Your values don't change only your attitude does! Believe it. Let's say you have a generous nature. You would literally give your shirt off your back to help someone. I know people like that. Heck, I'm someone like that. But what happens if someone burns you? Someone takes advantage of your generosity? This happens all too many times. You most likely have been used by someone at one time or another. So what happens? Do you change who you are? Do you some how become a cheap person? No, you don't. But you change your behaviour; your attitude on things. That is not the same as changing your values. Look at it like this, why let someone's bad ways change you? I do admit that you can get jaded by repeated actions that hurt you. Things like having your house broken in that you always lock your doors. It may not change your values but it does alter your attitude that's for sure.
The reason I speak of this is because I have been at that road a few times. Actually I have been down that road a number of times. You may think I am a fool. Or I have a big "M" on my forehead as the sign of a mark, a sucker. Or like my Mom use to say, I'm like my Dad, generous. That's okay too. In my past I have done a lot of good things and of course a lot of bad things. If something happened bad to me, perhaps I brought it on to myself, but not sure?
A couple of guys from my Reserve asked me to help them sell their art. This happened at different times. I did try to help them. This one guy Perry G. asked me if I could market his art. Go around and try sell his pieces of work. I told him I wasn't going to do that. Instead I sat with him and developed a plan trying to get him some exposure. He was to develop a portfolio; finish a number of art pieces, have some shows, and a slide show of work for submissions. Perry was like most Indian artists, making a painting and taking it around trying to sell it to make some cash. The problem we had with him stock piling art work for shows, was that Perry needed money. He had to have money to be able to live. Perry did large water colour paintings. His painting was time consuming. We decided that to supplement his income and keep the large pieces for his showings, we would get him making smaller items for quick sale and faster to paint. My friend Earl had agreed to make a number of small items that Perry could paint, like drums, mandellas and other items. I bought a number of Buffalo skulls for Perry to paint in a hope to capitalize on some of the Traditional Indians.
As time went on, things were going as we planned. We had a few small shows. Even having a show in an atrium of a Bank at a downtown mall. We made prints of a couple of his paintings. I made proposals for funding for Perry and got a commission for one of his works from our Band. I set up participation at the New York Art Expo for Perry. I borrowed an old mini-van that had over 300,000 kilometers on it for the trip to New York. I rented a top carrier for the stuff. My Dad and Earl's dad were still trapping so they gave us some Lynx pelts for our display. We had a number of skulls, bear, buffalo, beaver that were painting up by Perry as part of our display. The trip went well. Leaning Tree Cards was interested in one painting by Perry called Devoted Mothers. It was a water colour of an Indian mom and her daughter along side a Wolf and her cub. The woman was a mistress of Perry's.
We came back feeling pretty good about our trip. We had another showing at a small local gallery. The owner of the gallery was Mike ManyEagles. We put up all of the original paintings in his shop. The tripods for the paintings and the carrying cases for the paintings were all left in the gallery. Guess what happened? We came to the gallery to find it closed. What the heck? We keep coming back and coming back and the gallery was not open. We finally got the owner of the building to open up for us, so we could collect our stuff. The gallery was bare! Turns out Mike ManyEagles sold the paintings to the owner of Gemini Fashions. Scourch!
We took ManyEagles to court and got judgement but no means for collection. It was a hollow win in the court system. I confronted ManyEagles a number of times. He always ran away? He stole Perry's chance at the Leaning Tree card opportunity, and set him way back for further shows.
Helping Perry was something I enjoyed doing. I made no money from this activity. I was working full time and helping out Earl. Earl was the person who brought Perry to me. Interesting side note, Earl took a number of the drums, skulls and took off before our trip to New York. That guy. Perry was starting to take more and more pills and kept asking me for more and more money. I would lend Perry money all the time. I even lent him my car. Perry broke down with my car and never brought it back. I had it towed to my home after a month. There was a rotting cow skull in the trunk. I could not get the smell out. Got the car fixed and gave it my nephew, but could never get rid of the smell.
Perry ended up in a car crash that took his life. His family acted awful. A number of the brothers were selling his prints (the prints I paid for) on the streets, in bars for any amount they could get. His mother was even friendly with ManyEagles? His older brother was going around saying I was going after Perry's estate? What estate? These people asked me to be a bearer at the funeral and then do that after his death. Perry didn't receive any help or support from his family when he was trying to get a name in the art world. I was upset because Perry's brother Randall and Perry's wife didn't take up for me. I shrugged off the actions due to grief, but now I know better. Would I do it again (spending up to ten thousand and not receiving anything for it, except for a call down)?
I have done it again. Guess what? Similar results. This time the gallery closed up and most of the stuff was mine. I was getting my friend some exposure and put up art that I purchased. The lady Linda N. ran a gallery with her husband in a trendy area (the exchange district) of the city. She ran off with another Indian guy from Roseau River. I actually know that guy. Linda's real husband (a non-Native)paid me for a few of the paintings (less than what I paid for them) but I did not get my carvings back. He actually contacted me, how about that? That was very good of him to try make amends. I am not sure who took the art, but I suspect it was him, but who really knows? I lent money to another artist and he didn't pay back, instead he got mad at me because he owed me money? I still see him and talk to him but our relationship has never been the same, sadly. That has happened to me on quite a few occasions. Sent money to some fellow who needed bail in Alberta. Never heard from him again. And so on and so on.
I do have to tell you it does make you think about helping folks. In the end we really can't change our values, but maybe we can alter our behaviour a bit. I forgot to add that people in New York were not keen on the animal pelts. It was the age of anti-fur in the U.S. I got into a few arguments. It is very difficult not to get upset and lash out in anger. Still if let the actions of others change who we are then that's too bad for us.
The personal story is nothing compared to the treatment we Anishinaabe have endured from Canada (and the United States, not to mention the treatment of Indigenous people the world over). So when main stream society questions the behaviour of the Indigenous people it upsets me. They have no right to criticize the folks they have tortured. Colonial societies have changed our behaviours. We try to not let it affect us, and many are successful at not letting the whole colonial genocide acts turn us bitter. Still many of us can not help but be affected. The pain of the ugly treatment is reflected in their acts of self harm. The behaviours have changed but not our values. You see Indigenous people the world over still loving, still kind, still generous, still caring for their community, for the water, for the forests, for the Earth. They haven't let all the abuse change their values.