Friday, December 28, 2012

G'waabaamin Tobasonakwut Kinew

Date of Passing: December 23, 2012
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TOBASONAKWUT KAAGAGEWANAKWEB PETER (KELLY) KINEW 1936 - 2012 Ahow ndinawemaaganiidog, Tobasonakwut Kaagagewanakweb Peter Kinew (Kelly), Pizhiw O'dotem (Lynx clan), made his journey to the spirit world on the morning of December 23, 2012. He was 76. Tobasonakwutiban was a well-respected member of the Anishinaabe community, whose life and work was known throughout Canada and the United States. He was a tireless advocate and teacher of civil liberties and treaty rights, indigenous language, culture, and philosophy. He was a pipe carrier, Sundance chief, and high-degree member of the Mite'iwin. Tobasonakwutiban was born on his father's trap line on Lake of the Woods in 1936 and chosen by elders as a child to be instructed and mentored in the knowledge and traditions of the Anishinaabeg. His knowledge was unparalleled. Throughout his life he loved to spend time on the lake sharing its beauty with his family and friends from all over the world. At a young age he was taken away to St. Mary's Residential School, which he was only allowed to attend until grade eight. Despite this, he pursued his education at the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University, University of Manitoba (BA), culminating in an Honourary Doctorate in Laws from The University of Winnipeg in 2011. He encouraged many to pursue their educations, inspiring countless people to become lawyers and doctors. He also inspired many to live a life free of drugs and alcohol. In his political career, Tobasonakwutiban served as Grand Chief of Grand Council Treaty 3 (1972 to 1975, 1991 to 1995), and as the first Ontario regional chief for AFN, as well as several terms as Chief of the Ojibways of Onigaming. He was instrumental in the establishment and guidance of many organizations that advocated for language revitalization, treaty and First Nations rights. In the quest to find healing after the loss of his two sons Darryl and Danny, he continued in the Mite'iwin and other Anishinaabe ceremonies, and embraced the Lakota Sundance, becoming a powerful teacher and mentor to many in these traditions. As part of his life journey, Tobasonakwutiban strove for meaningful action and carried out traditional Anishinaabe ceremonies in the name of reconciliation, with emphasis on the residential school experience. This included giving Pope Benedict XVI an eagle feather in 2009, adopting the Archbishop of Winnipeg James Weisgerber as his brother in 2012, and sharing the Anishinaabe worldview with all peoples, Native and non-Native. Tobasonakwutiban was a profound thinker. He connected western intellectual traditions and scientific inquiry with Anishaabe philosophy and cosmology. It was his life's work to share the depth and beauty of Anishinaabe wisdom with the world. He was a founding member of the Native American Science Academy. He was a beloved son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He joins his mother, father, sons Darryl and Danny, twin Bineshii, and brothers Edwin and John. He is survived by his wife Kathi, brother Fred, sister Nancy, children Pat (Herman), Diane, Wabanakwut, Shawon Kiwetinashiik (Jesse), Nenaa'ikiizhikok, grandchildren Devon, Derek, Melissa, Jennifer, Daniel, Wendy, Jason, Matthew, Lisa, Peshanakwut, Mike, Dominik Oshkii'anang, Bezhigomiigwaan and numerous great-grandchildren and adopted relatives. A memorial service for family and friends will be held in Winnipeg at Glen Lawn Funeral Home at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 27. The wake will be held on Friday, December 28 at Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation, ON. The funeral will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 29 at the Onigaming Round House. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to CancerCare Manitoba or to the Dr. Tobasonakwut Kinew Fund for the promotion of Indigenous Culture, History and Language, care of The University of Winnipeg Foundation.
 As published in the Winnipeg Free Press on December 27, 2012

I was very fortunate to know Mr. Peter Tobasoankwut Kinew. A gentleman of great knowledge that is for sure. He will be missed by very many people. 
I think the family will not be at all surprised by the amount of people that Peter Kinew influenced in a good way. He was generous with his Teachings and his time. 

A Pipe Maker.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Killing Stephen Harper's

Killing Stephen Harper's Budget C-45 Omnibus Bill is not going to happen. The Senate passed the Bill this last week.
The  Budget Bill address's more things than what was normally found in a budget bill. Now you are getting a 457 page document that affects "64 different Acts and regulations". 

For Indian people this just might be the final insult to them.  Years of insults from a government and a country that is basking in the Land's riches can do that to a people. The Canadian people are reaping (and raping) the benefits of all the vast resources the land has. Land that is not theirs. So what are the Indigenous folk to do? Be standing by and let Canada tell the world that we Indians are getting "hand outs" and everything for free?

I don't think anyone in their right mind would stand for that. Trouble is, we have been at the end of a losing battle. Canada continues to play the game that they are in fact the good guys. We Indians are the bad guys. It is not the truth. Truth is that Canada knows it is doing wrong. They continue to use their laws to break the Indian.  Canada as a whole is not doing right by the Indian.

If Canada did right, it would acknowledge the fact that the Land was not theirs to begin with. Sure they have the deal (Treaties) with many Tribes but the deal is not followed. Canada did not negotiate for the resources. Canada did not get the Traditional Lands used by the Indians. Canada lies to the public about what the Treaties mean.

In any case if you really truly think about it, Canada knows it is not behaving honourably.

So what now. Canada's head is Prime Minister Stephen Harper. An individual with no conscience. He is going to further take more from the Indian. Harper and Canada continues with the Big Lie. The Big Lie is that Indians should sell their Land. This is suppose to give them some benefit and make them more "equal" with the rest of Canada. Truth is, Canada is living the lie. Canada is the one that has no right to sell the resources and the Land. They started cheating the Indians from contact and are continuing today. Look at the way they do it. With laws like the Natural Resources Transfer Act (NRTA). They gave the Land to the provinces. Just so they could get it away from the Indians. Plain and simple.  There are endless examples of the tactics used by Canada to dismantle the Indian. Bill C-45 is the latest example. I think Harper with his 'attitude' and comments is actually trying to goad the Indians into a war.

I hope that doesn't happen but it is an inevable conclusion. People are going to start realizing the Big Lie will never stop. Canada knows this. Canada has been preparing for this for a long time. CSIS is watching
CSIS is the Canadian spy agency. They are watching Indians. Indians that are speaking about the Big Lie.

Harper has stirred up the nest. The young are going to get busy.

They will soon realize the action of protests and education is not going to work on Harper. He is the voice of Canada. Canada speaks loud against the Indian. So what is an Indian to do? Become another FLQ? Thing is Indians are all about peace. So what will they do? Another Oka?

I really think Harper is wanting to eradicate the Indian once and for all. He will not care if it is done through policy, law or by the gun. In fact he would prefer the gun. This would give him the "rationale" to end the Treaty and Unceded land obligations.

Canada is going to have to deal with the fall out of Harper's actions to "kill the Indian".

Look at Chief Theresa Spence and her noble act of courage. Harper could give "two-shits" about whether she dies or not. He is not the type to listen to anyone. So how do you get a person to listen?  Or even worse have someone change their mind?

If someone put a gun to my head I would change my mind I bet.I don't know the answers to dealing with the type of hate that Harper has been showing towards Indians.  You know some people only respond to gunboat diplomacy. Don't know the answers to addressing the Harper's of the world, but someone does.

And I bet it is the young people and the women.

The past cannot be changed, the future is still in your power. ”
— Hugh White 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Our Hearts Are Broken"

"Scripture...heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds." President Obama

Like all of you I can't help but keep thinking about those poor sweet babies and the brave Women that were brutally murdered in Newtown, Connecticut.

They are just babies. The manner in how they died is straight horror.

What can anyone say? There is nothing that can ease the pain. I cannot imagine the pain, the sorrow, the hurt, the loss, the isolation, the anger, the grief going on in that community right now. 
  • Charlotte Bacon, 6
  • Daniel Barden, 7
  • Olivia Engel, 6
  • Josephine Gay, 7
  • Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
  • Dylan Hockley, 6
  • Madeleine Hsu, 6
  • Catherine Hubbard, 6
  • Chase Kowalski, 7
  • Jesse Lewis, 6
  • James Mattioli, 6
  • Grace McDonnell, 7
  • Emilie Parker, 6
  • Jack Pinto, 6
  • Noah Pozner, 6
  • Caroline Previdi, 6
  • Jessica Rekos, 6
  • Avielle Richman, 6
  • Benjamin Wheeler, 6
  • Allison Wyatt, 6
  • Rachel Davino, 29
  • Dawn Hocksprung, 47
  • Anne Marie Murphy, 52
  • Lauren Russeau, 30
  • Mary Sherlach, 56
  • Victoria Soto, 27

These are the days of the endless summer
These are the days, the time is now
There is no past, there's only future
There's only here, there's only now

Oh your smiling face, your gracious presence
The fires of spring are kindling bright
Oh the radiant heart and the song of glory
Crying freedom in the night

These are the days by the sparkling river
His timely grace and our treasured find
This is the love of the one magician
Turned the water into wine

These are the days of the endless dancing and the
Long walks on the summer night
These are the days of the true romancing
When I'm holding you oh, so tight

These are the days by the sparkling river
His timely grace and our treasured find
This is the love of the one great magician
Turned the water into wine

These are the days now that we must savor
And we must enjoy as we can
These are the days that will last forever
You've got to hold them in your heart.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"Not for Free Loading Indians"

WINNIPEG - The head of the Manitoba Progressive Conservative party's youth wing was ousted Friday after posting an admittedly racist comment about aboriginals on his Facebook page.
Braydon Mazurkiewich was upset about a planned urban reserve in Winnipeg when he wrote that the site, which sits on a former military base, was "built for hardworking men and women of the military, not freeloading Indians."
Mazurkiewich handed in his resignation and apologized for the comment, but maintained his opposition to the reserve in suburban Winnipeg.
"What I did write was racist and I do apologize for that," he said.
"But my feelings about the reserve going in ... I don't think that would fit well in that community at all. You know, you hear on reserves all the time, people are burning down their own homes. There are shootings and stabbings, and we don't need to bring more of that to Winnipeg."
Holy heck this is so fucking funny!  I laughed. This stupid young racist man, didn't have enough sense to keep his feelings to himself. By hey, he is going places. You will see this type of person is readily accepted in Canadian politics. He is a poster boy for what is really going on in Canada. You know Canada? The place of great moral regard for the world?

Canada is filled with a bunch of spoiled privileged white people; yes yuppies and hipsters.     They will stand up and condemn Israel, Palestine, Egypt, war torn Africa, and any other place that doesn't fit with their clean world.  Canada will condemn ever place in the Sun that they feel is not as good as old Canada. They want the leaders of those countries to respect and honour the Rights of their own people. Canada will send money, even send their warriors, police, engineers to go and make sure that the world is complying with their beliefs of respect and honour. I get that. That is a noble thing to do and strive for. Canada is indeed the moral Chief in the world.  Canada can say it believes in the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  That is awesome. Wonder why Canada, the superior moral Chief of the World voted against the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

It is because of the fact that Canada does not like Indigenous People. Plain and simple. People believe and promote the idea that Indians in Canada are a bunch of Free Loaders and Indian Givers. We are looked at with disdain, contempt and pure hatred. No doubt about that. The young leader, Mazurkiewich is just a product of the hate that Canada has for Indigenous people.

The truth is that Canada, although they want to be the face of morality in the world, they are in fact two faced.  Canada has it real good. They have a sweet heart deal when it comes to the natural resources. They have it good when it comes to dealing with the Indigenous folk. They just keep stringing the Indians  along with the notion of "Rights Recognition". That is so funny. The Indians know they are screwed but they keep hoping that Canada will live up to its deal that was negotiated and signed. And where there is no deal, the Indians believe that Canada will leave their land alone or negotiate in good faith for the resources.

No such luck. Canada despises Indians. Indians are no good for nothing free loaders. "sigh". Its too bad that Canada doesn't realize how good they got it. They can play the good guy image all they want on the world stage, but behind the curtain, Canada is still what it is, a land of hate filled spoiled rich white people.

Sadly, they are the people that run the country. And why should Canada change? No reason to. They got it all. As long as they keep selling the "goods" about Indians receiving hand outs, people will not know that Canada is a cheat and dishonourable nation. There is no incentive to deal honestly with the Indigenous people in Canada (and the U.S., New Zealand, Australia).

Here is a quote from the movie the Grand Canyon;  in the scene a tow truck driver Simon is hooking up a car that has been broke down. The car owner is facing some bad gang guys Rocstar in the neighbourhood. The tow truck driver is trying to safely get the car owner out of the situation:

Simon: I've gotta ask you for a favor. Let me go my way here. This truck's my responsibility, and now that the car's hooked up to it, it's my responsibility too.
Rocstar: Do you think I'm stupid? Just answer that question first.
Simon: Look, I don't know nothing about you; you don't know nothing about me. I don't know if you're stupid, or some kind of genius. All I know is that I need to get out of here, and you got the gun. So I'm asking you, for the second time, let me go my way here.
Rocstar: I'm gonna grant you that favor, and I'm gonna expect you to remember it if we ever meet again. But tell me this, are you asking me as a sign of respect, or are you asking because I've got the gun?
Simon: Man, the world ain't supposed to work like this. I mean, maybe you don't know that yet. I'm supposed to be able to do my job without having to ask you if I can. That dude is supposed to be able to wait with his car without you ripping him off. Everything is supposed to be different than it is.
Rocstar: So what's your answer?
Simon: You ain't got the gun, we ain't having this conversation.
Rocstar: That's what I thought: no gun, no respect. That's why I always got the gun.

What does the quote tell you?  It tells you that no respect can come without a threat of force behind it. That is the reality of the situation around the world and in Canada.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chief Spence Hunger Strike

Jingle Dress Dancing For Chief Spence\


To raise money for traveling costs for the traditional sacred Jingle Dress dancers and song carriers from Whitefish Bay, ON, to get to Victoria Island to honour Chief Theresa Spence.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Don't fool around on an Indian Woman.

In our Reserve if you "fool" around on your wife or partner, you are in trouble.

You will suffer the consequences and deservedly so.

One night a bingo a woman scorned, walked in to the crowded hall and threw some shitty underwear on the table where another woman sat. The scorned woman said "You want to take my man? Well you take his shitty shorts and you wash them."

Another fellow had his car windows smashed up. All of his lights were busted out. The woman went crazy on the car. She went back into the house, got his clothes and cut them up. She was berserk. She was like dancing around. The neighbors just watched as it played out. They had seen this before. The couple re-engaged many times even wanting to get married. They finally went their separate ways.

Yep, you want to fool around on an Indian woman, you take your chances.

Never heard of anyone getting sliced though. The attacks usually are on the clothes or on the man's pride.

Some women are pretty nice about it, they will just throw his clothes all over the yard. The really really nice wants will actually put the clothes in a garbage bag out in the yard.


Of course these same women almost always take their man back.  :D

Thursday, November 29, 2012

So I am a phoney.

I guess that happens. The transgressions of our past will always haunt us. If not, someone will make sure you are reminded that you are no good. They will rip you a "new one" and throw your shit in your face.

I know. That happens.

Sure I am a no good guy. I know that. No one needs to remind me. I did awful things. If you are going to list my sins, at least make a good long list.

What can you say when someone does that? You can be amused, or even angry. In my case I was sad.
I know how I am and how I don't feel good about myself. You can't make me feel bad about myself, because I know who I am, and I do not like what I see.

But hey at least you tried and you did your best. Now have a cup of coco.

As for me I will go along trying to work through my demons. I will never succeed but maybe one day I can look in the mirror and at least know I gave it on honest effort.

It's funny how people can only look at the bad side of things, of what you have done and that's all. Doesn't matter you have made effort of kindness and redemption.

"And fuck them if they can't take a joke."   :D

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


"The world is not my home
I'm just a passin thru"...

the immortal Tom Waits.  He says it all.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Gidimaagenim: A Pity

Driving around with my Dad in the City of Winnipeg, and he looked around at the people and he said "'gidimaazi". People are poor, its a pity.  My Dad has been staying at the house for a while. He has the early onset of Alzheimer's. It is funny because you don't know if he is teasing at times, but sad when you know he is not. You see startling clarity at times  when he is watching things.

He reminded me of how hard it can be for people. He made me think. I am tired but must realize that the whole world is tired as well. We have friends family that are going through hardship. We need to think outside of our own struggles.

I am tired. My body aches. It is weird, but I get physically sick when I do worry about perceived or real troubles.

People are poor.  That statement is not really about material wealth, cash, but about the life. Sometimes its life, or lack of life that makes us poor.

Take heart, there are people out there that are not poor. They are rich in character. Rich in friends and outlook. Latch onto those people. Feed off their goodness and their richness.

Pass on that richness. Make someone smile. Make someone happy. Sometimes a kind gesture will do that. Enrich the lives of others and you will enrich your own life.

Sounds cliche and phoney. It's not.

I truly think that if we keep exercising our compassion and kindness we can make ourselves happy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Travel people travel.

My Dad is very forgetful these days. We were driving back to the house the other night from a movie. He keeps asking me the same questions and I get kind of tired of it, so I said to him, "Dad you ask me the same things over and over.".  He said, "I forget, guess I'll get senile, I'm scared".  Hard for him. His young brother Uncle Georgie Boy is in a care facility that has locks for people with Alzheimers. George does not recognize anyone anymore, I am pretty sure. My Dad does not want to go see him anymore. The last time, George didn't seem to understand what was being said when my Dad talked with him. So maybe Dad doesn't want to see what is happening to him as well. I don't know.

Taking my Dad around the City with me and we have been running into people he knows from another time and other Reserves. We ran into one of his old friends from up north, Rodney Spence. We also ran into a guy from the Island Lake region that my Dad is friends with, Marcel Flett. My Dad said he meet those guys when he used to travel with Manitoba Indian Brotherhood (MIB). MIB was the Aboriginal Political voice called the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood back  in the 1970's. Dad worked for Dave Courchene Sr. the President of the MIB in those days. That is one thing Dad said, "when you travel, you meet people, it is good to meet people". I like that.

This August or September I met these two women from Brazil. They were asking directions on a street in Winnipeg and I told them where to go. I invited them to our home and said "come to our house, my wife will cook for you".  I told my wife I met two women and invited them home for her to cook for them. She said "okay".  Of course, I did.  My wife is so god damn cool, she didn't even bat and eye. "Sure, I'll cook for your Brazilian Women".  

We have had them to our home; Martha, Ana and the baby Olivia. She is almost one year old and as cute as can be. They are here visiting while Martha does her Phd classes at the University of Manitoba. Ana is the mom of Martha. This Saturday we went to their apartment for dinner. It was fun. Martha had a few friends over as well. A fellow student named Connor. He is from Colorado and is doing his Masters and will be heading to Kenya for 8 months this Christmas. He is a young good looking athletic guy.  Very friendly, handsome and he wears sandals.  He has done all the wilderness stuff: white water rafting down the Colorado for 18 days, climb rocks, is a skier, you name it, a real marvel. Another couple were at the dinner as well. Ryan is from Manitoba. He grew up around the Riding Mountain area, but did some traveling. His wife is from Peru. Her name is Alexandra and their son is Santiago. A beautiful two year old wavy haired handsome boy. Ryan met his wife in Peru while he was doing a stint as a student over there. Ryan and Alexandra mostly speak Spanish to Santiago.  Alexandra is one of those Latino women, that has good skin colour and is very friendly and pretty. They have been together for over eight years. Ryan is a professional that works with a northern Indian Band.

I am always in awe of people who travel or have lived some where else. It is like a whole new experience visiting with them. You want to absorb what they have experienced. I get real noisy and ask a million questions. Heck I must be real annoying to sit and talk with. I must act like a Shamagonish, a cop. "Where you from, when did you get here, what do you, how did you meet, where do  you live?" Thankfully everyone is polite and didn't tell me to shaddap (shut up). 

I feel bad for people that are not going to experience travel. Or even meet people that have traveled. I like that me. I like to meet people from all over. So talk to people, strangers on the street. You never know where you will end up. Like my Dad says, "it's good to meet people".

I am so glad that we got to meet some new people. Even if I may never go to the places where they are from, I at least met someone from a land far away.

Home is good don't get me wrong, but let's open up our worlds too.

Today I was driving down the highway, I saw this young man get off a bus and he had a big back-pack, so I turned around on the highway because I knew he was a hitchhiker. In the city it is hard to get a ride and I knew he would have a bit of a walk to get out of the city and be on the Trans Canada highway. So he was happy that I gave him a little ride out of the city. His Name is Gabriel and his going home to Quebec. He is coming from British Columbia.  Hope you have a safe trip Gabriel.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

If you were Chief...

If you were Chief what would you do? Differently?

by Steve Julian on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 1:46pm ·

There is a lot of debate over on the Sagkeeng Fort Alexander facebook page on the goings on of the community. I see some people campaigning and some openly calling for a new Chief and Council. I wonder if you did have the helm what would you try and do to change things. Or do things need to be changed?

I did run for public office a couple of times without success. The message for me is loud and clear, so I do acquiesce to the wishes of the community. Still I wouldn't mind to hear from other people as to what ideas they do hold. I also still want to share my ideas and thoughts about our community.

Last election there was one candidate talking about the rule of "big families". I felt that this was a wrong approach. A divisive attack from a person that is suppose to lead the community. My thinking is that the elected leader must unite the community not divide it.

Another person felt the need to attack the other opponents rather than talk about what their focus was for the community. I think with that type of thinking it just adds to the discontent that plagues our community.

I maintain that our communities ills do not fall on any one Council, but it is a accumulative effect of years of colonial oppression. We are just immersed in that decay that we don't know anything else. But there is hope for sure.

I think the role of the Chief and Council must be seen as our rule. Chief and Council must be thought of as the Voice of our community. As it is, people do not live like that. For example if the Chief and Council decided that for the good of the community that we needed to suspend the hunt for moose, would people listen? Of course not. People would say it is my Treaty Right and I am going to exercise that Right. Isn't that right? Right now the community uses the Chief and Council as a management team, not a Leader and voice for the community. The role of the Chief and Council must be seen as our government, but clearly it is not. People will go to our Council for the most mundane of things. "I lost my Welfare cheque or someone stole it and I need to get some pampers for my kids". "I need gas money to get to the city". If the Council doesn't give out money then people get  downright angry and hostile, swearing at the secretaries at the Band office. Is that anyway to treat the Leader of your community? It is about respecting the role. Remember the role that C & C have. I may disagree with the politics, the management and the conduct of C & C but I still remember what they represent. That is one thing the C & C must also remember, it is their role to listen to the people and speak for the people. Remember you can't give every single person a Yes.

That is what people don't want is to hear No. But it is the reality of the situation. The Band is limited in what it can do. So the C & C have to be stingy with the resources and not just use them to gain favour with certain segment of the population. But it happens. That has been the situation for a long time. How do we change that situation?

I think telling is the way. Tell everyone what is going on at the Band office. If someone is coming for money, let the people know. If you have to give money let the people know. That money is on behalf of all the community. Not for certain segments.

I know people are people and you are going to like and not like certain people. So your decisions are going to reflect that. I know my brother is not liked by the Band and so he is treated in that manner. It is not policy it is personal. That is not the way to govern.  But that is the nature of people. So trying to over come that is a look in the mirror approach.

The community should start to think about the community as a whole. Right now that is not the case. We are so divided in all aspects: family lines, religious lines, geography lines (north south shore, on reserve off reserve), ideological lines, and historical views. Some people have a skewed version of history and want two separate reserves. That is a shame, they don't know their own history and want to become big fish in a little pond. Have we not learned anything? No we have not, we are more divided than ever. So how can one C & C change this? It is a community think. Our community is filled with a bunch of individuals that only want what is best (or perceived best) for themselves. The main complaint of C & C is not about community but what I didn't get from C & C.  And that is not hyperbole but fact.  For some individuals Sagkeeng ends at the train track in town and at Cat Fish Creek. People that have to move to Winnipeg are not members of Sagkeeng. Again, division. Where are these people going to live? What jobs? They are forced to move. But hey if you want to throw away your community members, well that says something, doesn't it.

That is what it comes down to: community needs to start thinking about the whole community. The C & C must also think about the whole community. Make decisions based on that ideal.

When I see your x on the ballot box I would like to see, what you are thinking about the community. Not just empty rhetoric; "Oh I can work with anyone". Please that old line has been used forever. And people saying "oh you would make such a great leader". Why, because they can jump up and down? Nope, leadership will need to challenge the status quo. No more empty speaking. Get the community to understand that it is in crisis and the only way to get out of the crisis is people start to end the division.

The community is moving and not for the better, we need people who are going to steer for the whole community. The leader must come in with a strong set of ideals for the whole community.

Let us see an open financial disclosure. Open housing choices. Open lines of contact. Not just information to those that are in the "immediate circle".

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dear Sagkeeng, let's talk.

Dear Sagkeeng,

"You're talking like a white man". Ever hear that statement? Lot of people use it when they are upset and want to stop you from saying something. I always wondered what "thinking like, or talking like a white man" was. I believe the answer lies in the actions from those words. Wait, let me explain. Generally speaking Sagkeeng is thinking like a white man. That is, we have adopted the white mans' credo of accumulation. Not cutting up that way of thinking but it is not the Indian way.  Did you every hear an Indian talk about their "net worth". Or how their "portfolio" was doing?  Most likely not. You see back in the day, according to the government, it was a great sin to give things away. That was the whole credo of Indian society: sharing, to give to others in and out of the community. The Indian society had the notion of the whole. That meant sharing with everyone. So a Give Away was part of their being. The government saw this acts of sharing strange. They also felt many other Indian ways were alien to them. So the government did many things to change the Indian.

 As for Today, when was the last time you went out and did something for someone else (other than immediate family members)? Have you went out and cut wood or purchased wood for someone in the community that needs it? Have you killed an animal, gotten fish and given to someone other than family?  It is that simple. Indian thinking and Indian ways are about sharing; about the whole. Europe is interested in the individual. European  Laws reflect the individual claim. So the Laws were enacted to stop Give Aways of the Indian way in the 1800's. These laws were an assault on the symbol of all that is Native. It was one of the tools Canada did to try and kill the Indian. And for the most part it worked in some areas. So today we don't think like that, we don't think of the Share.  It is a shame. We are concerned about our net worth, what ever that means. We are concerned more with what we can get as opposed to what the community needs.

Sagkeeng is in a deep hole of trouble. Just like most Reserves in Canada. We are becoming a cesspool of despair, dysfunction, greed, anger, jealousy, hurt, abuse, and undisciplined behaviour.  Before you jump up and down and say "who the fuck are you to say that, you fucking crook", let me explain. I know Sagkeeng has some great attributes and I do love my community. However, Sagkeeng is part of a picture that is being painted right now. That painting is being changed as generations come and go. We have been in the midst of change for some time. From when the time that the main travel route was the water ways, to the introduction of the produced goods (can goods like Klik etc.), the abandoning of sustenance lifestyle (not hunting trapping to live), the invasion of Christianity (assault on way of life), the Trading posts (dependency of produced goods-products), the flu epidemics (disease in the 1800s changed landscape of Indian people), the Treaties, the Indian Act, the Residential School experience and the introduction of the Chief and Council system (to name of few changes).  Our people, our community has endured all that. You can't expect us not to be affected negatively.

There are facebook pages dedicated to Sagkeeng and Fort Alexander. Fort Alexander was the Indian Affairs name for Sagkeeng.  If you go to these sites, you can see that there are a lot of strong comments and opinions. Not every one will agree to the point that threats are made. Some people have blinders on. They feel that all is fine and that if you criticize the community you are nothing but an arsehole. Others engage in juvenile immature behaviour and postings akin to the school playground heckles of nyah nyah nyah.  The posters do highlight that Sagkeeng could use some help. It can be downright nasty on those sites. An anger comes out from people that is downright visceral. A reflection of what bubbles beneath the being of the Sagkeeng community. Understandable, considering the history of Aboriginal people. Thing is not everyone has a grasp of the history of Aboriginal people, our people included. So how can we change the picture? How can we affect the changes that are happening all around us? When we don't understand where we came from and what is happening to us?

One of the things I think Sagkeeng really has, is a concern. We are concerned about our community and that is a great thing. How can we use that concern to guide us? I think one of the big things we do lack is discipline. We are undisciplined in everything we do and don't do.  It is reflected in our children and our community. We can start at home. We can start with how we conduct ourselves. We can try to exercise our compassion to the community. Discipline our kids. They need that. Not negatively but constructively. We need them to be in school on time, to listen to the Teacher, to the adult. How can they respect other adults when we don't show that respect ourselves. It is just too damn easy to cut each other up. It is not enough to verbalize our respect for others but to actualize it. We need to start with the foundation of being a community, to share. To be good for the community. To think of what the community needs, not what I need.

You know the ills of the community are not to fall on the shoulders of one particular Leader(s). It is a compounded affect of years of pressure. Pressure to change into a material culture. Pressure to want the next best thing. We can blame all our woes on poor governance, corrupt officials, but in the end we need to be that action.  Our leaders must understand what their role is in a community. They must understand the underpinnings of how the role of leadership has been corrupted by years of control by colonial thinking - white man thinking; You know, control and power. Reserves, even though technically had Chiefs and Councils, were in fact fun by the Minister of Indian Affairs through Indian Agents. And that is a fact. However, the reigns of the Indian Agent are no longer there, but we still behave like the people have no control. Any way...

You know questioning our leaders is a good thing. They need to hear the people. But not just for our wants and needs, but for the whole community. I don't want to go to the Chief and ask for a house, a loan, a new door. I want to go to the Chief and talk with him/her about the direction of the community. How can we get people to rally around the community. It can be done. Just look at those young boys (Sagkeeng's Finest) that won the Canada's Got Talent television show.  It was that Aboriginal community in Canada that helped those boys. The Aboriginal community rallied around and made things happen.  I need our community leaders to ask themselves, "am I here for the benefit of all"? To ask themselves, "am I able to help the community, do I have the skill sets to make a difference"? "Can I truly listen to the people"? "Do I have the guts to face the tough questions and can I make the right decisions"? I think that is a hard thing to look yourself in the face and see what you are and what you are doing.

I don't see change happening in the community for the good. We are trapped in a mindset of white thinking. We want what we want for us and only us. Many will give lip service for the "good of the community". But is only lip service. Ever single elected official wants to do good, but they are incapable. So they just get engulfed in the system. Pacify the whiners, criers and complainers. Give them a soother and they will be happy. Happens to every single leader we get. Of course we have had exceptions. Late Dave Courchene Sr. was one of those few who thought of the community first. Not as many since then. My Dad says Late John Thompson was one of those few leaders that looked after the whole community as well. Some leaders have tried but they too are over run with the white mindset of the Sagkeeng community. Too bad. It is not really their fault, they are just too ill equipped to deal with the onslaught of greed, pettiness and jealousy of a whole community. The Councils have good hearts and the people take advantage of that. So it is not solely the Chief and Council that have failed but rather it is the nature of the community and the push for selfish gain.

You know what Sagkeeng is much more than that, much more than greed, pettiness and jealousy.  My Mom used say that Sagkeeng has some of the most generous people you will ever meet. Sadly, you meet those people only when a death occurs. We should be those people every single day.

Sorry Sagkeeng for saying bad things to and about you.

Actually I was quite reserved (:d) in my voice.



Sagkeeng First Nation Community.
An open Discussion

How is our community? Can we say it’s good, it’s fine?
In some ways it is fine, it is good. In some ways, it does have challenges.  The thing to ask about our community starts with these 3 simple questions: Where are we, where do we want to be, and How do we get there?   Each of these questions lends to more questions and actions.  I don’t have any more knowledge than the next person but like you I have an opinion and questions.  So let’s start this discussion.
Private land: I hear people speaking up about the privatizing of Reserve land. They have their reasons for the move. Sadly this type of thinking leaves no options for the children, grandchildren, great children and so on. If the land is sold off where does it leave those yet to be born?  No land for them and this is fundamentally wrong.  It’s wrong for a whole lot of reasons. The big fallacy is we will have access to cash re: mortgage and leveraging of land for cash borrow.  How are our financial management right now? How are FN’s doing who don’t live in the city now?  Also the notion of collective Rights?  Do we know what it means? 
Communication:  Sagkeeng should develop a communication strategy. Band meetings are not effective means of communication. Far too many self-interest are high jacking the opportunity to hear what is going on in the community.  Not to say we should abandon Band meetings. We could supplement the communication to add more information.  Staff of the Band should be active in providing information.  Perhaps news bulletins. Facebook is not really a viable option. Sure there are couple of councillors on facebook but the information is superficial and of no real value. It’s okay to vent and say you’re doing all this work, but information should be concrete.  It’s about substance versus style and superficiality.  As Councillors you may have the best intentions and be really active but it should be conveyed to the public.  If you are too busy or not sure of what to do, you have staff to work with.  You have to ask yourself what do the directors of each department do? They are all under the auspices of the Chief and Council whether they believe so or not. In addition the CEO should be active in the communication strategy.  There could be an active use of the local radio station for local initiatives and a news letter for broader actions. In any case it is the lack of communication which gives a lack of transparency to the Band Council.  Maybe each councillor could have their own activity reports for community members off and on Reserve.  The lack of information leads to negative gossip out there.
Education: There has to be a real change in the education administration and implement new challenges to the old rule of system. The lack of discipline in the hallways, in the classrooms and in the yards is evident. Having teachers smoking cigarettes with students in front of the buildings?  No regard for the roles of Teachers. The lack of participation from parents is disheartening. Teachers going through motions of teaching. Administration not thinking creatively or supporting teachers and programs. It trickles down to the students. Blindly following old programs and teaching curriculum.  Is there a measurement of how many make it from k to 12? What is the ratio of high school students going directly into post secondary and succeeding?  What are the measures taken to assist them in transitions? What are steps to maintain and increase language retention?  How is the school system reviewed? What is working and what is not working in the system?
Housing: What can be done to increase the life of a house? What new innovations are out there than can be looked at? Sustainable housing?  What of private ownership of houses? There needs to be a mind-shift in how home ownership is viewed. People say “my house” but don’t want to take on the up keep of owing a house. The first thing you see (or saw) entering the community is a house with paint on it saying “need new house – mold”.  Let us think about that and what message does it send or foster? We have a mind-set of “give me”. This is a very selfish mentality in the community. At a Winnipeg meeting one of the “Elders” just complained of not getting a house. No ideas of how the community can function in bigger terms it was just me, me. That is a sign of a sick community. Many of the people will say it’s my Treaty right to get a house.  Really?  So how can we make the dollars transferred to the community stretch for housing?  How can we get people to care for the homes provided to them? It is a bold move but social housing for many to be cut out. New housing strategy to be made.  Its community money and should be community property. So if you are abusing community property you should be removed and given to someone who will look after it. Instead we have people who burn down a house in the hope of getting a “burn out” home. We have people who have signed up for CMHC homes and stop paying. The burden of “their home” is now the burden of the community. The people who have done this and are doing this should be made public. We should get people to mortgage to the Band for homes. If you get a Band home the person should be made to pay for it. Simple. You will see homes being kept and the lives of the home being extended.  A housing strategy to determine how housing is selected, repaired etc.
Departments: There should be more accountability with the various departments. They should be active participants in communication strategy with the Band. Let the people know what they are doing in the community. How they are working together. Not trying to be Queens and Kings of their little islands/domains.  The combined resources would capture efficiencies which will have a multiplying effect in services provided.
Complacency:  The problems with the community is its state of inertia. People especially the workforce is comfortable in its mediocracy. It takes work, real effort to create change. So people are afraid of change because they are either comfortable just riding the pine or benefit from the status quo. They don’t want change as it may mean looking at their incompetence or having to make an effort at their jobs. How does that change?  A workforce that never changes?  Never gets reviewed or evaluated? Is never measured for performance or outcomes?  How can you know you are doing a good job, a bad job, if you never ever know the outputs and deliverables. This is true for every department in the community.
Chief & Council: The key to providing leadership is to act and behave as leaders. This is not the same as management. Managing the poverty of the community is not leadership. We have to really look at what governance entails.  Is there a role for C & C in resource management? We are killing all the moose in the area and are letting the province do the heavy lifting when it comes to conservation. We have no idea of what FML and other mineral licenses are out there in our Traditional territory.  We want to engage in giving monies to people and call it “discretionary funds”; hero funds it’s also known as. What benefit does this have on the community. First question we should ask; how does this benefit the community and the community’s future?  As individuals in the role we look at the actions and behaviour. We can’t imagine the toll the constant pressure takes on you and your families. A thankless job as everyone seems to be only interested in their own interests. However it’s not limited to the community members but the council itself. Let’s look at the gossip out there. This is where a communication strategy would help eliminate some of the gossip. For starters Johnish Courchene. It is known he has sued the Band when he was out of office. He took his loss badly and was vocal in putting down the Band. The court action was part of the Sagkeeng Alliance to stop a second vote on the Hydro Accord. Now it seems there is a conflict of interest where the funds of the hydro trust are to be used to pay off the legal debt of the individuals who hired a law firm to sue the Band. It means these individuals went on their own and sued our Band. Now they want our Band to pay for their decision. If this in fact true, there has to be something seriously wrong here. How can you represent the people, sue them and then use their money to pay for your decisions?  The other gossip is the bedding and food bank stuff. Many a rumour out there, but the note of contention is why do we have an elected official picking up beds and other items?  Sure that is a nice gesture and good for the community, should it not be an employee to do those errands? The other council member Mark Courchene is seen as just being an angry individual with only interests in his personal business. It is said he made a loan to his brother for 15 grand. Not sure if that is true. But that is the nature of gossip. And if it is true, there is a conflict or at least the impression of one. Not begrudging the loan, it seems to have been common practice with previous councils, the only thing is we need to be have transparency. So if loans are given at least make it public, rather than let the rumour mill spin it out of control. The other issue is just common respect for other elected officials and the public. Name calling is beneath an elected official.  Councillor Marilyn Courchene is very active in the community. However her strength is also part of her weakness.  Her emotional outbursts are entertaining but the messages get lost when that happens. She is seen as hostile to various departments in the community. However she is also seen as committed to the community. So it could be a question of balance. Joe Daniels is seen as not being seen.  There are a few who say he doesn’t engage with members. I think a communication strategy would eliminate that perception. Joe really needs to let people know what he thinks and sees in the community. His strength is that he holds no grudge and will tell you straight on what he thinks.  Derrick Henderson is seen as weak. It is said he is afraid to commit and make a stand. He wants to be liked. Being liked is a good thing but can be harmful to a role in leadership. He needs to be more forceful in his stance with colleagues and the community. Being a peacemaker is a good trait but sitting on a fence is not good for anyone.
So that’s the scuttlebutt of gossip. A communication strategy will go a long way in slowing gossip. It won’t eliminate everything as the community has some deep rooted sickness in it. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bullying Cause of Suicide... Again... Amanda Todd

Amanda Todd took her life the other day. Bullying was too much for her. She pleaded for help. None came.

Heart Breaking. Madding. Shameless. Gut-wrenching.

What is the answer? Can we stop bullying? Can there be something good to come out of this horrible action? Should the people who bullied her be "outed".  What happens then? They become the pariah of their community?

Amanda Todd chronicled years of cyber-bullying in a video she posted in September. (YouTube)
A Vancouver-area teen who used YouTube to share her heart-wrenching story of being bullied online and beaten at school has killed herself, unleashing a torrent of social media condolences and soul-searching.
Amanda Todd was found dead in Coquitlam on Wednesday night, less than a month before her 16th birthday.
News of her torment and death are being shared on social media through Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, where #RIPAmanda is trending.

 This is not going to stop anytime soon. There are unthinking people out there. As people we make mistakes. This young girl said she made one. Why was that a reason to torment her endlessly? Those tormentors also made a mistake. Will there be any redemption for them?

I am so disheartened by the whole thing. That poor young girl. Her parents, her friends.

You go online to the videos of her and some of the comments are just sickening. Bullying her again.

Yes there are some mean people in the world. Some are just stupid. Doesn't make it right.

What can be done? Should the bullies be made an example of? In the end really what can be done? You don't want to end bullying by bullying the bullies, right?

A sad day.  

THE BEGINNING: On Sept. 7, 2012, 15-year-old Amanda Todd posted a video on YouTube documenting her battle with cyber-bullies, dating back to Grade 7. She said she wanted to help other young people.
LURED ONLINE: She was convinced by someone believed to be an online pedophile to flash him. The photo was later circulated to her relatives, friends and schoolmates.
FALLING INTO DEPRESSION: Amanda said the incident led to her being shunned at school, and left her feeling alone, depressed and suicidal.
ACTING OUT: In an attempt to deal with her feelings, Amanda said she turned to drugs and alcohol. She later started cutting herself. At the end of the video, she shows the scars on her arms.
CONFLICTS AT SCHOOL: Amanda switched schools, but the cyber-bully shared the images again. She was confronted by a group of teens at her new school and beaten up. She said she went home and drank bleach, while kids hounded her online.
FINAL ACT: On Wednesday, Oct. 10, Amanda took her own life. The RCMP said Friday it has launched an investigation into the circumstances that led to her death.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Telling Stories - Spreading Rumours

Let's face it, everyone loves a good story, even more so a good juicy rumour. I like to listen to such gossip and even spread it around a bit. Some stories are very good and some are just plain bad. But what the heck.

Speaking of stories, today I found a wallet. I was taking Bruce Willis, our dog, out for a walk. By the tree on our front yard, there were scraps of paper all over the ground. I noticed a wallet. It was one of those fat wallets, the kind a woman would carry. The pieces of paper were bank statements from an ATM. I picked up the wallet and I saw it had ID in it. So I went over and put it by the door of our house. I kept on going for the walk with Bruce Willis. I phoned my wife to tell to get the wallet and check the ID, maybe we would try return it later. She phoned my back and told me that the address was close by and for me to walk it over. I went back to the house and took the wallet over the block of the address. On the way there, I found more ATM papers, some credit cards, ATM card and a sliver box. When I got to the house, there was no answer at the door. That damn Bruce Willis took a big crap right in front of the house. It was raining out and I was kind of peeved that the guy was not home. So I didn't pick up after Bruce Willis, I left his calling card right there, and it was a huge calling card, and smelly.

I told my wife what happened, the no answer and Bruce Willis leaving his stuff there. She asked me if I picked it up. I hesitated, but did tell her I left it there. She gave me heck and asked why would you do that? I guess I was kind of upset that I wouldn't get to see the guys face and see that I was a hero.  So I retaliated with an arsenal and left my wrath at this door. Poor guy victimized twice.

Or was he a victim? I told my wife that the guy probably got all juiced up drunk last night and kicked his wife out. So she just walked down the street flinging his cards and shit all over the place. And the reason he is not answering the door is that he is still hanging over and sleeping off the night of partying. My wife said, no he is probably at the Church as he had to take his Grandmother to the service. But that can't be as today is Monday. I still maintain it was a night of debauchery, drinks and mayhem.

I went back to the house later on and still no answer. So I figured I would give up on my being noisy to meet the guy and just went to the house next to his. I ran the door bell, and this middle age East Indian gentleman came to the door. He saw Bruce Willis and closed the door quickly. So I talked to him through the door. He agreed to take the wallet and said he would check the address. That is where I left it. I guess I would not get to hear what happened.

But Bruce Willis made me stop at house down the way from our home. It is the house where Winston lives. Winston is a 130 pound Olde English Bulldog and Mastiff mix. Winston is Bruce Willis' good buddy. They like to tussle. Anyway the owner, was telling me that someone rifled through her car last night. Didn't take anything as there was nothing to take. My daughter tells me that lot of kids like to go "car hopping". They check car doors to be open and just go through stuff. So maybe it wasn't a drunken rampage going on at the house down the block, but a case of car hopping. So from the business card of the lost wallet said the guy was an employee of an Alcoholism agency in the city. I guess he didn't slip of the old wagon and go nuts. Oh well, there goes my theory (story).

I understand that making up stories is a big business and is part of being who we are. Me, I am a big fan of fiction, stories, and not so much gossip. If it is natural to tell stories, why is gossip a different animal. It is frowned upon. You are not seen as good if you tell gossip and what the hell is the difference between stories and gossip anyway?

I hear gossip about our Reserve all the time and many of the stories are negative. Some are just wrong and some are juicy. Like it is said our Chief is going around telling people he is "a self made millionaire" and he has two mortgages in Winnipeg and one in Hollow Water. If that is true than good for him. Working and success is something we need more of. On the other hand people will jump up and down condemning him for his good fortune. The nature of gossip. Why can't gossip be good? I guess it is not gossip if its not positive. Maybe that is the difference between stories and gossip. Gossip is inherently bad while stories are fun and can be positive?

Speaking of gossip in Indian country...

oh, by the way, on my second trip to the house, I did scoop up the Bruce Willis calling card.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

You got em accent?

I did a short post about the power of language awhile back. My thing was that language is a powerful animal. Language can boost you up, but it can also crush you. I think accents are a different animal but still, they can be used in powerful situation. Accents can also be a determining factor in our view of somebody.

I was thinking about this because of my visit with Robert Connolly. Robert Connolly is not a relative of the famous Billy Connolly, but he could be. Robert comes from the same village that Billy grew up and they are about the same age. It was one of the first questions I asked Robert, is Billy Connolly your cousin, your brother? He laughed. But he knows who Billy is and says Billy is a regular guy. Robert lives in Scotland and his accent is pronounced. He was on a holiday trip in Vancouver. We met on one of those dinner cruises that is offered in Vancouver.  A short boat trip that is a lot of fun, tranquil, scenic and has decent food. Robert had the real Scottish accent. Robert is actually Irish but is three generation Scotsman. It was fun to visit with him, his wife and their friend. Their friend was a riot. She is also Scottish but has a Canadian accent. She was telling us about her Clan and how those Campbells ("those murdering sons a bitches") killed the McDonald's in their sleep (around the sixteen hundreds). The way she was talking about it, the murderous act took place yesterday.  To this Lady the bad feelings still run deep. It was pretty funny as we prodded her into talking about the Massacre of Glencoe. "The McDonalds fed and put up them, and the Campbells murdered them in their sleep, murdering scum", she said with a little bit of a smile (or sneer, not sure). 

When you speak to people with accents you are intrigued and begin to judge. I have this one friend who has an Indian Mom and non-Native Dad. He is one of those colonized thinking type of guys. Where the suit and tie rule the world. In addition, how you speak is part of his thinking as well.  Me, I speak with a slight accent. I can't hear it and no one in the Reserve hears it either. But it has to do with the absence of the "h" sound in words like three, think, thank, and there. In other Reserves the accents are different. Like Peguis First Nation, they sound like they are from England mixed with Ireland. A very melodic singing type of accent. Up north some of the Cree Reserves have no "sh" in their sound. So when they are talking about their shoes, it sounds like they are talking about their soozes.

Most people are not familiar with American and Canadian Indian accents except for the Asia Indian accents, like Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (Apoo) on the Simpsons. When you hear the accent what is your first thought? Or how about when you hear the Chinese person speaking English?  I bet you think that these people are not that smart, mmmmmmh? An accent can cause us to judge negatively right off the bat.

I like listening to accents. When I was in Vancouver, many of the people in the hotel I stayed at were from Australia. The accent is pleasing to hear. Funny.? I noticed that in some of the service industry businesses, the hosts have accents, either English, Australian or New Zealand. Wonder why? Is it that there is an image that comes to mind when we hear those accents? I think we do have judgements, prejuidices, and approval based on how someone sounds. I can't say for sure which accents are acceptable but I can tell you that United Kingdom accents seem favourable.  Eastern European accents depict a hard people. Asian accents are not seen as cool.

You know what is a good indicator of how we judge accents, just look at Hollywood. In many television shows, and movies the accent defines a character. Many of the Blacks, Browns, and other Ethnics are played as clowns, goofs, and the funny oddball. You ever see the movie Freaky Friday? The Chinese restaurant owner? She had this profound Chinese no "r's" accent. Yet this woman in real life does not have that accent. Wonder why the director wanted that accent? 

Ever wonder how we categorize accents?  How we can call one accent exotic and others are ridiculed? Sophie Vergara is one of the hottest actors on television right now. A lot has to do with her acting ability and her magnificent accents. Latino women are exotic. There is no doubt about that. It has to do with the accent. Some of the exotic labels come from looks in the case of other nationalities and not on their accents. Some of the exotic people are ridiculed based on their accents. Funny eh?

An accent can make something sound so credible or even spiritual. Billy Connolly is a comedian. How can he make things credible? Its in the accent. Connolly does a documentary called Journey to the Edge of the World.  In this documentary he travels around to interesting places and meets people. In one trip he goes and meets with some Indians and takes part in a Sweatlodge. He calls the experience "lovely". With him you really truly believe it was lovely, more than lovely. Watch the video and you can almost experience the greatness of a Sweatlodge. And it is due to his narration, with his accent.

Have you ever heard anyone say an Indian accent, specifically a Cree accent is exotic? How about an East Indian accent? Or a Chinese person speaking English with an accent? Is it exotic?

We are judgmental. For whatever reason we have put some weight on different accents as opposed to others. I guess it is all in who we are listening to.  We think of people as stupid, comic, all because of where we put the status of the accent. Stupid isn't it? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Stephen Harper kills cash for Aboriginal Organizations

Just recently the federal government of Canada, Stephen Harper's Conservatives, cut funding to Aboriginal organizations across Canada. It should not have been a surprise. Harper is attacking everything he does not like; Scientists, Civil Servants, the poor (unemployed), the environmentalists, the worker, charities and of course criminals. So it was only a matter of time for the despised Indian (problem) to be whacked as well. It is funny that this comes after a "historical gathering" between Harper and Indians from across Canada. The theme of the gathering was Strengthening Our Relationship – Unlocking Our Potential. The get together of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Aboriginal Leaders, did have an outcome statement  which read that "The Government of Canada and First Nations have an enduring historic relationship based on mutual respect, friendship and support."   Harper must have forgot he had just met with the Indians and said some good things about and to them.  Oh well, no one should have been surprised. If the average Canadian was being savagely attacked, what did you expect for the lowly Indian?

Now these funding cuts to the Aboriginal organizations do have some very real consequences. Job loss is of course the number one thing that will occur. We expect that other services provided by the Aboriginal organizations will be hurt as well. Oh yeah, I forgot to add that the cuts to Aboriginal organizations this September were made to political organizations or as called by Joesph Quesnel, Lobby groups. Now Joesph Quesnel is one of those Indian poster children for Right Wing political lobby groups or as they like to call themselves, "think tanks".  Sadly no one in the Aboriginal community thinks that Quesnel is a thinker. But hey, if the Right like him, than good on him, it's not like treason is limited to any one group. So, Aboriginal political organizations will lose the ability to do something, like lobby.

In Manitoba there are a number of Aboriginal political groups.  The most notable of the groups are Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (lost 82% of their funding), Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc, and Southern Chiefs Organization.   AMC is the regional group that represents all the First Nations in Manitoba. MKO represents the First Nations in Manitoba North and SCO represents Manitoba South. The funding cuts can be looked as a blow the voice of Aboriginal people in Canada (in this case Manitoba) or it can be looked at as a chance to evaluate what can and should be done.

What's done is done. Harper has a majority government. The Canadian Tax payers association are applauding him. They don't like Indian Treaty obligations.  So the groups can either; lobby to have funding increased and brought back, seek a law suit, or they can adapt. Really do you think lobbying the Harper government is going to be successful? Of course not. So is a law suit going to result in funding coming back? Expensive and lengthy process. The real choice is to adapt.

MKO, SCO and AMC have to become ONE. It was like this in the past. I guess the rationale for a northern political organization was to have a voice for the concerns specific for the north. Good rationale, however, it comes at a cost. Not only financial, but in terms of numbers. A more fractional group of Indians in Manitoba. I guess the South did not want to be seen without a Grand Chief as well, so SCO was formed. In any case those days are gone. A one stop shop does not mean that the North will lose its voice. It will only lose the Chief's Bonnet and the title. Practical thinking dictates a meeting of the minds and not a meeting of the egos. So Who is willing to make the first step to put aside their ego and that Grand Chief Eagle Bonnet, for the good of the Aboriginal people in Manitoba? 

You know AMC, MKO, and SCO just made agreement not too long ago to work together. How funny is that? Maybe the organizations will chose to stay intact, but that would be just to bad. Egos and not realistic thinking or action.

And while they are at it, they should get rid of the Assembly of First Nations Vice-Chief position. The AMC GrandChief is the voice of Manitoba, not AFN vice-Chief.

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.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dirt little Secrets

I must confess, I have some dirty little secrets. Yes, I know, doesn't sound like me. But it's true, I do have these dirty little secrets.

I am a tea bag. I drink tea, every single day, all day long. I drink a pot in the first hour that I am awake. But there's more. I buy tea at coffee shops. When I do buy tea, I have these little tricks. I will go to Tim Horton's and order an extra large. At Tim Horton's in Canada, the extra large is 24 ounces. With the extra large you get two tea bags. So I order one tea bag to be on the side. That way I get a free bag of tea. Same thing with Star Bucks. Star Bucks has a venti size cup. When you order venti tea, you get two tea bags in the cup. The tea bags are very big and have bigger leaves of tea. So when I order the tea, I ask for both tea bags to be put on the side. I keep those bags for pots of tea at home. I use the single tea bag size from Tim Horton's for the Star Bucks venti cups.

I do more than that. When I purchase tea at other establishments, like that of 7-11, I put one bag in the cup of hot water and put one tea bag on the top of the lid when I go to pay. I am never asked if I have two tea bags. There I said it, I take two tea bags at stores that don't serve you the tea. My dirty little secret.

You know the thing about dirty little secrets, they never stay secret. In the Reserve everyone knows everyone's dirty little secrets. Same with the leadership. People seem to find out the secrets of what goes on behind the chamber door.

I wonder if you do have a dirty little secret, should it be opened? I mean what if you did something that you are not proud of, but it was a long time ago. What if exposing it, would just open wounds? What if keeping it secret you are not hurting anyone. In fact maybe it is helpful to keep it secret? What if it is a secret that only you are suffering about? Shouldn't we be able to forgive ourselves from a mistake?

Not sure if there is a time when you can do that? Forgive for some stupidity in your past. I know in Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program has a step that is something like our dirty little secret opening. Step four and step nine are kind of like opening a secret. First it is acknowledging that secret and then opening it, except when that secret hurts someone else. Our dirty little secret should be kept secret if it is going to hurt someone. Maybe your dirty little secret involves infidelity. Maybe by exposing your dirty little secret you are going to wreck the heck out of someone else life. What do you do?

In our Reserve there are dirty little secrets people talk about from the "old days". From our great-grandparents days. We hear that some person is actually the child of another person. We hear that this girl is actually our sister or that person is our First cousin. People don't want to accept the actions of the old people. They only see them as that, old people, elderly, our ancestor, our grandparent. They don't see them as being young and having a life before being old. With a young age there comes mistakes. We are human and we are going to make them, guaranteed. So if your brother is now married to your sister, is it possible? Because your brother is really your half brother and his wife is your half sister?  Make sense? The nieces and nephews say,"no way, my grandmother would never cheat on my grandfather".  So we hear about those dirty little secrets. But in reality those dirty little secrets are just chapters in a life. As my friend once related a story about his son-in-law; the son in law said to his wife about her grandfather, "that was kokum's brother". 

Our lives are not lived in a straight line. We move, we change partners, we have friends, we leave friends, we have children, we leave our children, our children die, our parents leave, we experience all sorts of good things and not so good things. That is life. Along the way we do pick up dirty little secrets. But what the heck, what you going to do?

Keep your secrets, and learn to forgive yourself. After all we can try and fix things as we go along.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

World Suicide Prevention Day September 10, 2012. Prevent the Screams

In the world there is a suicide every 40 seconds. Wow, that is kind of hard to imagine.  The world is so big, and that is a heck of lot of people. I guess there must be reasons? The world is a hard place for many.

This August 25 came and went. It was seven years ago that we found our boy hanging in the closet at his mom's home. She moved out soon after that. I remember that day and the days before my boy chose to leave this world. We had not been talking for a little while, almost a month. I was lonesome for him and he was emailing me to go call him. So I went out to visit him. Before I went out I went to the mall to buy him some shoes. I bought him a couple of pairs of shoes and took him a jacket and a sweater. My boy was 20 years old and yes I still like to buy him stuff. I always thought shoes were a good gift. Who in the heck doesn't like shoes? Anyway, I was with my friend Earl and we stopped by to see my boy Donovan at this mom's place. I asked him if he wanted to go a movie later. He was real happy to see me. I was happy and proud of my boy. He was getting in good shape, working out and not doing that awful drug anymore. So his weight was up and he was looking good. I came back later that evening and we went to see a Star Wars Movie at the cheap theater.   I remember that one scene in the movie where Anakin Skywalker was burned and that is where he was to become Darth Vadar. I looked at my son and he just smiled at me, because I was in awe of that scene. He kind of laughed a bit.

After the movie I drove him back to his mom's place. We were quiet. I was thinking that I should say something to him. I remember thinking that I should say something. We said see ya' when I dropped him off, I don't remember if I told him I loved him or not (I used to be sure that I told him I love him, but not sure anymore). That was a Thursday or Friday I think. Pretty sure it was Thursday. I didn't see him or call him that weekend. I went to Sagkeeng that next Monday and Tuesday. I ran into my Auntie Marg in Sagkeeng and she was asking me about my Boy. I told her, he was doing good. She was pleased and told me that my Mom always worried for him. I was thinking about asking Perry (he had a moving business in Edmonton)  if Don ( I called my boy Don, short for Donovan) could go work for him in Edmonton. Was not sure about that though. But I had hoped being with Danny would make it easier for him out there. Danny was Donovan's childhood friend. That same day Tuesday I took my Dad out to visit in the town of  Lac du bonnet. That is where my Auntie Ave and Uncle Oskie live. It is about a forty five minute drive east of our Reserve, Sagkeeng. We found out that Oskie was in hospital in the nearby town of Pinawa. My uncle Oskie had very bad lungs and was on a oxygen machine in the hospital. He had worked in underground mines all of his life. My Dad and I went to visit him. It was a good visit. My Dad talked in the Language with him throughout the visit.

Wednesday I was in Winnipeg. I remember that Suz and I were going to visit my brother in law Gord at the hospital. Gord had lung cancer and he was suppose to be in very bad shape. While I was picking up Suz at her work, my cell phone ran. It was Donovan's Mom. She was at her place and the door was locked from the inside and Don wasn't answering the phone. I told her to phone the police. She was worried that if there was a warrant for Don the police would pick him up. I told her not worry as he would be safe if they did. I must have kind of new something was wrong, that Don was gone. But that thought came and went instantly. Suz and I went to the hospital to visit her brother Gord. I didn't take my cell phone in to the hospital. When we came back to the car after our visit. There were calls on my cell. I checked messages. My cousin Frank had called, my brother Don and  my daughter Jess. We took off and I went towards the end of town where Donovan's mom was.

I don't remember the ride. I do remember getting a call from my sister Carol. Carol told me Don, my boy was dead. I told her No! Swore at her and hung up. When we arrived at Don's Mom's place, the cops were there, Frankie, Don (my brother) Jess and her mom, her Aunt, Uncle and Grandmother were there as well. The cop wouldn't let us in the door. The medical examiner came out and told us to be ready. That Don had been hanging for a couple of days and he was tongue was hanging out, it was black. The cops had cut him down and put him in a body bag and set him on the couch in the living room. We went in. I stroked my Boy's head. Rubbed his hair. Not sure what happened after that.

Not sure when they took him out of the place. I remember being outside and people were asking us what was going on. My cousin came and got me away from people. I said to them, sad things were going on.

I remember the next morning, walking to our living room, lying down on the floor screaming no, no, no. over and over again.

So please remember Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. Maybe it can prevent someone else from screaming over and over again... no, no, no, no.

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 ...