, that is endangered while the mainstream society is more and more present in their lives.

Traditionally, Indigenous people have a particular faith; they believe in certain things that are not necessarily true from a European point of view. For instance nature is for indigenous people very important; they are very respectful towards nature. The ocean and fishing are essential to the Haisla people on the Westcoast. Jimmy trusts the ocean, but he is taken away by it: « He was never afraid of water » or « […] Jimmy’s implicit trust that the water would hold him safely. » Mick ,who resists to keep his cultural identity, is close to the ocean and is a fisherman.

An other particular relationship that Indigenous people have is with spirits. Lisa has a particular relationship with the other world.Through Lisa we can discover the beliefs of Indigenous concerning ghosts, spirits, legends, and soul. Once she said «  To contact the spirit world, you must control the way you enter this state of being that is somewhere between waking and sleeping. »  But in the end,  there is a struggle between the old, traditional ways and the new ways imposed by society.  Sometimes native beliefs are demystified like when Lisa and Jimmie  thought they had seen a sasquatch, but in the end it was a grizzly «  The sasquatch turned out out be a grizzly ». Also the fact that the spirits are dismissed as being just imagination: « It’s your overactive imagination ». That’s it « Old ways don’t matter anymore ».

To conclude throughout all the novel there is a fight between the Haisla world, the beliefs that Ma-ma-oo shares with Lisa, and the ‘colonized’ world, the beliefs of her parents. By sharing these traditional beliefs with Lisa, they are shared with us at the same time. Therefore we can learn a lot about Haisla people’s beliefs,  but perhaps these mysterious beliefs should stay a mystery and not be shared with people other than the Haisla people.

 

 

Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway: A Creey for Change

Samuel Roberge

It is not every day that someone will get the chance to learn more about our Canadian Native communities through a first-hand account. The relationship between the population and native and non-native communities is so strained that interactions are limited and Native people are less inclined to talk, while Non-natives have often refused to listen. This silence is reinforced by the fact that the past for indigenous people is filled with difficult and delicate experiences under colonialism, experiences they had to go through with their fellow countrymen. In his novel, Kiss of the Fur Queen, Tomson Highway details the lives of two young Crees, representing him and his brother, who were forced to go to residential school. One interesting aspect of this novel is that it gives us very interesting information about the Crees and their way of life. Also, although some parts of the story were romanticized, Highway gives a very forthright and eye-opening account of what young Native children had to go through when going to a residential school. He gives the reader a clear picture of what the everyday life in this type of school was like, as well as a broader understanding of what Cree people were giving up culturally by being exposed to this school system. Finally, Highway takes us through the two young men’s post residential school lives, explaining the coping mechanisms used by Native people and the negative effects residential schools had on them.

First of all, reading this book is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the way of life of the Cree people and their culture. Interestingly enough, the story starts through the lens of a Native dog racer, a musher, who is also a caribou hunter. This is probably one of the general images that people have regarding Cree and Native people. After winning the important race, the sled driver is welcomed home in his village by a cheering community that is tight-knit, which is very typical of traditional indigenous communities. The importance in the passage of traditions is also highlighted when Abraham Okimasis, the father of Champion, expresses his pride in knowing that his son would carry the family legacy in music: “For wasn’t it the greatest pride to have finally sired a child with the gift of making music, one to whom he could pass on his father’s, his grandfather’s, and his great-grandfather’s legacy? (27) “. Religion first inserts itself in the story when the priest suggests that Ooneemeetoo be baptized in the name of Gabriel, thus changing his name. When the children are old enough for school, the question of sending them to “that school [that] is so far away” (40), the residential school, is brought up. It is quickly evident that the idea is somewhat frowned upon, with the mother saying: “What Father Bouchard wants, I guess” (40).

Secondly, Highway allows the reader to dig deep into the daily life of a residential school and to find out what it meant to live there. Unfortunately, this straightforward approach exposes the reader to very cruel moments that would leave no human indifferent. Champion’s stay at the residential school starts with his hair being chopped off, as for all the other boarders. Other cultural elements from where he came from, including his name, are erased in the residential school, as the fathers call him “Jeremiah” instead of Champion. The boys’ language is also taken away from them, as they are strictly forbidden to speak their native Cree language. A contest where the boys can win tokens for catching someone else speaking their former language is even organized. Although too numerous to mention all of them here, a lot of scenes explain how Father Lafleur pleasured himself and took advantage of the children sexually. In one of the scenes, Gabriel explains how “he could see the motion of the priest’s hand gave him immense pleasure” and “he was about to open his mouth and swallow whole the living flesh” (78). This type of behaviour seemed normal for the principal of the residential school as well. He beat children with his belt when they behaved badly. For example, when Gabriel sang in his native language, he was force to bend over with his pants down, receiving lashes until he bled.

Finally, Highway details the aftermath of their residential school time, how the boys integrated into the so called White society and how they dealt with their troubling and heavy past. It is worth mentioning that there is a light and funny moment where Jeremiah and Gabriel are reunited in the city, with the older brother taking his little brother for his first shopping trip. It highlights the bond between them and shows the discrepancy between the way of life in their Cree community and the way of life in an urban city. At first, when both brothers are engaged in their passions, dance and music, their past abuse in the residential schools does not seem like a problem. One important moment discussed in the book is when Gabriel has what seems to be his first gay sexual experience: “everywhere he looked, naked limb met naked limb met naked limb, an unceasing domino effect of human flesh, smell, fluid (168). Jeremiah’s loneliness in the big city is also discussed, even to the point where he thought about suicide. The effects of going to residential school is also highlighted when the brothers go back to their native village and can barely speak their native language: “Semen-airy, grinned Gabriel, the closest he could get, in his native tongue” (191). Jeremiah is using alcohol heavily to cope, especially after his father’s death. Gabriel, on the other hand, is using drugs as well as alcohol and we learn at the end of the story that he has contracted AIDS.

In conclusion, Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway is a great opportunity to learn more about the Cree culture and some of the difficult times they had to go through. The author delivers an open and direct account of the abuse suffered by native children in the residential schools. Through the story based on Highway’s own and his real-life brother’s experiences, Highway highlights how difficult it is to live as a native person in today’s society. The tale of the two brothers, mainly their difficulties to cope with their past, as well as the use of drugs and alcohol, is sadly representative of how a lot of Native people live today. This is something that I witnessed personally when I visited a Cree community and an Atikamekw community. This part of the story is certainly not romanticized.

Work Cited

Highway, Tomson. Kiss of the Fur Queen. N.p.: Anchor Canada, 1998. Print.

 

 

 

Indigenous People and their Experiences

Where are the Children?: An Exhibition for Truth

Amber Redburn-BeanScreen Shot 2016-05-13 at 12.46.29 PM.png

Where are the Children? is an exhibition which was created to tell the story of the Indigenous people. It was one of many projects developed by the Legacy of Hope Foundation. One of the objectives of this exhibition is to “promote awareness among the Canadian public about residential schools and try to help them to understand the ripple effect those schools have had on Aboriginal life” . Another objective is to use this to bring peace and resolution between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. It is a way to understand what happened and a way for everyone to contribute to the healing of the past. This exhibition has been displayed in many museums, galleries, colleges, centers, etc. all over Canada, since 2001, when it was developed.

The website for this exhibition allows us to gain information on the treatment of the Indigenous people and some truths about the residential schools where they attended. The site is separated into five different sections: Exhibition, Timeline, Stories, Resources, and About; you also have the option of switching from English to French or vice-versa.

In the Exhibition section, you can find pictures and information about the people, the residential schools, and other additional information. In the Timeline section, you can also find information, however dates are attached; in this section, you can find dates, facts, data, and so on. In the Resources section, which is also separated into sections: Reading List, LHF DVD, Where Are The Children Exhibition Catalogue, 100 Years Of Loss- Edu-kit and Teacher Bundle, We Were So Far Away, and Aboriginal Healing Foundation. In the About section, you will be able to find information about where the exhibition is/was being held, when the exhibition was developed, who the curator is, who the Legacy of Hope Foundation is and what they do, and also the partners and funders of the project.

As mentioned above, this website and exhibition is a project developed by the Legacy of Hope Foundation. One of their other projects, Our Stories…Our Strength, is what is displayed in the section Stories of the website (LHF). Our Stories…Our Strength is a project that was developed to ensure that the residential school survivors’ stories and experiences are told and honored. This also supported the survivors through their healing journeys to a better future, it was also a process that could possibly help other survivors as well.

The information about this part of the website is available on the Legacy of Hope Foundation (LHF) website. To collect the testimonies of these survivors, the LHF received funding from Health Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). The LHF worked with many Indigenous communities to organize these gatherings, for the collection of the stories. With these testimonies they set off to educate and create educational resources for all Canadians.

The testimonies were video and audio recorded and were conducted by individual interviews, there were also group discussions lead by the people. This allowed the others to hear stories, different or even similar to theirs. The website wants to help the Indigenous people throughout their journey and to help non-Indigenous people learn more about the past: “It is by sharing these truths that we can all continue to work toward understanding and healing” (Where are the Children). The creators of the website also include an email address for others to send in their stories, or to have their testimonies uploaded to the page.

There are, at this moment, 47 stories that have been uploaded to the page. For every story, there is the full name of the person testifying and the length of the video that appears. What makes it interesting is the fact that they have included the transcript of the discussion/testimony; you can listen to the testimony and read it at the same time. The length of the videos differs immensely, and some even have two parts for their story. In most of the testimonies, the interviewer has them state their full name and spell it to make sure to get the spelling right for the website. They also have them state from which community they come from and what residential school they attended. They also have them state how long they stayed there and then the interviewee will tell them about their experiences. Here is an example of one of the testimonies: http://wherearethechildren.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/45-Carol-Dawson.mp4

This part of the website is very interesting and important because of the fact that these people are taking the time to describe their past and to bring up those experiences when they have probably spent years trying to suppress them from their mind. It is interesting to hear what they have experienced, what they have done to overcome those experiences, and how they have grown from their past. They use their voice to protest against the injustice within the cultural context, these people have put their pride and fears aside to help better the situation and to help the healing and reconciliation process for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

To conclude, this exhibition, this website is a creative, fascinating, and powerful way for the Indigenous people to stand up for themselves and for their communities. The reconciliation and healing process has begun for some, and this website, as accessible as it is, will help others to begin the same process. They can refer to this website and specifically to the section with the testimonies to help them find ways of dealing with their experiences, to help them find ways to surmount their past. Visit http://wherearethechildren.ca or http://www.legacyofhope.ca/projects/ for more information.

Works Cited

LHF: Legacy of Hope Foundation. “Our Stories… Our Strength”. 2016. Web.   http://www.legacyofhope.ca/projects/our-stories-our-strength April 3rd 2016.

“Where are the Children”. LHF: Legacy of Hope Foundation. N.d. Web. http://wherearethechildren.ca/en/stories/#story_1 April 3rd 2016.

 

 

Where are the Children

Kimberly Rodrigue

A TIMELINE

This web contribution hopes to inform readers about the content of the timeline section of the Where Are the Children website; the beginning of the education Aboriginal people received, their actual experiences, and what was going on with their people while they were in residential school as well as the outcome of their struggles. It all began with the persistent religious entities that wished to convert Aboriginal people to Christianity. Without having any choice, due to political and economic changes that would have had a long-term impact on their traditional lives and cultures, Aboriginal leaders engaged in negotiations with religious orders and government officials to create an equitable education system. The model desired for this school was questioned a lot. First nation leaders, Peter Jones and John Sunday, as well as Chief Shingwauk introduced concepts but, according to some men who served on the Bagot Commission, they were not sufficient. The authorities believed assimilation would work best if children were separated from their parents and home.

The Indian Act as well as many other signed treaties brought a huge significance in education for Aboriginals. The survival of their identities depended on the acquisition of new skills and so they had to learn specialization in schools. The boys were being taught about farming and girls about housekeeping, but their education mainly turned around separating them from their own people and most importantly, not being Indians themselves. This resulted in the assimilation of Aboriginal children into mainstream culture, largely through punishment, abuse, and emotional damage caused by the residential school system. After many complaints, changes had to be made. It was only numerous years later that a voice was heard. In 1922, Peter Bryce took a step forwards in publishing his entire report about children’s life in residential schools titled The Story of a National Crime: Being a Record of the Health Conditions of the Indians of Canada from 1904 to 1921. Albeit the Indian Act was not going to be the means to end the era of the residential schools; they finally ended in 1996 when the last one was shut down. Survivors from abuse suffered in residential schools are often unable to express their feelings about their experiences today because they may internalize their anger, fear, grief, and guilt.

Being well written with simple words, the website’s author made sure that the accessibility to the timeline section was available for everyone. Not only by writing, setting or refining it, but by sharing their experiences and giving testimonies, many subjects have decided to contribute to this website. I believe that its construction is really well structured. There are two parts to this section; one being interactive, which allows the reader to have easy access to any year desired when looking for precise information. He or she surfs from date to date and discovers the hidden facts when clicking on the years. The other one being titled “Research” provides a continuous and direct version of the information given in the interactive part. It provides the reader with a fast access to what he or she is looking for. The informative paragraphs are short, but well written. Furthermore, they are clear, precise, and concise. One does not have to reach the highest academic level to read its content. The author identifies well the important sections by changing the color and making the titles bigger.

From the first to the last line, everything is told. For whoever wants to learn more about the history of the education of aboriginal people, this timeline tells it all; how it all started, who participated in establishing the schools, what are the types of education offered, who were to go, what was life like being in a residential school, the treaties and acts related to Aboriginal people’s conditions, how it all ended and so much more. The fact that the author provides pictures, uses simple vocabulary as well as emphasizes the important facts of the Aboriginals’ educational history is what makes this website so relevant. Even though this website is quite simple, I believe it would not be hard to lose track while surfing on this website because there is lots of non-relevant information related to the subject. Several dates discuss treaties and acts, which are important and related at some point to the education of Aboriginal people, but which I believe could confuse the readers.

However, even though there is more content than needed, each paragraph pinpoints the main historical facts about the Aboriginal people’s education. Furthermore, what I find most interesting is the fact that the timeline continues until today. Even though the schools have been closed for several years now, the website still provides the readers with testimonies of seven generations from now. Everything read is relevant to one’s general culture. These testimonies are essential to today’s culture; they help to understand and feel what the survivors experienced and make us realize that these schools had a huge impact on Aboriginal culture.

In order to understand today’s generation, one must be aware of their stories. From what I have learned in several of my literature classes, I am aware of the permanent effects Residential schools had on Aboriginal people. What I was not aware of was the fact that the effects of physical and sexual abuse were passed on to the children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of Aboriginal people who attended these schools. It did not terrorize only one generation, but also the descendants of this generation. Moreover, learning and reading about the Residential schools was hard because of the many appalling testimonies.

Work Cited

Where Are the Children . 2001. Legacy Of Hope Foundation. 27 03 2016. <http://wherearethechildren.ca/timeline/&gt;.

 

 

A Commentary Marie Battiste’s “Knowledge as a Key Site for Decolonization.”

Tara Hassanalizadeh Shokraei

Marie Battiste is an educator that comes from Potlotek First Nations. She is a powerful speaker and has
done numerous lectures such as “Knowledge as a Key Site for Decolonization”, “Why Indigenous Humanities? Who gets to be human?”; “Regenerating Successes with Indigenous Knowledge: Possibilities, Practices, and Perplexities within Eurocentric Education”; and “What is learning spirit?”. These lectures were presented at different times and places across Canada in order to help raise awareness. In the Mi’kmaw archives, it is stated that “her research interests are in initiating institutional change in the decolonization of education, language and social justice policy and power, anti-oppressive approaches that recognize and affirm the cultural and linguistic diversity of Canada” (“Marie Battiste”). Consequently, we can easily understand why these lectures are so important to her; she wants to mke anScreen Shot 2016-05-13 at 12.47.56 PM.png impact on the lives of the indigenous people’s children. In a way, she wants to bring back their culture. Hence, this will allow you to grasp the important elements of each of these lectures.

Knowledge as a Key Site for Decolonization

This lecture was focused on the fact that the indigenous people were obliged to forget about who they were in order to become more like Whites. They were forced into residential schools, where they were controlled by the government impositions and federal policy. It is understood that indigenous people had no choice but to forget their culture, their language, and who they were, in residential schools. These institutions brutally enforced certain patterns of relating and behaving to become like “others” and they were considered inhumane. The speaker explains how they are beginning to understand the actual impact that these powerful people have had on them: “Indigenous humanity is something that is being threatened by globalization, assimilation, education and we are at a place where we realize the deeper cuts”. Sadly, it is obvious that the Natives have been through traumatic abusive situations and they will forever fight for their ancestors as well as for their future generations. Finally, Battiste concludes her lecture by explaining how there is hope and that with the help of numerous people around the world, there is a strong movement that will help create a better future for the Natives: “our efforts have been to deconstruct the critique the Eurocentric humanities and their exclusions and to begin to bring forward as well as reclaim, renew, restore and regenerate the knowledge that are still within our communities”. Battiste confirms that this strong activist movement across Canada and other countries around the world will help raise awareness: a new world with more opportunity for the indigenous people.

Why Indigenous Humanities? Who gets to be Human?

This lecture resembles the previous lecture a lot. Battiste is trying to explain that the Natives are human; they are like everyone else in society and they are trying to make their place in the world. She explains how these people are: “People who are living in a particular place, in a particular environment, trying to survive with the water they have, trying to survive in the land they have, and those are the kinds of survival issues that have always been a part of indigenous peoples’ living”. This shows that they are not bothering anyone in the society, they are not trying to take over society and change their ways: they just want to be heard, understood and respected. Is that too much to ask for? Indigenous people have been brought up in an environment where everyone is “one”, a world where everyone uplifts one another. They fall together and they rise together. Battiste states that Whites should learn from them: “[I]ndigenous people create relationships with one another rather than focusing on the economy making money” (“Why Indigenous Humanities? Who Gets to Be Human?”. There is so much to learn about the Natives and their customs: “their values, honoring water, their land, their animals and being able to bring all of those things that are a part of our everyday survival back into our consciousness so that we can have a future”. All in all, the speaker suggests that after the western education accepted a small portion of indigenous knowledge; more and more people were interested in knowing about their rights, their values, their beliefs and what they have been through. Once the Native culture rises, others will see the amount of things that we can learn from each other and create a better world for the following generations.

Regenerating Successes with Indigenous Knowledge: Possibilities, Practices, and Perplexities within Eurocentric Education

Battiste’s lecture about possibilities, practices and perplexities within Eurocentric education helps one acknowledge that if Whites and Natives would cooperate, it could help improve everyone’s well being. For instance, it would enhance equity and it would allow everyone to share responsibilities. The speaker explains how much hope she has about the indigenous people in Canada. She demonstrates her predictions by explaining that there is a burgeoning of aboriginal people. She even mentions that: “currently they are 4% of the community, and that 4% consists of people who are under the age of 29” (“Regenerating Successes with Indigenous Knowledge”). Consequentely, by 2017, the percentage will increase immensely. These innocent people are “connected to their lands”. Everything has a spiritual meaning and they see beyond what others choose to see. They could help others create new perspectives and create new horizons for the future generations. Eurocentric people have been ignoring indigenous people because they are afraid of feeling powerless; yet it is crucial to understand that Indigenous people will have a positive impact on the world. Battiste explains that one of the solutions to help indigenous people become more noticeable is by “focusing on the ‘Indigenous students’” and giving less attention to “whiteness, dominance, normalization of status quo, and the complicity with privilege and discrimination” (“Regenerating Successes with Indigenous Knowledge”). This will allow people with power to help the minorities surface.

What is learning spirit?

Battiste explains how Natives believe that they are in a continuous learning process. They live and relive in order to become the best versions of themselves. Everything they go through has a purpose. They learn in order to know what to do today, tomorrow or in their next life. The Native speaker also describes that everyone has the support of learning spirits. One simply needs these spiritual guides to help them understand their purpose on earth; all with the objective of “finding inspiration in yourself from within” (“What Is Learning Spirit?”). Indigenous people encouraged these beliefs because when they went into institutions, they were mentally and physically abused and forced to forget about their worth and values. In a way, the colonizers were conditioning them into forgetting their purpose on Earth, which would often lead to suicide or alcohol or drug addiction. The settlers’ motive was to diminish Native culture. Hence, this is why we must remind one another that they should prioritize their spiritual beliefs in order to help themselves recover all of their lost culture and language.

Works Cited

DifferentKnowings. “Marie Battiste: Knowledge as a Key Site for Decolonization.” YouTube.

YouTube, 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.

Dr MarcSpooner. “Marie Battiste Regenerating Successes with Indigenous Knowledge.”

YouTube. YouTube, 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.

DifferentKnowings. “Marie Battiste: What Is Learning Spirit?” YouTube. YouTube, 2011. Web.

24 Mar. 2016.

DifferentKnowings. “Marie Battiste: Why Indigenous Humanities? Who Gets to Be     Human?”

YouTube. YouTube, 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.

“Marie Battiste.” Tepi’ketuek Mi’kmaw Archives. Web.24 Mar.2016.

 

 

Inuit and Northern Experiences – TRC

Noémie Bécotte

For many years, indigenous people have encountered many difficulties and most of the population of today’s society does not know that much about what happened to their ancestors. Most of us know that they were here long time before us, but have no idea of aboriginals’ experiences. We can see through many books, songs, and poems that the indigenous people have a desire to express what they went through as a community. They write and speak with the use of testimonies in order to support their experiences. We can see their authenticity through their oral discourses. In the following lines, I will focus on the Inuit community and Northern Experiences. First, I will emphasize the role of residential schools at that time and their evolution. Secondly, I will concentrate on abuse that the students had to endure and their allegations, and finally, the Constitution Act and the federal government that helped indigenous people recover their lives.

To start with, the first residential schools were established in the 1840s and the last one closed in 1996 which is not that long ago. The main purpose of the system of industrial schools was to separate children from their parents. In fact, they created that system to reduce the influence of Inuits’ original culture to eventually civilize them. White people wanted to assimilate the children into the dominant Canadian culture: « Forcing them to conform to a new and very foreign place” (117). Moreover, they had to obey authority, and could not express their opinions. In fact, the main idea of residential schools was to make indigenous children forget where they came from and who they really were. It became so usual for them that they came to a mind that it was normal and that they would not even belong to their community. Moreover, students would feel as if they were in the army since it was very strict: “It seems like we walked into the army, it felt totally cold, as if we went to a total alien place. We had to line up and to wear uniforms” (118). In fact, white people wanted Inuit culture to disappear and residential schools were a good way to do so. Some statistics prove that approximately 30% of the native children or about 150,000 children attended residential schools in Canada (CBCnews).

At the same time, children in residential schools were not easily assimilated to the Canadian culture. I want to focus on the fact that a lot of them got abused and harshly punished, but mostly on their allegations. When children would resist the authority, disobey, or make mistakes, they would be exposed to physical and sexual abuses by the staff members which I believe is unhuman. Children would be smashed in the face with fists, rulers, belts, etc. until they bleed.”(131) A lady from the Northwest Territory that was sexually abused tells her story: “I was taken from my bed with my mouth covered and it was a fear of telling anyone about the abuse.” (142) Children would also go through physical abuse: “his head forcibly submerged in a bucket of water. I was subjected to physical pain on my hands, fingers repeatedly being whacked with a scissors, my ears were pulled, and knuckle whacked on top of the head, hair was pulled and we were kicked.”(67) Brief, they were exposed to terrible punishment. The most unbelievable and unacceptable thing in those kinds of stories is that the allegations were not raised until the 1990s and even more (142). It must have been a deliberation for them, but at the same time terrible to immerse themselves into those negatives memories. Those allegations should have been settled long time ago.

Fortunately, there was an end to all of this nightmare. In the 1950s, the natural resources in the North territories got the federal government to develop political authority in their communities but also in their territories (88). With those changes, Inuit people have started to gain hope when thinking about the abolition of the mission of residential schools. After years of negotiations, Northwest Territories were the first to be taken into the hands of the federal government which lead to the abolition of the previous educational system (88). “In 1982, the Constitution Act is revised and now recognizes and affirms the rights of the Inuit Indians.” (University of British Columbia). Then, many discussions between survivors, the government and the Canadian public lead to the creation of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People which is an institute that helps them in many aspects of their lives (Historica Canada). In 2007, the court recognized all the injuries and damages executed in the Indian residential schools, and gave 2 billion dollars of recompense for the 86,000 people who were separated from their families and forced to attend these schools (Historica Canada). To conclude, “the IRSSA was the largest class action settlement in Canadian history” (Historica Canada).

Personally, I believe that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s publication on The Inuit and Northern Experiencetells the truth about Inuit communities. I liked the way it was written and the use of testimonies from Inuit children gives authenticity to the text. I have read many books about aboriginal people telling their stories as a community and it confirmed to me that children from residential schools went through terrible things and that nobody should or should endure that kind of treatment. It is unbelievable to think of a little child being slapped in the face over and over again, or little girls and boys being sexually abused. Books I have read were only story telling from aboriginal people, but this lecture allowed me to understand their whole story from start to end and how the Government took charge of their cases. However, I believe that it took too much time for the federal Government to realize the problems. But we can say that it ended on a good note. I am happy to see that everything is now under control and that aboriginal people now have social advantages, but it will never replace what they have encountered. I believe everyone should be aware of their ancestors and their story since they were the first on our territories. It is worth knowing the Inuit for who they are and what they did. Their perseverance and courage should inspire us. Whatever the type of struggles they had to overcome, they have always had an internal strength which made all the difference in the way they succeeded and got out of this vicious circle.

Works Cited

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Canada’s Residential Schools: The Inuit and          Northern Experience, McGill-Queen’s University Press Montreal & Kingston • London • Chicago, Print.

CBC News, Radio-Canada. A history of residential schools in Canada. March 2008. Web Site.

University of British Columbia. First Nations and Indigenous Studies, Constitution Act. 2009. Web Site.

Historica Canada. Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.2015. Web Site.

 

 

Canada’s Residential Schools: The Métis Experience

Claudia Boulianne

Métis are people who are born to parents of both indigenous and non-indigenous cultures who do not have the status of Indians under the Indian Act. We will see with this summary of The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada the Métis experience in Canada’s residential schools. Métis were admissible in the residential school system at various times because the government considered them as members of the “dangerous class”. Yet, the central goal of those residential sc
hools was to civilize and to assimilate children.

Children were sent to residential schools for many reasons, such as if they were orphans or if crisis struck their families or if parents wanted to educate their children. But the children had more chores to do then being educated. However, residential schools were originally meant only for status Indian children. “Despite shifting government policy on funding and admission, many non-status children attended residential schools”. (p. 11) There were three examples of Métis children who, were sent to residential schools. Madeleine Bird worked more than studied, but she was “proud of the skills she developed at the school” (p.8). Maria Campbell only remembered loneliness and fear of her year there. In 1899, James Gladstone was discharged from the school because of his status issues, but was readmitted a year later after a discussion between Ottawa and the local Indian agent. “This sort of exception became typical in the admission of students from families of mixed ancestry”(p. 14). “The boarding schools were generally church initiatives and received a lower level of federal funding than the industrial schools. As a result, the boarding schools were more likely to admit non-status children” (p. 14). Métis were not welcomed in the industrial schools because both native children and white teachers were racist against them. In 1899, principal Joseph Hugonnard worried that the Métis children “would become a perpetual danger for educated Indians and the community” (p. 15). However, Indian Affairs Minister Clifford Sifton did not agree and he allowed the admission of Métis children to residential schools. Nevertheless, government policy stays contradictory and erratic. For example, the federal government provided limited assistance to the Saint-Paul-des-Métis colony, a residential school for Métis students.

From 1899 to 1937, there were forty years of haphazard policy because Sifton’s memorandum of 1899 “was often cited by Indian Affairs officials as the basis of the departmental policy on this issue. However, the policy was never clear and its implementation was far from consistent.” (p. 21) His policy was not official until 1937. “From the early 1920s until the 1940s, Métis parents faced numerous barriers if they wanted to provide their children with a formal education” (p. 26). Despite this, when the churches had difficulty filling their school, they still accepted Métis students and sometimes they were able to charge parents of mixed descent children a fee. Nevertheless, the government sometimes obliged some schools to discharge children who did not have status. However, some school principals did not want to discharge some of their biggest and best trained children. For example, in 1909, the government did not want to close the Methodist school in Red Deer, Alberta, so they decided “to “wink” at the presence of Métis children in the school” (p. 22). The federal government did not want to pay for the education of non-status students, thus they wanted to minimize Métis in residential schools. They also wanted, without success, to transfer the cost of their education to the provincial government. An Indian Affairs school inspector did not agree with this and he used Sifton’s memorandum in his arguments by saying that without being brought up in their Indian residential schools they will becoming outcasts and menaces to society. But, even if the government tried to stop having half-breed in residential schools, they will fail every time because there were not enough status students to fill schools. However, Métis students knew that they were not supposed to be there and knew that at any moment they could be discharged by the government. Joseph Dion, a teacher in Alberta was frustrated with this whole Métis situation, so with other men they created the Métis Brotherhood of Alberta in the 1930s. This association led to “a Royal Commission in 1934 to study living conditions of Métis in the province.” (p. 28). The government realized that 80 per cent of the Métis children in Alberta did not receive proper education because they were excluded from formal education by the federal government policy itself. Therefore, this commission, finally, “led to the adoption of the Métis Population Betterment Act in 1938.”

Even after this Act, the Métis were still struggling to get educated. “In Manitoba, federal opposition to Métis enrolment in residential schools continued through the 1940s and early 1950s.” (p. 42) Government still wanted Indian and Métis to be in a separate school. However, church leaders still preferred to educate both groups of children under the same school act.

I find this outrageous that just because they were not fully Indians, Métis were expelled from residential schools by the federal government. Even if church leaders agree to give them proper education. Government was ignoring policies by not clearing them to their own advScreen Shot 2016-05-13 at 12.51.33 PM.pngantage. To my point of view, the Indian Act was only to silence First Nations and to have them in control. Therefore, paying for their education was a cost burden. I presume that is why they fought a lot to pay only for native children with status because they had no real interest in them, and even less in “Half-Breeds”.

Work Cited

Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Canada’s Residential Schools: The Métis Experience.

Montréal: McGil-Queen’s University Press. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.

 

 

The Legacy of Residential Schools in Canada

Camille Roy-Tremblay

In the section “What We Have Learned: The Principles of Truth and Reconciliation” of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, a chapter is dedicated to the legacy of residential schools; in other words, the impact that such institutions had, and still have today, on Aboriginal communities. This single chapter is a great way to acknowledge and understand Native peoples’ current living conditions. It gives insight into the reasons why their communities have numerous social, economic and health-care issues. It is indeed separated in those categories, giving each condition in residential schools that led to today’s state of affairs. Although it is now known that the residential schools were not only a failure as the government’s attempt to assimilate the First Nations, or what they said was to integrate them, into a more Canadian culture, but mostly a great mistake in terms of human rights. Today, what happened in those schools is reflected through communities who struggle to keep their culture and identities alive while still trying to be able to live within an imposed way of life.

The first thing approached in the Chapter is the impact of familial separation for long periods of time. Children were mostly taken from their families to be sent to residential schools or, sometimes, parents had to give up their rights and leave their charge to the school. During their time there, children were separated from their siblings and were barely allowed to see their parents, and on those rare occasions where they could, had to be supervised. Adding this factor to the lack of affection and the physical, sexual and psychological abuse, the children had increased chances of growing up not knowing their self-worth and falling into a vicious circle of violence, criminality and/or substance abuse once adult. This created a generation of indigenous people who struggled to take care of their children, and who themselves will have to go through the same spiral. They also explain the important number of children who found themselves in the child welfare system, and still do today, because the same system that destroyed families does not allow them to raise their own children and often places them in non-native families where economic conditions are better.

The second issue addressed in this chapter is the impact of residential schools on education. As previously stated, the government’s attempt to educate Aboriginal children could be interpreted as a complete failure. Their idea of education was through technical and industrial programs where children were, according to authorities, to learn things that would make them more useful to Canadian society, all of which was to be in a religious framework. Of course, the lack of funding aggravated the already poor conditions and so the residential schools became self-sustaining, which meant forced child labor. Inadequate education during a century of residential schools resulted to generations of illiterate Natives and as the report states: “The lack of role models and mentors, insufficient funds for the schools, inadequate teachers, and unsuitable curricula taught in a foreign language contributed to a dismal success rates.” Today, Native communities still lack in resources and, again, this contributes to a destructive cycle: Native people who cannot obtain more social or economical value in a society where education leads to better quality of life and good quality of life; this compromises the opportunity for higher education, and yet this path is part of the most valued and respected one in today’s society. Therefore, Native communities are isolated and left to themselves and according to the report are more inclined to need social assistance. The unemployment rate rises to 60% for Natives living on reserves and no matter what they do, their income is almost always lower than non-Natives.

The third issue addressed is cultural genocide. Through the residential school system, the government admitted trying to wash out the Aboriginal culture by not letting children speak their native language and banishing any kind of related item or celebration of Native culture. This is by far one of the most damaging aspects of residential schools and to some extent, colonization. Language and culture are at the very basis of a society; take them away and there is nothing left to share, especially in a society where oral culture is that crucial. “The schools drove a wedge between children and their parents” because children were taught that their parents’ culture and beliefs were irrelevant hell; in fact, hell awaited them if they practiced them. Native children were taught racism against their own people and how to hate themselves and envy “whites”.

How can a nation go through such torment and hate and be unscathed? If we take a look at their conditions then and now, nothing has changed; Aboriginal communities struggle to adapt to the colonizer, still 500 years later. This second to last chapter of the document paints a good picture of today’s Natives conditions. Most Canadians live with the “lazy Indian” stereotype, which I have grown up hearing. I had heard a few stories here and there on alcoholism and drug abuse, criminality or cigarette traffic, but never had I been educated on why were the First Nations were subject to such stereotypes. Now that I have read and researched more on the matter, which makes me a lot more sensitive to it, I can say that this particular document, and not only “The Legacy” chapter is extremely important if we want to get rid of systemic racism in Canada. A huge part of the reason why Aboriginal communities are put at the bottom of our vertical ethnic mosaic is because of residential schools, which is a part of Canadian history that is never taught, and we can easily imagine why.

Work Cited

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Truth and Reconciliation Final Report: “What

We Have Learned: Truth and Reconciliation Principles.” 2015. PDF Digital File.

 

 

A summary of a theoretical paper or live lecture or website on indigenous writing or other related issues

Rüveyda Altinisik

Note: In book or website or on-line lecture reviews, you should explain at least three of the main ideas covered, but do not try to cover all the ideas. Be selective. For a website review explain the goals, range, structure, contributors, and academic level or politics of the site, if relevant.  After you have described the main ideas/elements in neutral and informative style, you may want to give your own opinion of the work (for example, how informative, accessible, interesting, relevant it is, etc.) and what you learned from it. Book and web reviews should both describe and critique the work. If you find interesting web sources (hyperlinks) or images that are relevant, you can include those as well as informative hyperlinks.

QUESTION 9) An Exhibition http://wherearethechildren.ca/en/exhibition/

The website “Where are the children” is a site presenting an exhibition about the residential schools and how Indigenous children were treated there for many years. This exhibition is mobile, moving from town to town in Canada to acknowledge the history of residential schools. It started on December 2002 in Vancouver and the latest exhibition took place in 2013  in Red Deer College. Even the future venues are announced to give the chance to people to come and see the exhibition. First of all there is a summary of when the residential schools opened and who contributed to this. The site is composed of three main parts which correspond to the main ideas. We find a part called “exhibition” composed of 18 sections. The introduction is composed of two pictures, these pictures represents a little boy, Thomas Moore. In the first picture we can see him before he was taken to the residential school, he is dressed in his traditional clothes. On the other picture we see the same little boy after few years spent in residential school. His clothes are not the same, they are not traditional clothes but clothes that the colonizer imposed on him. This shows how residential schools changed the indigenous people’s way of living. In each section we can find many pictures showing Indigenous people, their houses, residential schools, family pictures, and also a map representing where the residential schools were located. All the sections are in chronological order, from the beginning when Indians were in their own homes and lands to when they had to leave their houses for residential schools and reserves. We can consider this part of the website as a real exhibition because of the many pictures presented and all the little texts explaining what allScreen Shot 2016-05-13 at 12.51.33 PM.png there pictures represent. It also shows what activities were practiced in class; for example,  there are many pictures of classes with the masters or sisters. We can also click on the pictures to open little windows where there are more detailed explanations about the pictures and also the life of the Indigenous people. This is a really detailed exhibition, we can even find architectural plans of the residential schools.

The websites second part is named “TIMELINE”, we can consider this part as a part of the exhibition. In this part we have an explanation for each date, and some of them are completed with a little icture. These dates are from 1615 to 2009. Everything is really easy to understand to everyone, each dates are clearly explained.

The websites third part is called “STORIES”. This is a part where we can find many videos of people talking about their experience in the residential schools. This is really interesting to listen the story of a person who lived there and to understand how the residential schools influenced their lives. What is really important also is that all the people were not in the same residential school, so we can know more about different schools systems.

This website is really accesible to everyone, really easy to use. The interactivity of each parts of the site gives people the will to go further and discover more about the subject. Also we can find easy ways to contact the site’s authors via facebook, or tweeter… everyone could join their pages to share their own ideas or experiences. This is also a way to contribute to the evolution of the website by adding your own experience. What is also really practical is that we can change the language of the website into french, so it is a bilingual website, really accessible to everyone. What makes this exhibition really attractive is that instead of being only a traditional exhibition this is also an exhibition accessible from the net and also from smartphones. People can be in touch with this exhibition through various social networks.

 

“The Cattle Thief”

Élise Larente Richer

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 12.51.33 PM.png“The Cattle Thief” is a poem written by the Mohawk E. Pauline Johnson. The writer’s father, a well-known Cree chief, and mother, an English woman, influenced her t
o have a different outlook on the relations between the English settlers and the native people. Her narrative poem begins with the description of a chief, the Cree Eagle chief, being a desperate thief. The English settlers are chasing down the chief to kill him; they are looking for revenge for the crime he committed. After tracking him around the prairies, the British men killed the man they were looking for. Wanting to express herself after the death of her father, the daughter of the chief takes his side and questions the actions taken by the British invaders against the Native. After having to endure the situation for a long time, she now expresses herself and she confronts them with what they have done to Natives. She highlights the elements in their history that had made their people what they are now, after the settlers colonized their land. The stronger themes developed in Johnson’s ballad are oppression, deprivation, and hypocrisy.

The relation described by Pauline Johnson in her poem can be interpreted as a cry for better days. She denounces the oppression of her people by the British settlers, signalling that religion was one instrument of oppression: “By a book, to save our souls from the sins you brought in your other hand!” (Johnson, 1895) The daughter of the Eagle chief is putting into words what the men who killed her father did to them over the years to their tribe. The oral tradition is at the center of the indigenous culture. So by verbalizing the acts in the ballad, she brings the facts back to life; she makes the men feel guilty about themselves. “You have cursed, and called him a Cattle Thief, though you robbed him first of bread.” (Johnson, 1895). We can feel that the chief’s daughter is taking a little bit of power over them, at last. By expressing herself, she takes oral power. “And the words outleapt from her shrunken lips in the language of the Cree, If you mean to touch that body, you must cut your way through me” (Johnson, 1895). In the poem, there are traces not only of an oppressed population, but also of serious deprivation. Johnson uses certain adjectives to make us understand that her people were being deprived of their indispensable resources: “Over that fleshless, hungry frame, starved to the bone and old; Over that wrinkled, tawny skin, unfed by the warmth of blood. Over those hungry, hollow eyes that glared for the sight of food.” (Johnson, 1895). The last theme observed in the poem, The Cattle Thief, is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is applicable to the British settlers who think they are in charge of their new world and accused the Cree chief of stealing: “Who thieved and raided, and scouted, who rode like a hurricane!” (Johnson, 1895). The settlers are accusing the Indigenous people of the region, when they are the ones who inflicted pain first. “You have cursed, and called him a Cattle Thief, though you robbed him first of bread -Robbed him and robbed my people—look there, at that shrunken face, Starved with a hollow hunger, we owe to you and your race!” (Johnson, 1895). By accusing and killing the Indigenous tribes, the settlers are trying to eradicate their problems. They do not want to share the land and resources or make compromises. The chief’s daughter takes the lead by making them realize them went too far and still want more. She is expressing her anger, in part to make sense of this complicated situation.

To conclude, the writer Pauline Johnson offers us a revisionary outlook on the complicated relation that the native population had with the British settlers. The three main themes of “The Cattle Thief” are oppression, deprivation, and hypocrisy, and they are the means that the writer uses to convey her massage to the readers, Indigenous or not. The scenes that Johnson described are filled with realistic descriptions than really bring us back in time. This poem that does not lose its meaning with time and is still a reminder of the historical facts.

 

Review of Canada’s Residential Schools:

Missing Children and Unmarked Burials

Simon Roy

Canada is often viewed as a good place to live. Many people believe there are no major problems here. In fact, Canadians are often seen by other cultures or countries as being too respectful, as being pacifists and as being a country that is willing to do almost anything to accommodate a culture. Furthermore, most of our military missions are perceived to be peace missions. The truth is we have our own problems and we are not as perfect as other countries would think; we too have our dark stories that are untold. One of these stories is about the residential school. It was not until recently that the government of Canada apologized for what happened to Natives who went to a residential school. So, in 2015, the government created a series of volumes called: The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. I am going to review Volume 4 called: Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials. This volume tries to “record and analyze the deaths at the school, and the presence and condition of student cemeteries, within the regulatory context in which the schools were intended to operate.” For this review, I will summarize what the report says about tuberculosis and I will summarize what they say about the nutrition of the native students.

First of all, the first major cause of death in residential schools was attributed to a disease called tuberculosis. The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada – Volume 4 explains what tuberculosis is and how to treat it. This disease is responsible for at least 40% of the deaths, but what is tuberculosis? The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada explains it by saying that it is a contagious disease that targets the lungs. This disease is contagious because a person that is infected by tuberculosis will “expel bacteria when they sneezed, cough, or spit.” (59) So, the cases of tuberculosis were higher in places with poor ventilation system and in places that were overcrowded. In the 19th century, tuberculosis was the major cause of death in North America and in Europe. According to The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: “Adequate diet, ventilation, and care were identified by the 1880s as essential in the care of tubercular patients.” (59). Being unable to provide these three conditions contributed to tuberculosis. In the late 19th century, people who had tuberculosis were often sent to a place called a sanatorium. They were sent there to get a treatment. The treatment varied from one institution to another, but, generally, the treatment included a healthy diet, lots of rest, and fresh air. This kind of treatment did not cure the patient. The treatment was only helping them to get better so they could live normally. In other words, it was used to put the disease in is latent state.

In residential schools, the treatment or the control of the disease was much more complex. According to TRC: “Schools were not prepared to identify and treat sick children, or to prevent infection from spreading to healthy children” (62). In fact, policies that would allow authorities to identify sick students were inexistent or were implemented very slowly. Also, in residential schools, there were few infirmaries and principals were reluctant to follow government policies because they did not have the funds or because they did not want their enrolment to be reduced. These two factors, contributed to the generalization of the disease among students and employees, since the schools were overcrowded and there were no places where they could isolate the students who were ill. Also, most of the time, there was nothing to separate the sick children from the healthy ones; thus, favoring the spread of the disease. After one of his inspections, Dr. F. L. Corbett’s said that: “if the principles of the sanatorium were incorporated in school design, the result would be ‘gratifying’ and tuberculosis would be reduced to a minimum” (64). After this, residential schools decided to have a room for those who were sick, but the conditions in which they were being treated did not help them recover. Finally, when it comes to the tuberculosis crisis, schools and the governments were presented with three choices. The first one was to close the school. The second one was to treat everybody by turning the school into a sanatorium. The last one was to develop a way to identify the ill students before they entered the school. Each of these solutions would have required funding from the government in order to improve the diet, the housing, and the clothing of the students, funding that never happened.

Nutrition in residential schools was mediocre, if not atrocious, and it contributed directly to tuberculosis and other diseases. After all, a good diet with a large quantity of milk was a way to treat and to prevent tuberculosis. The policies regarding nutrition in residential schools were mostly vague and incomplete. For example, a 1910 contract between the government and the church “obliged the school to provide students with subsistence… necessary to their personal comfort and safety” (50). Because of the lack of standards and poor funding, students from the residential schools had to eat poor quality food. In other words, they had a poor diet which contributed to making them ill. Furthermore, the provided food was even limited in quantity. So, it was normal to see hungry students stealing food and getting punished for it. The lack of food was, in many cases, the main reason for students who tried to run away from residential schools. Even some parents did not want to send their children to school if the diet did not improve. According to TRC “Despite the many negatives reports, the government was never prepared to provide the detailed direction needed to improve the diet- in large measure because officials were aware that few improvements could be made without a corresponding improvement in funding” (51). So, what residential school received were advice and no directives. According to TRC, the main reason behind the poor diet that students had was because of the underfunding of residential schools. After all, the government did not have to give a lot of money because residential schools were supposed to be self-sufficient. Furthermore, in the 1930s the government reduced the schools per capita by 15 %, even though the food was getting costlier. Another funding cut happened during the Second World War. These two cuts had a bad impact on the students’ diet. Schools had to use the money they received from the per capita to feed the students. The per capita funding method overcrowded residential schools because the more students they had, the more money they would get. Finally, residential school failed to correctly nourish their students for many decades. So, students had more chances to die from illness and, more specifically, tuberculosis

To conclude, the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is very interesting if you like history and you want to know more about residential schools, but if do not like unchronological structure and dates, this volume might be hard to read. Also, on one hand, it is interesting to know about the governmental reasons behind the bad nutrition and the tuberculosis crisis in residential schools. On the other hand, the poor nutrition was not always due to poor funding. For example, according to ex-students, employees ate very well in some residential schools while the students ate poor food. So, I find it sad that this piece of information was not mentioned once. This made it feel like they purposely omitted some information. Finally, if you have no knowledge about residential schools you will learn a lot, but if you already have a good knowledge on this subject, for example, by reading residential school narratives such as Isabelle Knockwood’s, you will not learn much. Overall, I really enjoyed reading Chapter 2, it gave me a new perspective on residential schools’ problems which is the perception of the government.

Work Cited

Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials http://www.myrobust.com/websites/trcinstitution/File/Reports/Volume_4_Missing_Children_English_Web.pdf McGill Queens University, 2016.

 

Native Culture

 Taboos, Shamanism, and Indigenous Worldviews 

Théo Traup

Shamanism is a practice that involves a person able to reach a certain state of consciousness that will enable that person to cross the borders between our physical world and the spiritual world. That person is some sort of practitioner and is called a shaman. This practice can be found in many places around the world, such as America, Africa, India, Russia and Asia, but it plays an especially central role in Native Americans’ culture. In most of the Northern American Native tribes, the shamans’ role, along with many other functions, is to lead people towards a good life, a good path both in the physical and in the spiritual world. In order to understand this “religious” belief, one must first look at the Natives’ perception of the world that surrounds them and the taboos that result from their perception. Therefore I will first look at the Indigenous interpretation of the world and then focus on the practice of shamanism itself.

It is important to know that Native American way of life is much more related to nature than the common Western lifestyles. The Indigenous vision of the objects and elements that surround them are based upon the fact that each of them, including man itself, has a body, an image and a soul. The body is nothing but a shell that contains the soul and image. Broadly speaking, the image is located in the brain but works aside from the body. It is the image that will guide the body and the mind according to certain situation; it is somehow what the Western man would call “instinct”. The soul, in accordance with Native Americans, is probably the most important part of a being. The soul is located in the heart, but as the image, generally works apart from the body. It is the intelligent part and the will of the being. Intelligent as it will enable the body to interpret things, to feel things and understand them in order to remember them. Diamond Jenness states therefore that “it is the soul that experiences pleasure, grief and anger.” The will, or the soul helps the body to achieve things; it is the invisible entity that will push you to do things and complete them. An insane man, and a drunk man as well, will be said to have lost their souls. Furthermore, since all beings present on earth possess a body, an image and a soul, communication is therefore possible between men and everything around them. And these relations between men, animals, trees, stones, water and other natural beings are often the cause of taboos among Native tribes. Later, I will develop more about those taboos and their strong connection with shamanism. Knowing all that, it is easier to understand the spirituality of some Native beliefs and practices and especially the role of the shaman, as the one who can reach this unknown spiritual world and make a connection with the physical world, with the Mother Earth.

First and foremost, it is important to know how shamans are chosen, well they are not. According to several writings and interviews about the practice of shamanism, we can know that a child, boy or girl, could become a shaman before its own birth. And that is those taboos mentioned previously that help elders to know whether a child – before its birth or in early childhood –  has the abilities to become a good shaman. If the child has abilities, other shamans will help to train the said child. The latter will be “tested, forbidding [himself] from eating and drinking for many days, waiting for new-found spiritual ability” (Eric Anoee, 1977:13). Taboos varied from one tribe to another, but most of the time they are linked with animals and plants that should not be killed, preparations for warriors and hunters, the way way some animals should be killed, pregnancy, food custom, children education, death and others. Even though taboos varied depending on the tribes and the ecosystem surrounding them, their purpose and their origin are often quite similar. For instance, in tribes located in the Nunavut territory, when a woman just had babies or when women are menstruating, they should not be eating anything brought by a man considered as taboo. Those men are called tiringnaqtuq in Inuktikut. In Cherokee clans, when a women give birth she is to avoid her husband, so she must not have sexual intercourse with him. She must not prepare meals for him and should even try not to touch him. When a Cherokee woman is in her moon time (menstruating), she should be separate from the community.

If the member of a tribe breaks a taboo he/she must confess it to the shaman in order to prevent any major problems, and if the troubles have already come, he/she must confess it as well so the shaman can fix the problem, heal the disease or whatever. Children that have a “great sensitiveness to any breach of taboo was a sign that [they] should live to be great shamans” (Rasmussen, 1929:116).

Not all shamans are considered as good shamans, for they are linked with the spiritual world and there can be both good and evil spirits, thus there can be evil shaman as well. Good shamans are bearers of good spirits and have therefore strong shamanistic power that can heal, protect, teach or find people.. Spirits belong to the shamanic upper and lower worlds. Upper world spirits are mostly spirit teachers and lower world spirits are mostly spirit helpers that often take the shape of animals. Most of the shamans will have the same kind of practices, including drums, songs, dances, amulets, or healing rituals. Each practice has its own use  according to the tribe. Singing and dancing are primarily personal and help a shaman to find its True Self. It is through the “soul song”, while in a shamanic state of consciousness, that a shaman can find its True Self, or even that an individual can discovers that he or she has become a shaman. Amulets are essentially to protect people. Healing rituals, once again, vary according to the tribe, but most of the time they include a shaman’s soul journey in which the shaman will try to find the broken taboos, which is the nature of the illness. Once the shaman has found it, the sick person, as mentioned previously, must confess the transgressed taboo so the shaman can heal the person. During those shamanic journeys, shamans use special dresses and special instruments (ropes, caribou skin, plants etc). In a way, shamans are trusted men and women such as doctors, except that they have the ability to cross the borders of the spiritual and the physical world, a power that enables them to understand “the realm of mind and thoughts” (Diamond Jenness, 1930: 62).

Nowadays there is an increasing scepticism among Indigenous people regarding the practice of shamanism and others “religious” practices and beliefs. It is partly due to the fact that more and more people claim to know about the physical laws that rule natural events. Nevertheless, many Indigenous people still trust their traditional beliefs. And I, personally, hope that shamanism, along with other spiritual practices, will be used for many years to come. For it does not seek to explain everything, but represents magnificently, and also logically, the place of man in the world as merely equal to everything surrounding him, considering that every natural object has a soul.

Works Cited

Chapter Seventeen: Shamanism, Uqalurait An Oral History of Nunavut, by John Bennett and Susan Rowley, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Chapter 17, pp 176-186. 2004

“The Indian’s Interpretation of Man and Nature.” by Diamond Jenness, Proceedings and Transactions  of  the  Royal  Society of  Canada, vol. XXIV, section II, pp.57-62. 1930

SHAMANISM101, Shamanic Spirits, http://www.shamanism101.com/Shamanic-Spirits.html, webpage visited on 24/03/2016

AAANATIVEARTS, Cherokee Taboos, http://www.aaanativearts.com/cherokee/cherokee-taboos.htm, webpage visited on 24/03/2016

 

 

Neal McLeod : Indigenous Heritage and Methods of Teaching

Alexandre Masson

Neal McLeod, professor of Indigenious Studies at the University of Trent in Ontario, has an interesting and innovative take on indigenous culture and how to teach it. In an interview with professor Daniel Coleman at McMaster University, he talked about various subjects such as the Cree culture, his own roots, how to interest people in indigenous studies, and how to preserve the said culture. On the subject of knowledge, he said that one’s knowledge is not always measured by education and diplomas. One might have a PhD for instance, but it does not mean that he or she has more knowledge than somebody else who does not possess one; just that their knowledge is different. As an example, he points out that despite his Cree heritage, he does not know how to hunt and would probably die if he got lost in the woods. Therefore, knowledge cannot be measured solely in terms of educational background. He gives another example in relation with his Cree roots saying that his uncle, who had a grade six education, spoke Cree as well as English, read Aristotle, Plato, and Marx, and was very well read overall. These examples prove that knowledge is not always tied to education or schooling, and Native people possess a lot of knowledge.

The dominant way of telling a story for Native people is orally. McLeod is a big advocate of telling those stories and, as a result, is not that preoccupied with respecting the traditional way of evaluating his students, or respecting every single Native tradition. He suggests that stories are made to be told and should be told no matter what traditional restriction one might want to observe. He argues that if a story exists and is not told, then it will die, and there is no point in telling stories only to let them die afterwards. Letting a story die is to let a part of the culture die. As for his methods of teaching, McLeod gives the example of a student of his whom he recognized as funny. This student, instead of having to write a conventional research paper, will do a stand-up comedy routine as part of his evaluation. McLeod says that his Native heritage drives him to be a lot more liberal when it comes to evaluating students, and that for some, the accepted way of doing things might not be the best way. Asked if he thinks that both Native and European cultures can coexist, he assures us that they can, since if they could not, he would not have an identity himself, since he is half Cree and half Swedish. On that topic, he also believes that in order for the two cultures to coexist and understand each other, more scholars should make an effort to speak indigenous languages, saying that some of them have been studying Native cultures for more than twenty years while complaining that it was dying and that we were not doing what was necessary to save it, but they never bothered to learn a single word of the language of the people they were studying! He argues that “ during that time, instead of complaining, you could have learned ten words.” In short, if you want to save a culture, the best way to do it is to live in it rather than study it from a distance. Continuing on the topic of colonization, he said that not all colonizers had bad intentions, referring to his Swedish roots and the fact that his family had immigrated to Canada because of poverty and they were in search of a better life rather than wanting to acquire land.

Despite the fact that Native traditions call for oral literature rather than the European model of written literature, it is possible to help preserve orality using the European way, with the help of outsiders. As an example, he refers to a friend of his, Arok Wolvengrey, who despite not being Cree himself, has written the most extensive and detailed dictionary of Cree language available, making it possible for anybody to have access to a comprehensive database of the Cree language. Therefore, it is by learning about the culture and making an effort to understand it that we can help preserve it rather than just studying it as an outsider.

Going back to his teaching philosophy, he is, as mentioned before, quite different from the majority of his colleagues. To him, the “narrative and knowledge of indigenous elders is the foundation of the discipline of Indian Studies.” This means that he believes that through the knowledge of the elders and the story they share, we can learn more than with any other available tools. Elders are the ones who possess the knowledge that is important to understanding indigenous culture, which brings us back to his point that knowledge and formal education can at times be very far removed from each other. Most of this elder knowledge as he points out, comes from the oral tradition and it is therefore important for him to incorporate some elements of it in his teaching. As a result, he encourages a dialogue between his students and himself, since their knowledge can be as valuable as his.

In short, McLeod believes that a dialogue between the colonizer and the colonized is very possible, as long as the colonizer is open to the other cultures and makes an effort to understand them and incorporate them into his or her life. It is not enough just to study the culture; it is also important to try and learn the language, the traditions, and the ways in which stories and knowledge are passed from one to another. When someone from another culture teaches you something, his educational background, in the classic sense of the term. is of little importance. There are things that we know, and there are things that the person facing us knows. What matters is that the both of us can learn from each other. In the case of Native culture, it has a long tradition of oral history and communion with nature and it is our duty as people who take an interest in this culture to try to understand it and preserve it.

Works Cited

McLeod, Neal. Interview by Daniel Coleman. “Speaking With Neal McLeod At Mcmaster University” Youtube. Different Knowings, 21 August 2014. Web. April 5 2016.

Mcleod, Neal. Teaching Philosophy. Trent U, Web. April 5 2016.

 

Teachings of the Piikani Nation

The Piikani Nation is part of a larger collective of First Nations called the Blackfoot Confederacy. The Piikani, Siksika, and the Bloods are united in this confederacy under a common language, Blackfoot. It is worth noting that the Tsuu T’ina also fall under the Blackfoot Confederacy, though they speak an unrelated language. The Piikani Nation sits on the U.S.-Canadian border, reaching from Alberta to northern Montana. The political border has divided the Piikani into Aapátohsipikáni, or “Northern Piikani,” and Aamsskáápipikani, “Southern Piikani” (Jones 77). Their modern territory was established in 1877 by an agreement between Queen Victoria and the Blackfoot Confederacy, among others, under what is known as Treaty 7. Today, the Old Man River Cultural Centre, located on the Northern Piikani Nation, is working to preserve and protect Piikani culture while looking for ways to translate its elements into Western education and governing systems.

The Piikani worldview could be considered ‘circular.’ According to Dr. Reg Crowshoe, a former chief of the Piikani, many elders in the Piikani Nation consider the Piikani to be a part of a greater ‘oral circle’ that spans across the first nations of North America. This may be reflected in the structure of traditional Piikani tipis.

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People participating in a ceremony commonly sit around the rim of the tipi, facing the center, where a fire is kept. Each person has a role and a place relative to the ceremony, and everyone is equal, in this way. The circular form of the ceremony emphasized working together as a group, with every part of said group vital.

In Piikani culture, one is taught that humans are not just equal to one another, but created equal to all of creation— animals, plants, insects, the stars, etc. One of the many roles of each individual in the Piikani society is to learn the act of respecting, and practice what Dr. Reg Crowshoe calls ‘true discernment,’ which aids in that. He has a wonderful recounting of the moment he came to realize what true discernment meant after he set out on a vision quest; he was able to funnel all his being into his five senses and understand in full that they were truly gifts from the Creator. With this understanding came respect— respect for these gifts, the Creator, and all of creation.

Such vision quests can also grant individuals with ‘rites.’ Rites are ceremonies and rituals that must be strictly cared for and practiced in order to maintain the cultural knowledge held within them. Some rites are considered to be ‘transferred’ rites, which contain sacred knowledge reaching far back to the beginning of creation.

Transferring rites is subject to the Piikani legal processes. When taking on a transferred rite, one must be able to perform the correct dance and song, and to understand the language, all within the correct venue, in order to receive the responsibility of caring for the knowledge contained in that rite.

These rites are linked to the Piikani Nations’s bundles. A bundle contains items of accumulated cultural knowledge, often given to them in encounters with spirit beings. Each relic in a bundle will have meaning, and one can make vows to these relics in order to appeal to the Creator for help (for example, in health matters). These bundles are very sacred, sitting close to the center of tipis during ceremonies.
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However, many of these bundles had been lost during a time that the Blackfoot peoples grappled with the encroachment of western civilisation; a number ended up in museums or private collections. Some were sold in face of economic hardship— others given up for the sake of protection. Whatever the case, more than 100 sacred bundles have been returned to Blackfoot communities through the efforts of First Nation leaders and Alberta’s First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Act (Walton, “Sacred Bundles”).

Loss of sacred and ceremonial items is not the only challenge the Piikani Nation has been faced with over the years; the Piikani have had to learn how to approach elements of western society while still remaining true to and incorporating their deep-set beliefs and practices. Dr. Reg Crowshoe laments how, often, teaching their children about their own Piikani culture means translating it back to them through a Western education system, which is not always compatible.

However, he says, there are ways to interpret Western culture through a Piikani lens— he uses a boardroom as an example. The topic can parallel the bundle in traditional Piikani ceremony, approached with reverence and care. The gavel is used to start meetings and works much like the smudge altar of a Piikani ceremony, and elders still need to be present to guide decision-making processes.

In fact, the famous story behind the signing of Treaty 7 has a similar Piikani-Western crossover— before the chiefs signed the treaty, they had to perform ceremonial song and dance and imbue that tradition into the signing of a Western document.

The people of the Piikani Nation have a rich history that can be traced back through their bundles and rites. Their culture continues to thrive and adapt in the face of a changing world.

Works Cited

Crowshoe, Reg, Dr., and Geoff Crow Eagle. “Piikani Blackfoot Teaching.” Four Directions                         Teachings – Aboriginal Online Teachings and Resource Centre. 4D Interactive Inc., 2012.                     Web. 05 Apr. 2016.

Jones, Mari C., and Sarah Ogilvie. Keeping Languages Alive: Documentation, Pedagogy and                      Revitalization. Cambridge: U Printing House, 2013. Print.

Walton, Dawn. “Sacred Bundles Hold Centuries of Secrets.” The Globe and Mail (2009): n. pag.   Web. 05 Apr. 2016.

 

Jeannette Armstrong’s Poem

Roxanne Beaudry

Born in 1948, Jeannette Armstrong grew up in British Columbia on the Penticton Indian Reserve to become the first native woman novelist from Canada (Johnson, & Curtright, 2004). Not only is she an engaged novelist, she is a poet, a teacher and a know activist. In 1985 she published her famous first novel Slash. Later she published her poetry through Breath Tracks (1991) and then Native Poetry in Canada : A Comtemporary Anthology (2001). One of her poems that stood out to me is “Indian Woman.” Her poem offers different points of view to the reader. One can read through various angles: prejudice and feminism, fatality and hope, and post-colonialism. In this poem, Armstrong addresses the condition of the native woman. She starts by writing about strong stereotypes about the native woman. She goes as far as not only comparing her to a mammal but, perhaps ironically, suggesting this is all she is. Her only purpose and use is reproduction, pure reproduction, nothing more: “I am a female only in the ability to breed and bear papooses to be carried quaintly on a board or lost to welfare”. In this passage Armstrong suggests that the role and ability of the native woman in the public view cannot go beyond reproduction, that after that they fail. They fail at raising their children; they raise them to welfare. The native woman is blamed for producing children that are capable of nothing better than social welfare. And all this, she writes as if it were normal, simple and usual, as if what she states as facts had no repercussions on the native woman. She writes that these perceptions do not generate emotions “I have not feelings”. And this lack of feelings serves as a justification and explanation for abuse. since the native woman with no emotions will not react to these revolting acts. In fact, she writes that the native woman’s body is only used to be “raped, beaten, and bludgeoned in some B-grade western.” The author presents the body of the native woman as having no history, no reason, no explanation, and no life; she says it is only good “to be painted or photographed sold and hung on lawyers’ wall”. Here the native woman literary is an object of culture; her body is used as an object and this only. Armstrong keeps this tone and view point of the native woman until a turning point; when she says “Someone is lying.” At this point, she writes about the complete opposite of what the native woman was considered to be previously. She displays her as being far more than a weak mammal. In fact, she says she is a “the keeper of generations” and “the strength of nations”. This native woman does not “bear papooses”; she is gives life “to whole tribes”. She is a powerful woman. She has a history and culture and knows how to transmit it to future generations and to the others.
The speaker refers to “the other” several times in the text, a reference from which we can relate to post-colonization. In fact, in the first part of the poem the speaker presents the Indian woman in a negative manner; she is presented as the stereotype of colonizers may have of her. The indian woman is described with factual words as an emotionless mammal meant to be used as trophy or as a breeder only. In other words, the speaker presents facts about the common stereotype post-colonizers may consider as reality, truth, and facts. And then, as if the Indian woman had just been described by “the other”, the speaker points out that “Some one is lying”. Someone is describing the Indian woman wrongly, someone is lying to others about the Indian woman, and the Indian woman is lying to herself about herself. At this point in the poem, the reader can observe a major shift in the speaker’s voices and tone. The speaker, whom we could assume to be the Indian woman herself, finds her own identity again and finds the courage to believe in herself and expresses it to others. She also talks about the next generations and how she will teach them about her reality and story, about her heritage and culture. With all the strength found in the second half of the poem, the speaker firmly expresses her need for identity and the power that she has to support or to challenge others. She clearly says to the other “I am a sacred trust”, “I am Indian woman”. She says it not only as a personal characteristic, but as a profound cultural identity, something that simply is her identity.

When reading Jeannette Armstrong’s poem “Indian Woman,” several themes can be considered by a reader. Feminism is the first that caught my attention, but after close-reading I realized that not only is the author addressing feminism, she is especially addressing Native feminism, a form of feminism our society, colonizers descendants, should recognize as a major cause. This poem caught my attention and touched me deeply. I believe Jeannette Armstrong’s poem should be read over and over again so that we will never forget.

Work Cited

Johnson, J. & Curtright, L. (2004). Jeannette Armstrong. Retrieved from the University of

Minnesota Digital Conservancy http://hdl.handle.net/11299/167857

 

 

Four Direction Teaching: Cree – A Summary

The Four Direction Teaching website allows people to learn about the beliefs and knowledge of five of the First Nations groups: the Blackfoot, the Cree, the Ojibwe, the Mohawk and the Mi’kmaq. The goal of the website is to share “Indigenous knowledge and philosophy” that would also allow teachers to use the oral traditions shared by elders in their own teaching. The principal contributor to the website is the Canadian Culture Online Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. For my web page contribution, I decided to focus on the Cree teaching that can be found on The Four Direction Teaching website. Mary Lee from Pelican Lake in Saskatchewan is the elder that shares the Cree teaching with the visitors of the website.

The first thing that the website’s visitors learn about the Cree knowledge is what they call the Medicine Wheel. The Cree elder narrating the website starts by explaining that there are four parts in human beings: spiritual, physical, emotional and mental. Together these four aspects form the Medicine Wheel. She shares that knowledge that in the Cree beliefs about the world, we need to balance all these four aspects. At the center of the Medicine Wheel, there is fire. To Mary Lee the fire represents the “self”. She explains that most people today tend to forget about two of the four aspects, the spiritual and emotional aspects. In that sense, many people are not balanced because of that. In fact, she suggests that people do not really know what it means to be emotional, that some of our reactions are “defense mechanisms” to actually protect this aspect. She also mentions that the problem with the spiritual aspect of the self is that we forget that it was the first thing we received when starting our journey into the world. She mentions that it is important to take the time to remember that. Balance is an important aspect of life to Cree people, I will discuss later the importance of balance when making a tipi and how they perceive it.

Another important idea expressed in this website concerns the making of a tipi or what she calls the tipi ceremony. Making a tipi to the Cree people has a much deeper meaning than simply building a tent with animal skins and poles. Mary Lee explains that to them, making a tipi is a ceremony. She shares that the position of the door on a tipi is very important, because it too has meaning. During the tipi ceremony, the door of the tipi has to face the direction of the east, because in their beliefs and knowledge of the world, the east represents the beginning of creation. However, it can face any direction after the tipi ceremony. Mary Lee shares that she believes that people nowadays tend to forget about the importance of the ceremony that comes with making a tipi. It is for that reason that when she is asked to make a tipi for someone, she guides that person into the tipi ceremony and teaching. Following animistic beliefs, Mary Lee talks about the Earth as Mother Earth. She explains that before she makes a tipi, she sits down on the ground and humbly offers tobacco to Mother Earth in return of all the material she is going to use in order to build a tipi. She explains that she offers tobacco at every step of the construction of the tipi, for every material she takes to Mother Earth, she gives tobacco back. Furthermore, she shares that the tipi is a woman’s symbol. In that sense, women must participate in the making of the tipi, because they are the ones that can teach how to build it. In that sense, making a tipi is an oral tradition to Cree women.

Additionally, Mary Lee discusses the structure of the tipi. She explains that tipis nowadays are much higher than they were before. In fact, she shares that she can make tipis that are twenty-two feet high. This is mainly due to the fact that today’s Cree people use different tools than before. The poles also play an important role in the structure of the tipis, because they carry meaning and teaching. For the Cree people, there are fifteen poles involved in the creation of a tipi. Each of them carries a lesson: obedience, respect, humility, happiness, love, faith, kinship, cleanliness, thankfulness, sharing, strength, good child rearing, hope and control flaps. She explains that there are fifteen poles tied to a tipi, thus there are fifteen teachings when making a tipi. While making the tipi, the Cree people take three poles: obedience, respect and humility. She explains that together they fortify the structure of what will become a tipi. Mary Lee shares a teaching about the three first poles that they use while making a tipi, by saying that when they are placed properly, they actually reinforce each other. She adds that “in order to make a family, you need three: the two parents and the child, to make the balance”. Therefore, the tipi is an important symbol for the Cree people.

Finally, I have to say that I have enjoyed my experience with the The Four Direction Teaching website. I believe that it demonstrates how much the oral tradition is important to the Indigenous people. On many occasions during her teaching on the website, she stresses the importance of the oral tradition in her culture as well as to herself. She mentions that what she is about to share with us came from the Cree women and that she is going to share these teachings with us. I think that this is very interesting that Mary Lee demonstrates the importance of oral traditions, as well as the importance of the elders, as they have a lot to teach us. Moreover, the animation for each teaching is extremely effective to help the visitors to clearly understand the knowledge and also makes it entertaining. I have learned a lot about the Cree knowledge and beliefs with the use of this website. In fact, this website can prove to be an effective tool to teachers as well. It offers learning activities that can be done in conjunction with the teaching of each Indigenous teaching provided on the website. It offers different learning activities for junior, intermediate and senior learners. I believe that this website is relevant and encourages the visitors to feel the need to learn more about Indigenous knowledge. And as Mary Lee shares, “you’re never done learning”.

Work Cited

“Four Directions Teachings.” Four Directions Teachings. Canadian Culture Online Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage, 2006. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. <http://www.fourdirectionsteachings.com/main.html&gt;.

 

Native Culture and the Canadian Government

Reconciliation

William Brubacher

The period of reconciliation in Canadian Native people’s history happened about ten years after the last residential school was shut down. The residential school system lasted for more than 100 years, during which Native children from all across the country were taken from their families to be ”educated” in these residential schools for the greater part of their youth. From 1876, when the Indian Act passed, until the late 20th century, approximately 150,000 native children were placed in residential schools. It is through some of those children’s stories that Canadians learned about the psychological and physical abuse they had endured in the residential school system.

It is in the light of the atrocities committed in the residential schools that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was established in 2008. The commission’s goal was to bring back a state of ”conciliation” between Canada’s governments and Indigenous people. This was a somewhat controversial goal, since some Native activists claimed there never was any state of conciliation between the two groups. The commission identified what it called its ”Calls to action” in two categories; Legacy and Reconciliation. The commission mandate defined reconciliation as:
”an ongoing individual and collective process, and will require commitment from all those affected including First Nations, Inuit and Métis. former Indian Residential School (irs) students, their families, communities, religious entities, former school employees, government and the people of Canada. Reconciliation may occur between any of the above groups.”(11)

This reconciliation process is to be achieved in multiple steps, but, most importantly, by letting Native communities reassess their cultural values and traditions as well as allowing them to regain a voice in their communities and throughout Canada. According to the commission, the process under which the reconciliation should be undertaken has to abide by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, meaning that the rights of all native communities throughout Canada should be recognized and respected. The TRC also characterizes the reconciliation as a healing process, and therefore states that it will require honesty and truth from the governments of Canada. The commission mandate is clear on the fact that, for reconciliation to happen, there needs to be actions taken towards the legacy of colonialism that have been harmful to native culture, language, and native people’s welfare. This means that the reconciliation can only happen in an inclusive and equal society where people of all communities are treated the same. As the TRC mentions, all Canadians share the responsibility to create and maintain this respectful society and therefore we must try and understand Native culture. Finally, the TRC emphasizes that all Canadians should work together to support native people, and try their best to understand their culture. There should be an open conversation about the events of residential schools and what needs to be done for reparation and then reconciliation.

In conclusion, the Commission on truth and reconciliation indicates that Canadians and Native people need to work together for there to ever be any state of conciliation. Although the reconciliation process will takes years, if reconciliation is even on its way, there is still hope that Native people will find more peace in their communities and that Canada as a society will grow from this period in its history.

Works Cited

Canada’s Residential Schools:Reconciliation The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume 6, Published for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission By McGill-Queen’s University Press Montreal & Kingston • London • Chicago, pp297