Monday, October 3, 2011

Listen, All of You



Sewatahon'satat.

That’s how we always start a story. Tonight I want to tell you my story, my deep dark confession about being Kanien'kehakeh in 2011. About living here in Ateròn:toh, this place you call Toronto.

This word means, “There are trees standing in the water.” Our elders argue about what the actual translation is, but I like this particular version.  The Haudenosaunee, or as you name us, the Iroquois, had moved south of Lake Ontario to consolidate our considerable power in the wake of the Beaver Wars. When we would return to Ateròn:toh in our war canoes, the giant elm trees that grew to the edge of the lake would mirror themselves in the water and you could see their reflection for miles out. This image manifests even now. When you cross the waters of Skanadariio, the Handsome Lake, you can see the towers of the city shimmering in the water.

People think this is Mississauga territory. The joke’s kind of on you. The Mississauga were here as our tenants. You paid them all that money for hanging out here while we were fighting the Americans for the British in their revolution. We could have beat them too, but for the British deciding to cut and run. And then what would the history of this country and this continent be?

This city is on Haudenosaunee land. The remains of our villages slumber beneath the streets of this city. To this day when a new subdivision is built or a street is dug up, shards of our pottery and our particular arrowheads keep surfacing. It is a reminder that this place is where we used to walk, where we sang and held our ceremonies and dreamed our waking reality into life, in the process called Ondinnonk.  When this city dreams, it dreams in Mohawk. Even when it names itself – Toronto, Ontario, Canada – all of these are Mohawk words. You speak Mohawk whenever you name this place as your home. You speak it and you don’t even know that you do.

Sewatahon'satat . Listen, all of you.

I want to tell you my story. I moved here to Toronto in 1981 when I was 17 years old, almost 18, to go to York University. When I first started there at the school I spent nearly three months pretending I wasn’t even an indigenous girl, trying to erase my own identity. I pretended to be just a normal white girl from somewhere south of Hamilton. I got away with it, too. It’s not that I was embarrassed by who I am, I just didn’t want to have to explain over and over again, to tell the history that I know that is so woefully untold by your education system and left out of your colonial history. I didn’t want to face the questions. I was fearful of being perceived as different. I knew instinctively that I could reinvent myself, and I didn’t want anyone trying to define me. I needed to define myself first.

One of the many things that people don’t know about the Iroquois (or as we name ourselves, the Haudenosaunee) is this; our people have long been a cultural melting pot. We are not merely a nation of people bound by blood – we are a political, cultural and spiritual entity. There are six Nations in the Iroquois Confederacy – the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Onondaga, the Cayuga, the Seneca, and the Tuscarora. Over time we had absorbed other tribes that had populated this area, people like the Petun, the Erie, the Tobacco, the Susquehennock, the Wendat, the Abenaki.


You called us “the Romans of the New World”, but we call ourselves the Children of Sky Woman, the original inhabitants of Turtle Island.  The Mother of us all fell from the Sky and landed on a Turtle’s back and give birth to us and every living thing here. We buried our hatchets at the roots of the Great Tree of Peace and promised to join a confederacy that gave us a constitution, the Gayanashagowah, the Great Law. This is not just a story. This is fact. 


We were bound together by the powerful and spiritual voice of the Peacemaker, and his faithful friend and companion, Hiawatha. The story of how this came to be is beautiful and powerful, and so amazing. It is the story of how a people overcame the deep terrible sadness of the grief and pain of the Mourning Wars. For generations we had fought each other in bitter, unending war, killing women and children in an endless cycle of vengeance. The Peacemaker gave us the Condolence Rite which stopped our tears and cleared our grief, and with this, we became whole again.

And none of you know it.

The founding fathers of the League of the Iroquois lived by three principles: first, the peace within individuals and between groups that comes from a healthy body and a sane mind; secondly, justice that comes from correct actions, thought, and speech. And lastly, the spiritual power that comes from physical strength and civil authority (meaning the power of the chiefs to make the decisions and the authority of the women who appoint the chiefs). Peace. Power. And Righteousness. These were the overriding principles that governed our nations and our Confederacy.

My people have always been interested in power. We even have a word for it – orenda, or the “soul of all things” – which I am given to understand is kind of a bad translation, as this is one of those purely Haudenosaunee concepts that really doesn’t have an equivalent in English. It is the philosophy that every human being is invested with his or her own power, a life-force that is equal parts aura, destiny, force of will, strength of character, and personal charisma. Men and women equally are expected to develop their personal orenda, to follow its pathways and exercise their abilities in the pursuit of peace, power, and righteousness – and ultimately for the benefit of the entire nation. There is also the expectation that a healthy orenda leads to balance and equanimity among the people.

We Iroquois replaced our numbers with adoption and the voluntary membership of several other nations. There is a clause of the Kanierkowah that states, “If anyone comes to sit beneath the House of the Long Leaves and swear his or her fealty to the Great Law shall be admitted.”  If you were to run DNA tests on us we would be an amalgamation of many different bloodlines. Because of this, we Iroquois incorporate so many different people into our cultural and political entity we look like any number of those who were our ancestors. Some of us even look white. 


And though I can count an unbroken line of Mohawk women back to the pre-Contact shadows of the Mohawk Valley, our ancestral homeland, I don’t look like what you think an indigenous person should look like.

Thus can I get away with denying what I am.

While I was at university, I nominally studied English and political science. How is that for embracing a colonized course of study? But while I was there I had my own personal rock and roll rebellion. I embraced punk rock, with its emphasis on individuality in a community, in the us against them, in the wild thrashing guitars and the smokey clubs at night. I hung out in Kensington Market. I danced in clubs along Queen Street West. I ate Cambodian and Thai and Mexican food in the Annex. I rode my bike through the city and pretended to be invisible, just another girl on the verge of being a woman, clinging to an extended adolescence and walking the bleeding edge of alternative cool. My identity was hidden. I was only “out” as an Iroquois, as a Mohawk, to my closest confidantes. I was too cool for all those questions of identity.

Sewatahon'satat . Listen, all of you.

But this denial, this turning away, was not sustainable for me. In due course I became a mother and then a wife. I had two beautiful children and this awoke in me my sense of myself as an indigenous woman, of this place, and this time. In them I ingrained my heritage and my culture. How could I not? This line cannot be broken. I am a Kanien'kehakeh, born of a long line of Mohawk women, all of us imbuing our children with the sense of who we are. It had to come out. 


We are not a passive people. We are warriors, men and women alike. We resist. We made treaties and agreements with the colonizers, agreements that predate this nation that calls itself Canada.  We demand that our agreements be respected. We demand that our place on Turtle Island be left to us, for us to administer in our own way and as faithful to our traditions as we can be. We demand to be the People Building a Longhouse together, to be Haudenosaunee.

These days when I meet people I am very forward about who and what I am. I refuse to minimize myself any longer, to deny what I am. I was doing what the colonizer wanted, to make me ashamed of my bloodline, of my heritage, of my culture.


I will not do this any longer. I will decolonize myself. I will rip out by the roots those ideas that are not mine, those ideas put there by a culture that wants to erase mine, to erase our memory and our claim as the true Keepers of the Land. Your culture would crush mine. We resist. Your culture would erase our memory from the very stones of this place. These stones remember and lift up our artifacts to remind you. Your culture tells itself that it has the right to place limits on our numbers, on how we govern ourselves, tries to tell us we are as Canadian as you are are. We know that is not true. We are the Haudenosaunee, the onkwehonwe, the real people. We are the People Building a Longhouse Together and our memory of this place, of this city that you call Toronto is older and longer and still remains ours.

There are only eighty thousand of us in the entire world. But the thing to remember is this; fifty percent of our current population is under the age of 25, and our numbers are resurging. And all of us, every single one of us, know more about you than you do about us. Every one of our territories lives in resistance and demands our rights under those agreements that we made in good faith with your colonial ancestors and with you.

Sewatahon'satat. Listen, all of you.

This electric city, so infused with its global yearnings of cosmopolitan splendour, its busyness, its competitiveness, its sky-high real estate prices, its glass towers, its modern rhythms and its ancient bones, this place sings. And the song it sings to itself beneath the humming of the subway and the honking of the cars isn’t a English folksong, or a French courier song, or an Italian or Greek or Chinese song, or the songs of all the people who have made this place its home...The song this city sings is a Haudenosaunee one. This song is remembered in the very granite that binds this city to the back of Anowara, the Turtle. It’s sung to the beat of a water drum and a deer horn rattle. It is the song that my people dance in pow-wows to.

I will sing it for you now. It’s called the Smoke Dance.

Sewatahon’satat. Listen, all of you.                                                                                                   

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Inappropriations



Every so often, the universe comes along and offers a cogent example of something that has been kicking around in my brain for some time but never quite articulated.

I have been enjoying Al –Jazeera online for the past few months, especially since I have soured on the right-wing collaborationist drivel being espoused by the Globe and Mail. I particularly enjoy their take on North American news, coming at it as they do from an outsider’s perspective...which is pretty much what you could say of indigenous people in the West these days. We stand on the outside looking in, refugees in our own homelands.

Al-Jazeera did a really good piece just recently on the issue of the wider culture appropriating aspects of indigenous culture. It’s here at http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/native-american-bloggers.

They actually talked a woman who has an entire blog dedicated to the issue, and I love the name of it: My Culture is Not a Trend - http://mycultureisnotatrend.tumblr.com/. She handily takes to task, deconstructs, and instructs the blogverse about why appropriation is totally inappropriate.

I have been having difficulty a lot lately with appropriation of native culture. Maybe it’s because of my age; maybe it’s because I am spending a lot of time in my own head decolonizing my thinking and looking at the rest of the world with an increasingly critical eye, but I do not have a lot of time anymore for appropriated imagery and find a lot of it racist and insulting. I always felt that, and it’s a measure of how decolonized my thinking has become in that I now constantly question the motivation behind it. Suffice it to say that I don’t deal very well anymore. It constantly amazes me to watch how much the wider culture commodifies EVERYTHING, including our clothing, our symbols and that final colonization, our spiritual practices. I used to tell myself that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in light of the extreme power differential in our relationship to the colonial occupiers, this is not flattery but appropriation.

The thing that bothers me most, I have to say, is the dominant cultures’ effort to lump all North American indigenous people into one amorphous “native American” group, practically fetishizing Plains Nations culture in this way. Using their symbols and dress seems to have become a shorthand for lumping all indigenous nations under this banner, and if your nation does not follow those pre-conceived notions of what it means to be “Native American” , then you are somehow “less” of an “Indian.”

This is especially true if you are a Kanienkaha’keh in Canada -- we don’t do the sweatlodges or burn sweetgrass or eat bannock. We have longhouse, we burn tobacco and we eat scone. But other than giving the world the Mohawk hairstyle for that fighting warrior thing and lacrosse, most people know nothing about our culture. The only thing they know about our culture is how damn ornery we are, and how active resistance has become pretty much our trademark in Canada. Most people don’t know that the term “bury the hatchet” is Iroquoian, because we buried our hatchets at the base of the Tree of Peace when the Peacemaker gave us the Great Law, or that “caucus” is a term meaning “meeting of good minds”. Caucus is central to modern democracy, and yet no one knows this. Or that the American occupiers stole the symbol of the Eagle for their fledgling nation, holding in one of its talons arrows that had always symbolized the Five Nations of the Iroquoian Confederacy. Now that is some serious-ass appropriation!

I am following both My Culture is Not a Trend and another cool blog, http://iamnotamascot.blogspot.com/. It makes my heart happy to know there’s other NDNs out there, critically thinking and questioning EVERYTHING with some humour but with the attitude of, “Enough with this shit, I’m not taking it anymore – I’m gonna educate you and tell you WHY it’s wrong.”

Because if you really wanted to channel the North American indigenous culture, then you have to take on the genocide, the suicides, the violence, the alcoholism, the diabetes and the heart disease, the poverty and the lack of education, housing, clean water and the denial of economic opportunity. If you really want it, that’s what it means to be indigenous along with our awesome clothing and spiritual means. We deal with the aftermath of colonialism every damn day.

So all you people wanting to wear the lastest hipster-styled headress or moccasins made in Taiwan -- think you're strong enough for that?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

O Kanata/Canada


I have to confess, this election is totally bringing out a major schizophrenic split in me. On one hand, my left-leaning, democratic socialist trade union side is going -- rock the vote, the NDP is gonna bring an orange wave of change, let’s do this! I’m gleefully giddy about the prospect of a major thumbs-down to the bullshit right-wing rhetoric the Conservative Party of Canada has been shovelling down the throat of people in this country. An NDP government would be an amazing thing to see.

On the other hand, my Haudenosaunee side is rolling her eyes, going yeah whatever. How does this matter? The settlers are voting on yet another regime that will only reinforce the oppressive systems that deny me and my people our inherent right to sovereignty and self-determination. Our rights have been dictated by the racist and colonialist Indian Act which determines what is an "Indian" in this country. In order to resist the Indian Act definition of what I am in Canada, I proclaim that I am a citizen of the Haudenosaunee and our sovereign nation, enshrined in treaties with first the British and its inheritors and therefore predates the colonials' version of nationhood.

I’m a bit conflicted, and I don’t know what I can do to reconcile the split.

However, I had a very cool conversation this past weekend with my brother-in-arms, the organizer at my union. He said that if the settlers want to give you a vote in their settler election, why not go for it? In thinking about this, I had to concede the point. This freedom is denied to a lot of people around the world, and because we live in a first world nation with all of the attendant economic privilege, we should be exercising the ability to vote. To not do so dishonours all of those people who have died fighting for the same democratic right.

It’s a conundrum.

My son, who turned 18 in December, is so excited about voting for the first time in an election, about voting NDP after carefully considering the various platforms of the parties and attending a town hall to see how the candidates answered (thanks Olivia Chow, you convinced him!). Because my son is a hybrid and truly a Canadian citizen, born in Toronto and raised in the downtown milieu by me and his white father, I do not deny him the wisdom of his choice to vote in the election. He has to straddle both worlds, as does my daughter. They are my stealth fighters against the colonial system. They get to challenge privilege from within because they look white at first glance but they are registered band members at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. My children are my way of infiltrating and infecting colonial Canada with a very tailored Haudenosaunee virus.

So I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I have the day off on election day. I plan to get up late and wander over to the polling station and take a look at who is voting. Whether or not I will cast a ballot remains to be seen.

At this point I am saying No, even as my fervent trade unionist heart screams frantically at me, saying what’s wrong with you, there’s a major chance to change everything, and you are being a selfish resisting insurgent. But my Haudenosaunee soul says why would you vote in the election of a foreign nation that exploits, insults, ignores, assimilates and tried outright genocide against indigenous people?

And in the end, I know what my decision must be.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The hurting - Canada - Macleans.ca

Joseph Boyden writes with a searing, painful honesty about this scourge. And while he focuses on northern and Cree reserves, never forget that this problem haunts every community in indigenous North America. Why don't our children want to become adults? Because it's hard to be the survivors of a genocide.

The hurting - Canada - Macleans.ca

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Settler Mentality....


...and the indignity of having to buy your own land back.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of owning property. My husband and I are actually thinking of taking the plunge and becoming first time homebuyers here in Tkaronto.

Relatively speaking, the costs of buying a property go beyond the actual purchase. I know it makes good sense, but in my heart of hearts, I can’t help but think about the weirdness of having to buy a piece of land that your ancestors once roamed freely over, and in an area where once we hunted, fished, farmed, and had settlements (and yeah, I know everybody thinks this was Mississauga territory, but it wasn’t. The British bought some land from them because they happened to have moved in while we were a little occupied in the south of Lake Ontario fighting something called the American Revolution. Our ancient settlements and burial grounds haunt the GTA).

I can’t help but think… is this settler mentality? The idea that you can “own” property… it’s so fraught with colonial ideas and also the familiar conflict I have with my Haudenosaunee values and the way I actually have to live my life given the demands that living a modern urban existence place upon me. Traditionally, women held the land as caregivers, farming it for the nations and having a stewardship over it because we were responsible for feeding our people. I’m not sure, though, that this traditional Haudenosaunee mentality is the same as owning property in a city. I wonder if the modernized version of home ownership has more to do with those settlers who came here in droves looking for something to call their own, since in their own homelands only a handful of the titled few had that privilege. The so-called “frontier” was a wide-open vista of ownership to them. Thinking of myself doing the same makes me uneasy. But what else can I do? I have made my life in the city. It’s only sensible to own something that may at the end of the day see me make some money.

So now I have economic privilege, and this is what drives me to think about purchasing a home. I know intellectually that doing so would be for all the right monetary reasons, but I can’t help but wonder why I feel pushed into the whole thing, even as I kind of like the idea. Actually I would like to build something cool on my Rez but that’s not feasible given that I’m committed to living and working here until my retirement. After that we will see, but right now, it’s just a dream. And that’s a whole ‘nother blog entry, especially since I’m married to a white guy and he can’t live on the Rez with me anyway, as lovely as he is.

Maybe at the end of the day, this is going to be one of those situations where I have to live with my own contradictions and deal with the schizophrenia of being an indigenous chick in a settler-occupied land.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I Have Been "Kissed By Lightning"


I finally got around to seeing Shelley Niro’s feature film, “Kissed By Lightning.” It was actually on the The Movie Network’s OnDemand service, which pleased me to no end. I was hoping it would be visually stunning and provocative, the way all Shelley’s art is, but this – I have to say, I am feeling teary-eyed and awed after seeing it. The images haunted my dreams all last night and I woke up thinking about the film, which gave me the impetus to write this blog.

I think everyone who ever wanted to know about Iroquoian philosophy and our values should watch this film. It was gentle and almost whisperingly quiet, the way Shelley’s art is, but it crept up on me and infused me with its lushly filmed, stunning visuals and the serene poetry of the story. Ostensibly the story of a woman’s journey through grief, it is actually the story of The Peacemaker and Hyenwatha, the two founding figures of our political and spiritual lives. The League of the Haudenosaunee could not exist without this profound friendship and their eternal gift to us, which is not only the Gayanashagowa, the Great Law, but the Condolence rite. The Peacemaker recognized that grief can crush a person until they are unrecognizable, and by giving us this ceremony released us from the dark cloud that descends on us when grief storms into your life.

Much of the story takes place in the winter, and this is not incidental. The Haudenosaunee have been slumbering for over two hundred years, buried in the grief and the perpetual winter caused by colonization. Spring is on its way, hopefully, shown in the mud and the open water of the river, and this is representative of the current of resistence that shapes our lives in our territories. We are waking up.

Much of the film's tone is quirky and humourous, demonstrating the way we love to laugh over things whether silly or profoundly disturbing. The soundtrack was also an integral part of the film experience, at once haunting and exuberant.

One of my favourite scenes happens when Mavis, the main character, and Bug, the guy who has been shyly courting her are lost on the way to New York City. They are sitting in their van at dusk , and while they are discussing what they should do to get themselves oriented back to the I-90, suddenly a group of warriors dressed in the clothing of the Old Days crosses the road in front of them, glancing casually at the occupants of the van before disappearing into the snow-covered bush. Mavis asks, “Did you see that?” and Bug replies, “I think they’re lost.” And so are we – lost in this world that has completely ignored us and tried to make us disappear, but we prevail, and we are lost on the way to finding ourselves again.

So many scenes grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let me go. There were a lot of beautifully filmed shots of geese, flying in formation over the snow-covered landscape, honking at each other – so reminiscent of the geese that aided Sky Woman in her fall from the heavens, a nod to our central Creation Myth. The garishly-dressed and opportunistic Kateri, Mavis’ lost boyfriend’s first wife, representative of what some of us have become. The mud-covered German Shepherd Mutt named “Kitty.” Shelley’s paintings, shown in a gallery, the series called The Peacemaker’s Journey. The American restaurant where they are serenaded by an African-American gospel group who sing a song with the chorus, “Thank You Lord for the Mohawk People.” The arresting image of The Peacemaker standing quietly on a corner in the middle of the urban cacophony that is New York. And finally, Mavis’ encounter with a real-life Jikonsaheh, the Cat-Faced Woman, an elder who lives in isolation in our homeland but points Mavis' way back to herself and her culture, and inadvertently performs a thoroughly modern, allegorical condolence ceremony for her.

This is such a quietly beautiful film. I urge everyone to see it. The pace of it is very slow, and for people who are raised on Hollywood’s idea of what film should be, it may take a while for you to immerse yourself. But sit down and do it. It is worth the journey, and to immerse yourself in a wholly modern Haudenosaunee world-view and artistic sensibility is a privilege not many of us get a chance to experience.

Friday, February 4, 2011

And now for some Roller Derby


Just wanted to take some time out and pitch the Toronto Roller Derby League and the 2011 season opener, which is being played at The Hangar at Downsview Park on Saturday, February 5 starting at 7:00 pm. I have become a roller derby fanatic since my daughter Carole joined the junior league in May of last year (Feral Carole #13 Baby).

I love the speed of it, the hits, the skills, the tattoos and the fishnets, the raw punk power of these chicks. They rock and more importantly, they roll. If I was 10 years younger, I'd be in, but my knees have seen too much damage for me to get up on roller skates.

I'm gonna be there -- and if you get a chance, patronize the roller derby league in your city. There's bound to be one. You'll be damn glad you did.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hardly Getting Over It

The thing about grief is that you never know when it’s going to sneak up behind you, whirl you around, and kick you in the teeth.

It can be during the most mundane moment, or in the middle of a task that you really need to concentrate on. It can be first thing in the morning or in the darkest hours of the night. It’s fast or it’s slow, it can creep up on little cat feet or stomp into your awareness in heavy combat boots.

And then you find yourself helplessly weeping over the things that were lost, the might-have-beens, the should-have-dones. Leaving you bereft, and sad, and having to feel everything all over again.

When we were home for Christmas, my daughter got an article of clothing that was Jewel’s. In keeping with Haudenosaunee custom, we give away a deceased person’s belongings, so that everyone has something to remember them by but also so that the person’s spirit will not be tied to the earth by their possessions and are free to continue their journey. Carole got a cool, neon-green crocheted beanie which she hardly took off for nearly a month until we agreed it had to get washed. But it was so imbued with Jewel’s style and her carefree joie-de-vie that we smiled and got all choked up in equal measure.

Days can pass and I can think of her without pain. Other days hit me like a brick and the pain arises anew.

And if this is happening to me, what must it be like for her mother and her father? For her brothers and all those who knew her better than I?

There has to be a way to prevent this kind of loss.

As for me, I’m facing some surgery arising from a whole shitty crisis with my kidneys, so perhaps my outlook is not as healthy as it could be. It’s the middle of January which is not my favourite time of the year, and I wasn’t well enough to go home and catch some of the Midwinter ceremony feasts. So I think I’m just feeling blue.

Hopefully this too shall pass. In the meantime I try to think of Jewel, dancing. That always makes me smile.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Salt in an Open Wound

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Christie Blatchford is writing a whole series on the issue of aboriginal suicide… “Lifting the Veil on Native (there’s that N word again!) suicide” is the name of today’s atrocity I mean column.

That she has the audacity to do this is amazing to me. It is so loaded with her smug, white privilege and consequently that hand-wringing – “Oh look, those poor NATIVES are so despondent, the white people have to rescue them” thing, which is pretty much the tenor of this article. It centers around some benevolent white policemen – her favourite fucking subject – who are trying to work in suicide prevention in the Nishnabe Aski Nation. More power to them if they can make a difference, but we have been working on this terrible issue ourselves and need to develop more of our own culturally-relevant ways, thank you very much. But since this new series comes in the wake of her so-called “expose” of the poor white folks’ problems in Caledonia, I’m feeling a tad suspicious as to her underlying motivation to write this column.

It makes me want to scream. Especially since I am so raw in light of my family’s loss -- all I can think is, fuck you Christie. You have no fucking idea. About us or why suicide is such a tragic, terribly common affliction in our communities. About the fact that our children choose to kill themselves before they reach adulthood, rather than live as indigenous people. About how fucking hard it is to deal with the realization that our people are thought of as a waste of space, as a money-sucking black hole of all the hard-working taxpayer’s money as most Canadians do – or about the fact that the most common perception is that we are conquered and dead already, so why don’t we just shut the hell up?

It’s hard to be indigenous in this colonially-occupied country, where every move that your community tries to make to lift itself out of the economic cesspool of poverty and resultant cultural stagnation is scrutinized and passed judgment on by a government agency that would rather be doing anything but working so that you could actually do something for the benefit of your people. It’s hard to try and make something of yourself when right from the beginning the educational deck is stacked against you. Hell, it’s hard when your very identity as an indigenous person is dictated by an outmoded, racist piece of legislation written up by colonizers that decides whether you have enough blood to be shoved into the concentration camp – whoops sorry I mean reserve.

I feel so raw about our beautiful little Jewel that this just feels like salt in an open wound. I know that the issue has to be more broadly publicized, that more people need to understand the realities of our communities – but why does she get to be the voice? And herein is the crux of my problem with it – that a white woman with all the attendant privilege and forum to do so gets to wring her hands and essentially wail while the subtext of her writing is, those “natives” just can’t get their shit together. To which I say, get out of our fucking way and maybe we could.

Here's a link to it so you can see for yourself.
Lifting the veil on native youth suicide - The Globe and Mail