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.