I live in a world where everything ends up completing a full circle when it comes to issues that are of relevance to First Nations people. Or maybe I live in a world where I feel like tires are constantly spinning and where traction is never being reached and forward momentum is never being gained, or if it does for a small period of time, it is never maintained. I’m not sure which idiom works best here and I suppose that on a day to day basis, my feelings about the world I live in are in flux. As I write, an important series of events has recently transpired here in Canada and the ripple effects can be felt across the globe as First Nations people have spent the last two months engaged in activities related to the Idle No More movement.
Across this country I have witnessed a series of protests, community events, flash mob round dances, teach-ins, traditional fish stock-only diets and one of the most impressive smear campaigns offered by the mainstream Canadian media that I have witnessed in a long, long time. It’s a cold, stark reminder of our peoples’ place in Canadian society, and while it was never really questioned before the rise of Idle No More, it’s a cold reminder of the true nature of the relationship between First Nations, Metis and Inuit people and mainstream Canadian society.
I have been quietly poring over news accounts, editorials and online blogs in an effort to see where we have come to this milestone in Canadian history since the crisis in Oka in 1990.
Remember Oka? For me Oka was the watershed moment of a lifetime. It was those Mohawks that defined a point of relation between me and my identity as an Ojibway man. In the years that have passed, I have paid keen attention to the way in which we are dealt with, discussed and evaluated in the media. It’s been a long time since that 78 day struggle for land and the Idle No More movement has now come to bring these issues to light for all Canadians to deal with.
I can only say that for as hard as we have been working since Oka, a new generation of our youth has now come to understand that we are commonly viewed as criminals, cheaters, vermin and the kind of simple-minded people that need to be extinguished from this land once and for all. I have read one wave after the other about peaceful protesters, elders and children who have all been completely shrugged off and dismissed.
More commonly, I have witnessed cold and vilifying assurances that First Nations people who raise concerns are nothing more than domestic terrorists. I have heard our leaders being evaluated, insulted and deemed to be a pack of modern day savages wholesale, and on a nearly daily basis, experienced firsthand how social media has exposed a deep passionate defense of colonial attitudes and an enormous black, churning cloud of hatred towards us. The worst part of all of this is that I can’t see how anything has fundamentally changed since 1990.
But it’s 2013 now. Bill C-45 came out of nowhere even though we all saw something wicked coming for us. It was introduced by the conservative Harper government without any consultation with anyone whatsoever. By violating previous contracts, this bill unilaterally changes treaty rights and replaces democracy with imposed plans and deals to ensure that no discussion or dialogue can take place between nations.Harper’s government is concerned that any reasonable form of democracy would result in disagreement with his plans for capitalist expansion and accumulation.
Democratic checks and balances are in place in this country to ensure fair and meaningful dialogue. The introduction of C-45 in effect removes those checks and balances. In doing so, public land and resources will now be raffled off in some buffoon-headed grab on behalf of private interest, most notably pipeline development across First Nations territory, lakes and rivers. In the eyes of thousands of First Nations people and our allies, this is nothing but a disgraceful ongoing maintenance of a colonial system that has always been centered on the concept of displacement, genocide and capitalist advancement at the expense of human life and natural resources.
In addition to environmental concerns that have been a focal point, Idle No More has also focused on issues pertaining to the ongoing failure of the Conservative party in this country. We have hoped to see issues such as recent and abysmal cuts to health care, union busting, regressive employment insurance reforms, and refugee rights open for discussion.
These are some dark times right now and it’s been fascinatingly atrocious and appalling to see how the mainstream media has dropped the ball, and behaved in the most cowardly of ways I have seen in years. I fear that any further consumption of this festering garbage will turn me into a much stupider, meaner and more intolerant person. Which is exactly its function.
There is a colossal amount of ignorance and rampant stupidity offered by the overwhelming majority of news I have consumed. These ill-informed, ill-equipped apologists for colonialism or neo-conservatism have all turned an understanding of the history, spirit and intent of treaties with First Nations people into a cheap circus side show, ripe with ample opportunity for ridicule, intolerant behavior and shameful, boorish bigotry. Everyone’s been piling on as well in an attempt to discredit, bully and smash the hearts of our people back into the corner where these old white men would prefer that we cower in silence, fear and in shame, just the way they have always liked it.
Efforts to maintain this economy of apartheid have been relentless. While efforts to resolve treaty and other outstanding legal matters have been expensive and without conclusion, the neo-conservative agenda of disinformation and lies has been hard at work, laughing at the idea of fundamental human and treaty rights, in favor of public policies that embrace land and cash grabs for the political and individual elite. The newspapers and televised news programs serve to rationalize and validate these sleazy and manipulative tactics by limiting the scope and nature of discussion.
“Every Federal party in the history of this country has done everything in its power to stonewall the resolution of these issues, or else they have chosen to pursue a course of theft and disingenuine processes that accomplish nothing.”
Time and time again I have read or listened to esteemed journalists sneer at us, referring to our concerns as troublesome and empty rhetoric, referring to grassroots leadership as simplistic, all of this while in the next breath, assuring a population that only they have the countries’ best interests at heart. This Pavlovian domino effect has been utterly revolting to observe and the manner in which these cowards have spent their time attacking the critics instead of the criticism, while masquerading a feigned ignorance to the issues the Idle No More movement has advanced is sickening and shameful. This stonewalling tactic is either cause for termination for being incapable of asking questions or becoming knowledgeable of the recommendations contained within the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, or it is a carefully crafted mission to discredit and manipulate the public while ignoring the disgusting bald-faced hypocrisy and failures advanced by Ottawa in the first place.
Time and time again like a broken record, I have watched our leaders and our people and our allies speak, yell, cry, scream, plead and beg to have their voices heard and our questions answered in some nearly hopeless attempt to understand where the provisions of democracy have disappeared to in this country. Recently singer/songwriter Buffy Saint Marie told a reporter that the worst part of Idle No More is that for many of us, there is no news here. We feel like we have been slamming our heads against the wall for the better part of our lives and we feel like no one is ever going to listen, and that if they ever did, our fears and our sense of being stolen from and our lives will be evaluated, laughed at and dismissed with the amount of ease that I have seen over the last two months of observing the coverage of our lives.
I now understand that for as long as I breathe, we will always be regarded as sad and over-emotional coloured poor people who are being lied to by our own incompetent leadership. And these sentiments will be advanced by those who refuse to examine their own crooked histories and their own lying, murderous leaders who have been running this disgraceful charade for over 500 years.
But enough is enough. We now live in a time of social media. We live in a time where accessing alternate points of view is as easy as a click of a mouse. I see people of all ages and all backgrounds refusing to follow the party line offered by sad, angry worthless old white men. I see that while there are those who blindly follow the old guard of capitalist settlers and their criminal legacy, that people are less inclined to accept this white-washed accounting of history. Too many of our eyes were opened over a 78 day period in Oka, Quebec. Our lives were saved during that conflict and we thank those Warriors, those women, those elders and those who stood up for us. Thanks to them, we have been able to tell our stories to a wide audience of people eager and willing to listen. Willing to help. Willing to stand up and willing to sacrifice their privilege for a better world where we can all flourish and enjoy the benefits of self-determination and democracy for all.
Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeAlexande
Mike Alexander is from Swan Lake First Nation. He was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He sings in the political grindcore band Head Hits Concrete. Mike is active in the underground punk/metal music community promoting tours and local concerts for bands. Mike has had an interest in writing since grade 5 and has self-produced several zines with a focus on music and politics. In his spare time, Mike enjoys blogging for his favortie Canadian Football League team at www.angrybomberfans.ca Currently, Mike works at Klinic Community Health Centre in Winnipeg, facilitating sexual and reproductive health workshops for youth all over the province of Manitoba.14