Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Only Good Indian-Essays by Canadian Indians edited by Waubageshig

The revised edition of this particular copy was printed in October of 1970.
I do not recall the exact time in which I purchased this edition; however I do recount its motive. Original indigenous contextual literature from the early 20th century is rare.
Rarer still are essays, such as this narrative in which give an unvarnished look at how indigenous people see themselves in this modern post cultural era.
Waubageshig wrote the introductory chapter in this book; and what is described by the author is a collage of “truths” by indigenous people.
“These views are unrepresentative because they are not “nice” views; they do not match civil service or cabinet policies.
 But there has been no attempt on my part as editor to fashion a publication which is representative of native opinion.
As an Ojibway, I know that representation of many people by one or a few voices is not yet a concept accepted completely by my people; indeed perhaps it never will be.”-Waubageshig
Three paragraphs which explain 400 years of continued strife over the same issues....hum Yes time does stand still does it not?
I must admit, in terms of research material for the North West Company this book did not speak to its role; in a direct manner. It does however give insight into the cross cultural linear patterns of indigenous thought.
Some examples in this book is of a political nature; some of you may recall what was then known as “Citizen Plus” most you understand this title in its more modern form-The Red Paper.
I will simply give you the synopsis of the reply.
“If this is his (PET) belief, where is his so-called flexibility especially when Indian people disagree with his mythical concepts of him leading the Indians to the promised land?”-Indian Chiefs of Alberta.
Many revile Pierre Elliot Trudeau; and yet no one can contradict the mannerism in which this Prime Minister chose to address the issue-straight on.
I would hate to envisage a Conservative government policy alternative to what Trudeau proposed in 1969.
Of course there is a chapter reserved for the issues faced by the Mushuau Innu.
“If the reasonable claims of the Inuit with respect to the North are ignored, frustration, loss of pride and ultimately loss of self-identity will result.
The Inuit will be destroyed psychologically and, to some considerable degree, physically.”-Inuit Tapirassat of Canada.
Remember this publication is merely 39 years old, and it speaks to what is currently being addressed in the media today. Does the name Furlong ring a bell?
 It should, and frankly it should ring so loudly that no other sound should be heard across the North.
Youth issues are often the topic of discussion on OCN. In fact it is a universal subject matter among sitting councillors who were recently elected on Chief and Council.
Where do indigenous youth issues lie? According to Marlene Castellano,
“Indians are preoccupied with their identity to a degree which is matched only by the preoccupation of native youth with their place in our society.”
Marlene Brant Castellano is an educated Mohawk indigenous person from the Bay of Quinte.
Castellano was 34 years old when she wrote her dissertation in 1974, and continued to be involved in communities in Winnipeg, Toronto and other regions in which she lived.
She speaks of disassociating practices within the school system.
“The more capable he becomes in the white man’s language and abstract concepts, the more he becomes alienated from his inner life.
The more he relies on words to share that which is himself, the clumsier he becomes in person-to-person communication with those who mean most to him.”
It is a passage that gives me pause to reflect, and think of all the youths that have succumbed to suicide; one in particular who shall remain forever in the minds and hearts of many Cree peoples of OCN.
The solutions described by Castellano are still being debated today; they still have to pass the litmus test.
One would think that one less instance of suicide to be ample motivation for change.
“...A return to the reservation is the most effective solution to the threat of social and psychological disintegration which engulfs many Indians attempting to function in the white man’s environment.
...particularly for a youth who has been conditioned to place a low value on the Indian way, usually makes permanent return to the reserve intolerable.”
Makes sense doesn’t it? So why are we still of the view that the success of indigenous youths lies outside of their own culture, and language?
I often think of Kenneth, Jeremy, and so many others that pulled through the very ordeals of finding their “truths”.
I am reminded of the MBCI graduates of 2012 which I had the privilege of speaking with.
It stirs my blood to hope for a better future, not only for them but also for my own son and daughter.
It is in their respective cultures in which they will remain grounded. It is in their language, in dance, in the very way they will choose to self-express through creativity-what best suit their needs.
Castellano is correct in bringing attention to what she aptly refers to a common prejudice, “...that education is the business of youth.”
I will describe one last point of view from this book; and it speaks to what has occurred November last, Idle No More.
Waubageshig posited this outcome; albeit 39 years ago, and no one could have envisioned its impact.
“...Indians will, for the first time in their contemporary history, find themselves in a powerful bargaining position.
Thus, Indians will have the opportunity to adequately gauge the limits of peaceful negotiations. Then it will be possible to discern if decolonization will occur and if so, whether or not it would be a violent process.”-Waubageshig, The Comfortable Crisis.
So much for light reading but there you have it, a glimpse of what I have spent the better part of 15 years of research since documenting the first forays of Basque (cod fishery off the banks of Newfoundland) incursions into indigenous territory.

No comments:

Post a Comment