An interesting article from a dubious source.
An interesting article from a dubious source.
As Philip K. Dick said, “Reality is that which does not go away when you cease to believe in it.”
Drew Hayden Taylor is an award-winning playwright and author who lives on the Curve Lake First Nation in Central Ontario.
I knew it was only a matter of time. I almost started a betting pool on the exact date.
The controversy surrounding Joseph Boyden and the furor over his questionable ancestry was bound to expand beyond the one man and spread across what was once called Indian country. Who can and who cannot call themselves native/First Nations/aboriginal/indigenous? This was, of course, followed by the debate over who can and cannot call out these people. A poet/playwright might say “an Indian by any other name would smell as sweet.”
(Yes I am using the “I” word. You’ll understand why in a moment.)
I fear people are now casting their critical gaze further afield than Mr. Boyden, beating the bushes for potentially fake native people, demanding authentication. Granted, indigenous identity is indeed an important issue in our community and should not be taken lightly, but it is not something that should be embraced with a fervent Donald Trump-like enthusiasm.
I recently received a curious e-mail. A woman named Ms. Harper had taken an unusual interest in me, my work and my ancestry. Her correspondence was as follows:
“Wikipedia says you were born in the U.S. Other places say you were born at Curve Lake and still live on the Rez. Yet again, D & M’s site says you live in Toronto. You went to Lakefield S.S.
“Sounds to me like you and Joseph Boyden have a lot in common. Parlayed tenuous Indian background into a successful career.
“What’s the truth? Or does it matter?”
I suggested to Ms. Harper, that, if further not convinced, to phone the Curve Lake band office and ask around. I am related to half the people there and grew up with the other half.
I was puzzled by the accusation but not surprised. Twenty five years ago, I built my early writing career exploring and defending my decided lack of cheekbones sharp enough to cut a moose steak with. A four-volume series of books I wrote called Funny, You Don’t Look Like One dealt with not being perceived native enough to satisfy people.
The continued irony was I had more so-called qualifications of what is thought of as native life than those questioning me. I grew up on my reserve. I have one of those cards. I had a single mother. Lived right across from my grandparents. I’m prediabetic (and if I am faking my heritage, that one must have been done on sheer willpower), and I’m angry at the government for 500 years of interference. Short of building a birch-bark canoe in a sweat lodge, I am at a loss on how to further put this issue to rest.
But seriously, the more dangerous aspect of this kind of allegation and its anticipated appearance has implications far larger than anything to do with me. When the hammer came down on Mr. Boyden, it would only be a matter of time before the microscope broadened its investigation and the lateral violence of suspicion began.
So this is a warning to all the native people out there who might not fit into another person’s perception of a native existence. Get your papers and authentications together. You could be next. If you’re native, in the public eye (or not), and don’t have hair long enough to hang somebody, the AAA (Aboriginal Ancestry Assessors) might come knocking.
There has been a lot of talk recently about decolonizing ourselves. Part of that would be disassociating ourselves from the divide-and-conquer mentality forced upon us by the last 150 years of government policy. Fighting over status/non-status, Métis, skin colour etc., only increases the sense of dysfunction in our community.
Control of who is allowed in and out of our circle doesn’t mean we have to interrogate each other. Frankly, I don’t have the time. I am too busy celebrating our community.
Still, the timing is perfect. This is the era of alternative facts and fake news. Ask not for whom the drum beats, it beats for you.
On retrospect, I actually do have a “tenuous Indian background” as Ms. Harper phrased it: I’ve been to India twice. They had trouble believing I was an Indian, too.
The Ontario government’s actions on Grassy Narrows mercury mitigation are absolutely shameful. If mercury was polluting the lands around any of the rich white neighbourhoods in TO that land would have been dug up and carted away. Any traces of mercury would be irradicated. But because it is a bunch of politically powerless brown people they know they can drag their asses even as peoples lives are ruined by the leavings of prior robber-baron capitalism.
A pal of mine wrote this and is allowing me to share it uncredited
A tentative field guide to resistance in the face of Fascism:
1. Use humor and art. Lots of both, whenever the chance arises. Fascists fear what they don’t understand, and they’ll never understand either of these.
2. Don’t take the bait. Fascists want to deflect and exhaust you by pushing all the buttons that will terrify, shock, outrage, and otherwise emotional abuse you. Stay as calm as possible and try not to waste your energy on unproductive reactions or pointless rebuttals. Don’t get dragged into the endless echo-chamber of their small-minded debates, that’s exactly where they want to trap you.
3. See the bigger picture, and imagine an end goal. You may never get there, but it helps to maintain perspective and direction. And well-placed small steps in the right direction make a big difference over time.
4. Strategize. Organize. Prioritize.
5. Don’t focus solely on the little man behind the curtain. Governments are powerful and important but they exist in a larger context of groups and institutions that can be equally powerful, important, and effective (such as the judiciary, civil rights organizations, unions, schools and communities of all sorts). Vote and lobby as much as you want, but don’t forget to organize and take action on these other levels as well… especially when you find that mechanisms have been set up to prevent your votes and political lobbying from having any actual impact.
6. Do what gives you joy. Try to give joy to others. Fascists hate joy.
7. Known the Fascists’ vulnerabilities. At the end of the day, they don’t care about being right, or being fair, or being liked. They are motivated by power, and its source is money. Follow the money, and find ways to make an economic impact. There is a reason why Fascists are obsessed with taking away people’s rights to strike, boycott, occupy, or otherwise disrupt the regular flow of cold hard cash into the pockets of those whose support they need most.
8. Don’t waste your time cutting down others for not doing enough, doing too much, not doing what you want them to do, or not being ideologically pure. Resistance needs to come from all directions, and it should accommodate folks from all sorts of educational, cultural, and political backgrounds. A certain amount of self-criticism is healthy, but if your political movement doesn’t have any room for spontaneity, messiness, freedom, and diversity… then it’s starting to look like Fascism.
9. Remember you ARE being watched, or at least you that everything you post can potentially be accessed by Fascists. Policing other peoples’ thought and expression is what they do best, or at least most enthusiastically. But don’t let this fact frighten or silence you—on the contrary, it makes it all the more imperative for everyone to flood the public sphere with intelligent, principled, honest discourse. Just try to not to make yourself or your friends too much of an easy target in the process.
10. Do something. Whatever you can, when you can. Nobody can do it all, and sometimes we can’t do anything, but every time we find some way to say “no” to the Fascists we weaken them and inspire others. Fascism cannot withstand the collective power of committed people who continually speak, act, and resist according to their capacity. Never give up.
Will everyone please use the word “price”. There is no “point” involved. You have a price and that is it. The price tells you where on a scale of other prices the price is situated. “Point” is completely redundant. Fucking brokers and others who want to obfuscate and sound more complex than is necessary started this “point” nonsense. Do you really want to sound like a redundant, pretentious business person? Rant now done. Please note I did not use rant point.