Monday, September 17, 2012

"I know who you are, Black Indians!"

In the 1970's the big thing for us kids was to go into the Town. Pine Falls is the town adjacent to our Reserve of Sagkeeng. Back then our Reserve was called Fort Alexander as dictated by Indian Affairs. We used to either walk, hitch-hike, get dropped off by our parents or ride bicycle to town. It was cool because the town had a Hudson Bay store, Marshwells and a Pine Pharmacy. There was also a big train engine that sat in front of the Abitibi Paper Mill as a shrine. We would go play on that train engine. The train engine is still there, but is now fenced off from the public and the Paper Mill has been torn down. Back then and into the 1980's (somewhat), the people of Pine Falls and Sagkeeng were very much at odds. The town and the Reserve were not that friendly to each other.

Pine Falls also had a movie theatre with a bowling lane. The theatre and the bowling lane where situated in the same building. The building still stands today. We never went into the bowling lane but could here the sounds of people, the town's people bowling pins. We went to the movie theatre. It was fifty cents that I could remember to get into see the shows. Saturday had afternoon movies.
The bathroom for the men was in a hallway that separated the bowling land from the movie theater lobby. The movie theatre had three rows of seats. Two smaller ends and the main larger rows, similar to what its like now in most movie establishments. The Indian people would stay to the left and the town's people (White) would sit on the right side of the theatre.

It was a big treat to go to the movie. We could sell milk jugs for forty cent return at the store. The Reserve had a store owned by some French people named Pereaux. Store.  They would take the milk jugs and pop bottles for return.  A cool way to get some cash as kids. Or you could walk down the road and look in the ditch for empties. There would be beer bottles that you could gather and go return. The beer bottles were the stubby bottles of a number of years ago. Funny why they got rid of those bottles as they had a longer life than the long neck bottles. I believe it had something to do with marketing and the "masculine" thing.  You know? Bigger and longer. Anyway, this one day, I was in the washroom and my cousin Phinook was there as well. We were by the sink area when this guy walked in. We were all kids in our teens. The kid looked at us and said "I know who you are, (pause) Black Indians."  We were kind of shocked. The kid was likely a year younger than me or the same age as Phinook. We both looked at each other and the boy walked right out of the washroom. It was real funny. We didn't end up beating him up as we thought he was "retarded" ( I am using the language of the time). This guy it turns out is a Metis. In those days, none of the "breeds" stuck their heads out. I guess they didn't want to be known to have Indian blood back then. Different era for Indians, and Metis then. Funny.

I was thinking today about saying racist slurs. Can you be not racist and still use racist language? Can you call someone a Black Indian (or put other group here) and not be racist? I kind of think you can.

When you fight with someone is it not your intent to hurt them? Either physically or verbally? What is a good way to hurt someone? Kick them where it hurts, of course. How do you hurt them verbally? Kick them where it hurts of course.  You say to them what you think will hurt them. Either they are White, Black, Skinny, Fat, Short, Ugly, Stinky and all of that. The aim is to hurt, so you hurt. Does that mean you are a racist? If you use racist slurs, it means you are using the tools available to you. Does not make it right but you succeed in your aim/goal.

It is easy to be labeled a racist. But in reality maybe you are just mean. Or very good at using the tools to hurt people.

I haven't seen that guy in years. But I see his brother around and he is Native. He hangs with Natives and identifies with Natives. I know who he is, he's a Black Indian.


  1. Ha ha funny. More than half the people in the Fort Alexander reservation were Metis 100 years ago. People with french names-the catholics- were the metis. The full blooded indians were the Anglicans, aka the Church of England, a gesture of allegiance to her Majesty.

  2. Hey Steve, really well written here -- authentic, sincere, and a good dose of humor. I stumbled on your blog because I'm doing research for a screenplay that has at its core the destruction of pine forests on White Earth Rez in 1915. I'm looking for a creation or traditional story explaining the Anishinaabe belief that the Great White Pine are the Grandfathers. Can you help with this?
    You're a good writer, and it's good medicine to read what you write. Miigwech.

  3. I can put you in touch with some Teachers, First I will ask them if they Know that Teaching. Let me get back to you. Thanks for the comments. I have been thinking lately of stopping the blog. Thinking of stopping after we have done our fourth Gathering for Survivors of Suicide. later Steve.

  4. Hello Michael. Got information from one Elder that did not know the White Pine Teaching. He said it maybe from the East as there are not white pine over here? Maybe in the Red Lake area?