I've said recently, that I shun the silly idea that one must never talk about religion, money, or politics. I want to talk about almost anything in fact. I want to know how you feel and why you feel it. Sometimes words are not my friend though. In discussions with my fellow Canadians, the First Nations people, I have felt that every word from my lips dripped with ignorance. So at times like this I do feel muted. Or that I should be muted. Remain muted. Speak only when spoken to.
I am white. I'm as white as white can be. Well ... I'm Irish/Scottish/German ... so you do the math.
But more importantly, I'm from an incredibly small town. Discussions with people of other nationalities get stuck for me. The reasons for this are obvious ... I've lived a life sheltered by rural-ness.
When we learn about things in childhood, they often stick in the folds almost becoming part of the makeup. For instance, the land that I will always call "home" was most definitely inhabited by native Canadian aboriginals. I struggled there on how to word that. Can I say the word "Indian"? Or is that now an offensively outdated term? I know the Indians lived there once because we used to find what to we kids were most definitely "artifacts". Likely none as old as we thought they were. But it was neat to feel that connection to a whole other people, from so long ago.
I went to a Catholic school that was situated right beside the Church. Our church had the biggest steeple. At the very top of that steeple is a cross. According to the nuns at school and church, the Priest had to hire an Indian to climb up that steeple to erect that cross. I remember visualizing that so many times, trying to understand how in heck anyone would get up that high. If I'm careful, I can still sort of remember how that felt too, and how that image instilled some kind of 'knowledge' that Indians were fearlessly good climbers and very helpful to the Catholics. Crazy I know. But I was a kid.
St. Edward's Catholic Church, Westport, Ontario, Canada
Years later, came the knowledge that all the Natives paid no tax, and had liberties we didn't have. I didn't really understand that. No doubt, I had no idea what a contract aka a Treaty was! Needless to say, I had no idea nor any way of comprehending the atrocities that we white people did to the Natives. Children shouldn't have to understand that.
In my early teens, I saw "Dances With Wolves". Accurate or not, it coloured my perspective of all things Native.
Much later, my oldest sister began a relationship with an Ojibwe Native from Manitoba. I learned so much more from Claude. Many great things that broadened my knowledge of my fellow Canadians. But he told of some negatives too. Conditions that he saw first-hand.
Being white and saying anything about this issue is not welcome or recommended. I've heard it called a "financial distribution problem" where some get much while others get little. All of whom reside on the same reserve with peers who once were called family.
But change ... it must always come from within.
Last month, a spark ignited within that fold. A Chief in Squamish B.C. is the first to be held responsible for his own greed. You can read about it HERE
Now yesterday another story can be read HERE that will leave you choked. At some point, you'd think a person would see the err in their inflated salaries, in comparison to what their fellow humans get. This is a second spark.
How many sparks to push change?
Back to my white-ness, my mute-ness, and my belief in one love ... I was lucky enough to take part in the Peoples' Social Forum in Ottawa a few months back. On the Saturday, on Sparks Street with Mother Sun shining down on us all, I absorbed by proximity and osmosis some major Native Pride. A Pow Wow was center stage that day with dancers of all colours taking part. I shed a few tears as the drums hit very deeply and powerfully. And I spoke few words. The best part for me, was seeing so many different nationalities dancing in that circle to that drum, feeling that Native Pride.
Change needs to come for many of us and though we cannot all be a part of each others' progress, we can still celebrate each others' greatness.
Cuz we're all pretty great.
Click HERE to watch a part of my favourite dance of the day.