Ahnii …for those, who give a Hoot! Welcome to Go-ko-ko Odena. ‘Go-ko-ko’ is ‘Owl’ and ‘Odena’ is ‘place of many hearts’.
I remember when I first read Chief Dan George’s powerful “Lament for Confederation”, in 1967, to indigenous people and to Canadians. I finally heard the message, just recently on CBC’s “Has anything changed”.
I used part of his words when I applied to law school:
“Oh,God! Like the Thunderbird of old I shall rise again out of the sea; I shall grab the instruments of the white man’s success -his education, his skills, and with these new tools I shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society. Before I follow the great Chiefs who have gone before us, oh Canada, I shall see these things come to pass.”
At this time in my life I thought becoming a lawyer would make a difference. Then I read the words of Patricia-Monture Angus:
“What I have come to understand through my last ten years of involvement with the law is that it is not the answer I am looking for. Every oppression that has been foisted on Aboriginal people in the history of Canada has been implemented through laws. This includes child welfare apprehensions, residential schools, the outlawing of our sacred ceremonies, the prohibitions against both voting and hiring lawyers, the impact of the criminal justice systems, and the list goes on.
Law is not the answer. It is the problem. My experience of law has been about coming face to face with oppression, both my own (individual) and that of other Aboriginal people (systematic and individual). This is why the study of law is so profoundly painful for so many Aboriginal people”.
I remember reading a quote on a poster “to be born Indian is to be born political”. Quite an understatement, but sadly a true statement. Dealing with the legacy of legal, political bull shit is overwhelming, frustrating: watching the daily racism; children being killed in Thunder Bay; the prisoner who spent over 4 years in isolation. Regrettably, parts of our own communities reflect the external strife.
Betrayal by your own people hurts way too much, coupled with blatant external racism. Where is that place to be safe. Why do we have to be eternally vigilant? An elderly friend asked me about the residential school here, indicating that it wasn’t that bad. Also, when do you let go of the history and take responsibility?
A simple answer is that I will take responsibility, when Canadian people take responsibility. Isn’t that fair, isn’t that just? Are not the scales of justice about that balance?
What I will do now is comment on Chief Dan George’s “Lament on Confederation” 50 years later.
“How long have I known you, oh Canada? A hundred years? Yes, a hundred years. And many many ‘seelanum” more. And today, when you celebrate your hundred years, oh Canada, I am sad for all the Indian people throughout the land.”
Now 50 more years have passed. I think he would still be sad!
“For I have known you when your forests were mine; when they gave me my meat and my clothing. I have known you in your streams and rivers where your fish flashed and danced in the sun, where the waters said come, come and eat of my abundance. I have known you in the freedom of your winds. And my spirit, like the winds, once roamed your good lands.”
The Indigenous people had the balance of power, the resources and the knowledge. It is very difficult not to be vindictive. Some of our “transactions” were fraught with fraud, trickery and outright theft. However, some of our loss of resources was through greed and larceny in our communities.
An underlying question is how was the country of Canada established? Does Canada meet the test under their own laws?
“But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man’s strange customs which I could not understand, pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.”
Mmmm, is it understandable to think the Euro-centric nations have the right answer for my people?
“When I fought to protect my land and my home, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor welcomed this way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my people, I was stripped of my authority.”
The cold hard facts of how Canadian democracy was introduced to Indigenous Nations, at the point of a gun, indeed shooting some of the Indigenous Chiefs, then holding a “vote” of the 20 rounded up people to “vote”. This totally ignored the Indigenous government. Now we have an imposed Indian Act government that caters to the Crown. In spite of Chiefs/leaders expounding on sovereignty, they constantly hide behind the federal Indian Act to justify their existence.
“My nation was ignored in your history textbooks – they were little more important in the history of Canada than the buffalo that ranged the plains. I was ridiculed in your plays and motion pictures, when I drank you fire water, I got drunk -very, very drunk. And I forgot.”
Willful blindness is a constant in Canadian relations. Be a good Indian, don’t upset the apple cart.
“Oh Canada, how can I celebrate with you this Centenary, this hundred years? Shall I thank you for the reserves that are left to me of my beautiful forests? For the canned fish of my rivers? For the loss of my pride and authority, even among my own people? For the lack of my will to fight back? No! I must forget what’s past and gone.”
It is difficult to get a consistent theme in our communities. The divide and conquer techniques are used very well, in discouraging a concentrated meaningful power of Indigenous people. For example the introduction and subsequent entrenchment, in section 35 of the Constitution, of Métis rights is at the very least a weird imposition of Canadian law. The logic seems so because Europeans have interbred with Indigenous people, then this crossbreed has Indigenous rights. Is this a toehold in order to further divide Indigenous people?
No one asked the Indigenous people for their input. So now because of Canadian case law, Métis have rights in Anishinabek territory, including hunting and fishing. So the elephant in the room, that no one addresses, is whose rights supersede? Now if a gold mine is found in Anishinabek territory, who can give permission for the extraction, who can receive the benefits? This seems to be a broader version of the European/Canadian tactic of making an Indian into a Chief, if that person agrees with the European/Canadian. And then of course get them to sign away the resource rights.
It would make more sense, that the Métis people, if accepted into the communities where their Indigenous roots originate, then that would establish their indigenous rights. The problem is the Canadian/European imposition of their law.
“Oh, God in Heaven! Give me back the courage of the olden Chiefs. Let me wrestle with my surroundings. Let me again, as in the days of old, dominate my environment. Let me humbly accept this new culture and through it rise up and go on.”
In spite of the cries from Indigenous cult leaders, that we own everything, Canada is not leaving. If they got up and left I am sure Donald Trump would simply take over Canada, or maybe the Chinese. The resources here would not be left for Indigenous people. We need to learn to play the game better. Beat them on their own courts in their political houses and in their homes
We have too many Trump like leaders, who simply destroy stuff because they didn’t themselves do it.
“Oh, God! Like the Thunderbird of old I shall rise again out of the sea; I shall grab the instruments of the white man’s success—his education, his skills, and with these new tools I shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society. Before I follow the great Chiefs who have gone before us, oh Canada, I shall see these things come to pass”.
I shall see our young braves and our chiefs sitting in the houses of law and government, ruling and being ruled by the knowledge and freedom of our great land. So shall we shatter the barriers of our isolation. So shall the next hundred years be the greatest and proudest in the proud history of our tribes and nations.”
We have some young leaders like Chief Linda Debassigie of M’Chigeeng, and Chief Paul Syrette of Garden River, who are trying to correct some large messes. Help them. Quit being that sand crab apple Indian.
Chi miigwetch to Chief Dan George!!!
SO HAPPY 150TH BIRTHDAY TO OUR YOUNGER CUZZIN!!!