Tuesday, September 27, 2011

INDOCTRINATION the answer for Native Peoples


1. to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., especially to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view.
2. to teach or inculcate.
3. to imbue with learning.

When you hear about indoctrination you tend to think in negative terms. Like a cult or about fundamentalists or even extremists. Lot of that thinking may be influenced by media, but that's another topic. I believe that indoctrination serves a purpose and can be beneficial to society.

I realize the aim in many people's mind is to be of one race, the Human Race. Let us all get along and be at Peace. That is not going to ever happen. Our differences is what life is about (whether good or bad).

 I really like that I am different and part of a group. I am Anishinaabe, Sagkeeng born and raised, a man, a Dad, a Son, an uncle, a granddad, a cousin, a Baby boomer, and a good friend to some. It is who I am. That is what indoctrination is really about, defining us.

The Governments of Canada and the United States attempted to change the identity of many Natives (and other peoples; Blacks, Chinese, Latino, etc) to be something different than who they are. In many instances the indoctrination attempts did not work well. The indoctrination didn't work for a variety of reasons.  The main reason being that in their attempt to change the person, they first knocked down, who they are. That didn't make sense in the people's minds. So the result was a mixed message. Be this person because the person who you are is no damn good. Most people don't want think of their Being as no damn good. They want to feel good about themselves, not feel bad about who they are.

That is why indoctrination should be about what is good and great about who you are. For Native people, Indians, it is all about feeling good about being Native, being Indian. That is the answer to all the woes in Indian country (not really but is where to start), to feel good about who you are, and KNOW who you are. That is what indoctrination will do.

You have to start with the people when they are young. Start at home. Teach them about being Native. Use the schools to sink the message in; you are a good people. These are your people and this is where you come from. These are the Teachings of your People. The Teachings of Creation, the Language, the Way of Life.

That is the answer, Teach the kids about who they are. Not what the world wants them to be. They are different. They have their OWN Teachings. We know about the teachings of other people, but not our own. So that is where to start. If we don't differentiate from the main stream, we will continue to spiral down the path of despair. That is where many of us are right now. Many people living on the edge of society, not fitting in. But Indians can fit in society, but on their Terms.

It is great to see the Jew wearing a Kippah, or a Sikh wearing a Turban. Society gets all bent out of shape for a person wearing a kirpan. I love the look of the Dashiki. In Winnipeg, Manitoba you are starting to see more people wearing the African shirts, Dashiki. For Aboriginal People they wear their Braids proudly, happily. There is history there and differences there. That is what is great about people, they are different.

Indoctrination of Native people to be Native people is what will change their way of life.  

My friend Larry Morrissette, boy I miss hearing him. Good guy, good sense of humour. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

We are All Treaty People.

There is an Office of the Treaty Commissioner in Saskatchewan, a Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba and similar offices in other territories.  From what I can understand these offices are there to:
The Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba (TRCM) is a neutral body created through a partnership between the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and Canada with a mandate to strengthen, rebuild and enhance the Treaty relationship with mutual respect between First Nations and Manitobans.
The TRCM will enhance and maintain positive intergovernmental relations and cooperation, conduct independent research that advances discussion on Treaty related issues, and facilitate public understanding of the importance and role of Treaty making in building a stronger and healthier nation.

If  it were not for the big television commercials, news paper advertisements and bus ads, I don't believe anyone really knew the offices existed.  I am not sure what it exactly the office does, but I think appeasement is the goal?  In any case, there is a product that is quite visible coming out of the TRCM and that is the slogan "We are all Treaty people".  Cool. But what the heck does that mean? I guess it is a campaign to try and get people to...like Treaties?  Not really sure.
The reason I wonder about the whole We Are All Treaty People push is that I just don't get it. The TRCM is a Canadian Government funded entity. I get that. I would suspect that education is part of its mandate. But with the government of Canada, their modus operandi has been to get out of the Treaty business. So why the push for a campaign to draw attention to the Treaties.

Let me put some context on this. Canada does not want to recognize the Treaties to begin with. They are trying to get away from the Treaty obligations they have made with the Native Peoples of Canada. The Treaties  ( "a formal agreement between two or more states in reference to peace, alliance, commerce, or other international relations".) are Agreements between Sovereign Nations. The Canadian Courts have stated that Treaties between Indians and the Canada are sui generis.  They don't want to it to mean that is an Agreement between two States, because its different.  Okay, so its different, but really its not. That is one attempt to get out of the Treaty business, by not recognizing it as a Treaty.

In 1982 Canada altered its Constitution and moved it away from England. Some consider a good thing and others not. In any case its here. The Indians fought hard against the new Constitution, because of the Relationship they had with the Crown (Queen of England). Indians were afraid that Canada would once again burn them. The Canadian Government really wanted to bring the Constitution back home so they made some changes and added a part (Section 24 Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Section 35) where they recognized Aboriginal Rights. Good stuff, right?  I would think so, even if the government did insert that little word: Existing. That puts everything in a tail spin. No one has really defined what Rights exist. Because the government has been reneging on all the Rights to begin with.

With the We are All Treaty People campaign, it does outline something that is true, Canadians do benefit (immensley) from the Treaties. Just look at all the Resources that has made Canada a developed nation. But what about the Indian? Yeah, the "you get everything" arguments have been the wooden bat for the naysayers of Treaty obligations.  Let's not get into that aspect of what the Treaties promises were or the "Spirit and Intent" of the Treaty debate, but let's look at what is taking place.  
Former Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine said it:  "Our treaties were not negotiated and designed to have one party impoverish the other party to the agreement. Sadly and unfortunately that has been our history with respect to our treaties."

The other issue (and what is going on with the Treaty action) I have with the Government and the whole Treaty thing is that they are going about getting rid of Treaty by classifying Indians out of Treaty.  We are not signatories, families or children of Treaty, we are "Status". Status is a classification under the Indian Act as to who is Indian and who is not. The classification is designed to end numbered Indians (get it Numbered Indians). So on the one hand the government affirms and recognizes the Rights of Aboriginal people through Constitution but yet classifies them out with legislation?  What is the message here? Please forgive if I don't understand the whole "We Are All Treaty People" exercise.

If the Treaties were to benefit both Nations, why is it that the Government is actively involved in ending, not fulfilling the Treaties?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I miss my friend

This Friday Thelma Hart  and her partner Lyle Morrisseau will be hosting a Ceremony Feast Giveaway for their boy, Gerald Hart. The Ceremony will take place in Sagkeeng Anishinaabe Nation, Manitoba at the home of Thelma and Lyle on the North Side of the Reserve.

Gerald took his life 10 years ago. I have never met Thelma, but I am going to the Ceremony this Friday to say hi.  It is important to remember. At least I like to think so. And Thelma's Words say it all.

From Thelma: "  
"Thinking of my son Gerald. It will be 10 years since he decided Suicide was his only option. It hurts knowing that he could'nt come to me, his mother, for help. Please, if you ever think that suicide is your only option, reach out for help. There's so many people who care. Don't leave broken hearts behind. Like mine........ "

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meet a beautiful Burmese woman: Naw Kay Seng

Kay standing by her weave
I met a real beautiful lady today. Her name is Naw Kay Seng (call her Kay)and she is originally from Burma. She has been in Canada (Winnipeg) for Five years now. Before that she was a refugee in Thailand. To survive she has been making Karen ("Karen or Kayin people Karen: Pwa Ka Nyaw Poe or Kanyaw in Sgaw Karen and Ploan in Poe Karen; Burmese") Handwoven sling-bags, scarves and Nea (skirts). She lived in Thailand for eleven years. There she and other Karen refugee people continued the Traditional art of spinning cotton and weaving into clothes. She showed me a picture of her and other people weaving in Thailand. The lady in the picture with her, had died in Thailand. The woman told her not to forget her.

I was glad to have met her and promised to have tea with her in the future.
Her name is Naw Kay Seng and you can contact her at 204-783-1195 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her wares are inexpensively priced. I bought sling bags for forty bucks. The items make great Give-away gifts, and Christmas, Hanukkah are coming up, so might want to have them for those occasions.

Kay just made this table clothe

Some more product

Sling Bags

Her literature
The people just work hard and take pride in their accomplishments. Kay is one of those people. Traditional skills being maintained in a new country.She is a gifted artist. I was very glad that she called me to go visit her at her home. She got my number from this fellow I met at a dinner. Sue's friend does a lot of volunteer work in the new immigrant community. It was his dinner event where we met some Burmese people. I showed interest in the sling bag this young man was wearing. He invited us to his sister's wedding. We didn't make it but he gave my number to his friend. That is how I met the lady, she called me.
To Appreciate the art and her skill your really have to see the sling bags and scarves.
Sling Bags and scarf.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Are you Indian enough? The Hierarchy of Indigenous people.

You ever hear the terms, redbone, apple, nosebleed, wannabe, Mooneyash, wemittigozhi,waabishkizi, baakwaayish, and wiisaakodewinini? Probably not. If you are an Indian you may not appreciate other Natives saying those things to you. There is a real battle going on in Indian country and it is the battle of identity.
We are battling among ourselves as to who is an Indian. Can't really blame us for being in that predicament. The governments of both countries, the United States and Canada, tried to eliminate the Indian. They attempted to get rid of the Indian by many different means; genocide, persecution, prosecution, sterilization, and assimilation. Governmental Policy has always been a tool to get rid of the Indian. The latest policies have Indian being killed off by categories.

In the United States Natives or American-Indians are being "de-rolled" or denied enrollment into Bands/Tribes. There is a Blood Quantum policy used by the Government and the Tribes to determine who is Indian enough to be considered Indian. Status cards are issued to Indians who make the cut.

In Canada the Indian is defined by the policies of the government. Legislation (laws) have been enacted by the Federal Government that decides who is Indian enough to be called an Indian. The Bands/Tribes really have no say in who is an Indian in their community. The outside government makes that decision with the notion of "Status".

The Old Status cards (Canada issued blanks to be filled in at the Reserve) did not come with an expire date and you could get the card at your local Band office. That is not the case anymore. The new status cards are being issued by the Federal bureaucracy. It will be like making an application for a passport. I am not sure but I guess the government does not trust the local Bands in handing out Status Cards. It's funny when I was a kid we didn't call ourselves "status Indians", we were called Treaty Indians. I guess the Treaty thing is more permanent wording and status is better for government as it is a policy thing. Get it? Just changing a word can change the whole dynamics of a mind-set. We no longer refer to the Treaty, where we maintain many of Rights are entrenched, but rather we refer to Status, which is a policy that can be changed at the will of the government. And we just accept that. The Government has changed who is an Indian through their Indian Act. In this act there are categories of degree of Indians; 6-1, 6-1(a), 6-2. In this category system it will be a few generations where no one will be Status. It will not matter that your family was signatory to the Treaties. There is no Treaty Indian anymore. Treaties will be empty because under the policies of government no one is Indian anymore. Ingenuous and diabolical. The only way for the Status Indian to survive is to marry another Status. With the world shrinking that is difficult. Unless Indians go into a breeding program. Just kidding.

But where the heck was I going when I got side tracked with the status thing, Oh yeah, the Hierarchy of Indians, who is more Indian. Indians are fighting among themselves (regardless of the government policies) about who is nose bleed, and who is Indian. Indian people want to be in the FBI category; Full Blood Indian, ah-ho! (Oops getting a little carried away there)

Well not everyone is FBI. Does that make them less Indian? I guess it does. Wait wait, let me explain. There are those that say well I am Indian in my heart. That's good, I guess. But really what makes us Indian? The DNA of our Ancestors (side note: Elder Dave Courchene Jr. states that if you have one drop of Indian Blood in you, you are in fact Indian)? Or the language, the songs, the Teachings, the lifestyle, our financial situation, the environment? Good question. I am not sure but this what I see, but don't necessarily understand fully. There is a hierarchy of Indian-ness. At the bottom of the pyramid or in this case the bottom teepee (instead of pyramid, get it? Both are Triangles or maybe I should just have said ladder, that way it would be easier to envision) is the wannabe.

AT the bottom of the hierarchy, the wannabee has no Indian blood or connection but has been drawn to the image of the Indian and desperately wants to be Indian. This person will wear their hair long in some cases. They will go to Sweats. In some extreme cases will move to a Reserve and marry an Indian. Ah - HO! Now that is commitment right there for sure. If you really want to examine the Wannabe, there are several layers of Wannabe. There is the bottom of the ladder Wannabe; the classic German and the Karl May and the old Shatterhand (cool name by the way) image. There is other types of Wannabes, like the Academic. A cool professor, wears his hair long, or she wears the scarfs and long skirts, goes to all the Indian Gatherings and sits in Talking Circles. I kind of like those Wannabes, they work hard at Ceremonies. There are other Wannabes that are higher up on the ladder and these are the "other ethnics" who claim Indian heritage. You know the like the Hondurans or the Uruguayan people (Which is kind of crazy because they were/are Indigenous people of their own right). There is a really weird Wannabe, those are the ones that learn to speak the language of the Indian and become fluent. These guys can be higher than even the dark skinned ethnic wannabe. These are amazing people.  Then there are people that are not at the bottom of the ladder like Chantal Kreviazuk. She is famous and has been found out to be Cree. Too bad for her as she is now being called down by the Storm Front racist-hate group,  just because her blood is now tainted by being an Indian. People like Chantal can actually point to their Indigenous ancestors. Of course there are the frauds; individuals who steal the Indian identity. Lots of those being exposed these days. These types of Indians are shameless in their actions. 

At the top of the Hierarchy is the Full Blood Indian (also known as the flat broke Indian). These are the people that have not gone to Residential school. Speak their language first. Have a Traditional link to the Land. Still know the Traditional Teachings of their people. Have not been indoctrinated by Christianity. Are not educated in a western school. However, these are very few, so we can forgive the schooling category in their otherwise Ideal Indian-ness. At the top with FBI are FBI's from Isolated Reserves/Reservations. People that live with the Land and have many connections to family ties, cultural activities, BUT, are Christianized Indians. Many communities are in this category. They have the Land and language along with a bit of sustenance lifestyle, but are worshipers of Jehovah - Jesus (and other saints and angels.)

Just below that is the Indian that is full blood and cannot speak fluently but can understand the language and knows enough to follow a conversation and respond to a fluent speaker in English. He or she has not been indoctrinated in Christianity. The numbers of these people is still significant but threatened. As the Golden-Agers and Baby-Boomers start to die off, the FBI will become less common.

Next on the ladder is the mixed Blood Indian that is fluent, has not been indoctrinated by Christianity, still maintains links to the Land and knows the Teachings of their people. This is a controversial ranking as the mixed blood with the stronger language skills could be higher on the ladder than the full blood who can't speak. It is a toss up between the two types of Indians. In many cases the mixed blood, who still looks Indian will be higher on the ladder of the Full Blood who can't speak his/her language.

As you move down the ladder the battle for who is higher on the tipi continues. You have Full Bloods that have been adopted out and raised in White families. They by chance of who and how they were raised, are not very high on the ladder. They are very close to the bottom of the ladder as well. Environment ways heavy against them in this case. It is the case of the real Indian looking dude that knows absolutely nothing about his/her heritage except for the movies, Dances with Wolves and Hondo. They look good but are sadly lost in the world. This leads to another type of Indian low on the tipi scale (hierarchy of Indian-ness); the Born-Again. In the mix of the ladder of Indian-ness is the Black Indian, the Asian Indian, the Jewish Indian, and on it goes. They can be at different rungs of the ladder depending on circumstances. Black Indians like the Neville Brothers are high up Indians because of who they are; famous musicians. 

Born-Agains want to be on top with the FBI's, but can't understand that even some mixed Bloods are higher Indians than them. The BA's boss other Indians around, tell them what a ceremony is really suppose to be. They tell you how many Pipes they now have. How many names they have been given, how many times they dragged skulls, how many Grandfathers (rocks) they have had in a Sweatlodge. They even become Elders in their thirties. Born Agains are tolerated by other Indians. Quite frankly, they scare the shit out of people (Indians). They try really hard to speak Indian with really heavy White accents. These Indians are the ones who give Whites a really really hard time. They are not on the bottom of the ladder but can be at different levels. Some Born-Agains are high on the ladder if they look Indian and have gone to the Rez sometimes throughout their childhood. Others that look white and have been to the Rez more times than the darker Indians will struggle as to their spot on the ladder/hierarchy. There are many Born Agains, some sit in the middle of pack but some are pretty high up on the ladder. Because they have all the elements of the Full Bloods and the Traditionalists, but were originally ignorant of their own Indian-ness. But they re-evaluated their essence and have climbed up the ladder.

We touched a little bit on environment and that is where the battle really heats up again for Indian-ness. There are the born, raised and went to school in the REZ Indian? By nature of where they were raised sit pretty higher middle and some are even close to the top of the ladder (depends on their language skills, their up-bringing and education). The born on the Rez Indian will sit at different levels of the ladder by nature of their blood. More Indian blood, higher on the ladder. However, this could be off-set by their Teachings. Heavy Christianity knocks some of the Indian-ness off of the Indian. So a lighter Indian by way they were raised could sit higher on the Indian-ness scale. So the Born on the Rez fair skinned Indian or the Black skinned Indian may have higher standing than a brown skinned Indian that has no bush ties, like a cement stomping Indian (city born and bred). Even good old cash plays a part in your Indian-ness scale. The poorer you are the more Indian (in some cases) you are. You may not be as Indian if you were raised in a rich neighbourhood. It's true. You have cash and you don't have the community links that are part of being Indian. You become a "drive-by" Indian. Drive by the Reserve or drive by the hood.

There is the born in the hood (inner-city and other really poor areas of the city) Indian. These are the crazy ones. Strong voices and wanting to be high on the ladder. The Rez Indians resent these Indians and they have the most fierce battles on Indian-ness. Much of the Born in the Hood Indians have stronger Indian accents than Rez Indians. Many of these Indians sit a little higher on the ladder because of their social and economic backgrounds. Many of them have never set foot in a bush or a canoe, but will maintain that they are "keepers of the Earth". It is frightening to put them low on the ladder. Their fierce grip of an Identity (however distorted) makes them middle of the pack on the Indian-ness scale.  The lines are pretty muddled in the middle rungs of the Indian-ness ladder. But someone will put a chart out there to show who sits were on the hierarchy of Indian-ness. Interesting to note, some of the Indian-ness scale is influenced by hardship faced by the Indian. Also the Residential school attendance is fashionable right now, and increases the Indian-ness factor.

Sorry if I didn't get to all categories but this is just an Introductory Indian- and you will have to sign up for the advanced tutorial on Indian-ness. If I think of it, I may come back to clarify the ladder rungs a bit more. Until then keep up with your reading on Indians.  I apologize for not looking at the Apple Indian. Now that is a branch of another tree. The thing about Indians, everyone seems to want to more Indians than the other Indian. So much so they will cut each other up to pieces. There is the Brown Indian who will take down the fair skinned so they can feel superior. Okay, well that's it for now Indians. Now go on out there and rock those Mocs (as they say). G'waabaamin (See you, just had to throw that in, for the Indian Factor - which is another story).  

With the question of are you Indian enough, there is the chance one Indian will attack another for not being Indian enough for them. Which can cause some toxicity in the identity crisis. 

Cherokee Fiddle, cause Good Whiskey Never Let Him Lose His Place

 Urban Cowboy is a 1980 movie with a soundtrack steeped in western songs that had great Redneck lines like, "single bars and good time ...