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 ...