Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stuck inside of Winnipeg with these Haudenosaunee Blues Again

I swear, every time I come to Winnipeg it just makes me sadder.

I love the work I do here, and I especially love the opportunity I get to visit my dear gay husband Dwayne and his band of happy mutant friends, but Winnipeg just makes me sad. I can’t get over the poverty and the despair and the outright racism I see. I am immune to its direct effects on me – nobody messes with a six-foot-tall Iroquoian woman in business attire – but what I see around me saddens and enrages me and makes me feel like a stranger in a strange land.

Is it economic privilege that envelops me? Is it the fact that I don’t “look Indian”? Just what is it? Right now I’m tanned from my trip to Mexico and I’m wearing some of my favourite Iroquoian silver jewellery pieces but maybe this isn’t enough to identify me as a member of the same disadvantaged group that I continually see getting ridiculed, told to move on, spurned in the streets, and openly ignored. I just don’t get the same treatment.

I often wonder if the answer is simply lookism, in that because I don’t look stereotypically “Indian” I get to be immune from the consequences of my status in this nation. I often wonder if that’s the reason. By virtue of being moderately pretty and moderately smart I get to enjoy a privilege that many other people of my same culture don’t get to enjoy. It’s weird. Must meditate on this some more.

In the meantime, I’m going to plug into my iPod and play some Bob Dylan and wait for my flight to be called so that I can go back to the centre of the universe and indulge myself in the security of being Haudenosaunee in my own traditional territory.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mexican Radio

I was going to have a whole bunch of pithy observations on a whole pile of things – the amendments to the Indian Act that are going to restore status to a whole pile of people – and going forward, allowing my children to have their kids claim status – the changes being talked about in funding post-secondary education for indigenous students, the alarming rise in racist remarks that show an incredible amount of ignorance regarding the history and status of indigenous people in this country....but dammit I’m in Mexico. So I’m not in a headspace to give any of these things serious consideration. I’m concerned with hanging out by the pool, how much sunscreen I need to apply, or what drink I should have now. I should be all concerned with privilege and how the burden of north American greed crushes these polite, friendly people here all working for pennies to keep the drinks flowing and the pool clean and the tile free from sand and the sagauro cactus from overrunning the carefully-landscaped areas...but I’m on holiday where my economic privilege translates into a seven-day stint in a resort in Los Cabos at the very end of the Baja Peninsula, the south-western most point in Turtle Island, or as I’ve been delighting in saying all week, the tip of the Turtle’s flipper.

But in contemplating this, I’ve also discovered that The Minutemen’s song Corona is so very fitting here...

The people will survive
In their environment
The dirt, scarcity, and the emptiness
Of our South
The injustice of our greed
The practice we inherit
The dirt, scarcity and the emptiness
Of our South
There on the beach
I could see it in her eyes
I only had a Corona
Five cent deposit

This desert landscape is beautiful and so weirdly alien to my southern-Ontario eyes, and laying about in the sun has totally lowered my IQ by several digits, so I am unable to formulate a coherent thought, let alone a sentence. Given that, we will return to our usual topics next week.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

And One More Thing --

-- if I have to read another bunch of bullshit racist crap from the so-called good citizens of this nation as spewed out in the comments sections of the Globe and Mail or the CBC any longer, I may go postal.

I really don't understand why these sorts of things are allowed. What is the point, what is the purpose? What is this kind of vitriol contributing to? Overall debate, policy setting -- what??? It's just dangerous, ugly poison spewing out over the web and does nothing but create negativity. It's ugly. It's essentially the equivalent of all that hateful propaganda put out by totalitarian regimes throughout history, except that average people are espousing this shit and that's what makes it worse. I don't need to see it any more. I think they should be shut down.

This is my rant of the day.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tribalism Redux

Humanity likes its tribes. We try to pretend we’re beyond that, so modern, so technologically and emotionally advanced, but the Olympics are really just a giant display of tribalism writ large. It was never more apparent to me than watching the hockey game yesterday. I found it extremely interesting that all of my onkwehonwe friends could put aside our unease and our unrest at having to be indigenous people in this colonial construct, and for a couple of hours unite with everyone else across this northern part of Turtle Island.

There we were, wearing our hearts on our sleeves right beside our settler neighbours watching the beauty of that fast, skillful game played between two political and cultural entities, those players being the true avatars of our national prowess and passion. And what a glorious victory that was, in overtime against the giant eagle to the south who played with military precision, roughshod menace, and with the heart of that rebellious spark that gave rise to their nation. But our boys were disciplined, skillful, industrious – all those things that Canadians pride themselves on. And the defining moment, with the nation’s favourite son making the most of a hastily-passed puck and firing it past the American magician who manned their net – it was truly a magical moment. It was pretty damn cool.

And the celebration afterward – I had to run to a 24 hour drug store for my stomach-flu ridden daughter and the only one still open was on Yonge Street, and I was pulled in to utter pandemonium trying to get into the store. It was a sea of red and white and complete strangers high-fiving me. I even got bear-hugged by a giant white boy in a cowboy hat – talk about symbolism. For a beautiful shining moment, I felt like this nation could escape its colonial past, embrace true inclusiveness, and become something bigger and brilliant than it actually is.

And then I woke up this morning, and everything was the same.

Oh well. For the briefest of moments, it felt like Canada could be something bigger. That we could all be something bigger. That was pretty darn intoxicating.

Such is the power of sport. Bread and circuses, sustenance for the tribes. It always goes back to that – where do your tribal loyalties lie? And what is it you will rally around, make part of your identity and your culture and your way of life?

Then I remember – hockey was originally an Iroquoian women's sport, designed to be played in the winter when there wasn’t much to do, so that everybody could get outside for some fresh air and the women could shriek and holler and trip each other on the ice, and the men could get to see what the newly-grown girls were looking like, and look forward to the spring when they could pay court. Lacrosse, the little brother of war, is the men’s game.

So hockey is now played by the colonizer with a national pride and fervour bordering on obsessiveness and considered a man’s game, when in reality... That’s why it was so cool to see Canadian women winning the gold, and totally dominating the field when they had their ice time. Now that’s what I call a woman’s game.