RE-published due to lack of acknowledgement regarding issues of Indigenous education
(Based on articles published in the Edmonton Journal January 23rd, 2010)
As a First Nations Professional Filmmaker/Performer and Educator, born in Alberta but lived and worked the last 29 years in British Columbia, I recently returned to Alberta to be closer to family, and to begin work on my next project as a filmmaker and secure other work as cultural professional. I was appalled to read about the educational conditions pertaining to Northern Alberta’s Indigenous Métis and First Nations children, not surprised by the band-aid solution offered by Alberta’s education Minister Dave Hancock and resigned to apathy in reading the four sectional commentary articles in the Saturday January 23rd weekend newspaper of The Edmonton Journal.
I am writing of the four sectional articles:
"We see success in our kids" by Sarah O’Donnell
Desperate measures reflect deep problems by Paula Simon
SOUND OFF! Comments by Not the problem, Banana Republic, Sandy, James, Former Student, No friend of NSD, and In the woods
And the editorial comments of Dismissing school board good call:
But I must response to these authors in this weekend paper in their entirety because we are dealing with a bigger issue than what is being addressed by all the writers of these words. which in my opinion present colonial and neo-colonial attitudes, moronic responses, and autocratic reasoning purely because everyone except the former teachers and former students, are so removed from the territory. This is due to the literacy of the system, and how the Affirmative culture defines our relations in the everyday and what is seen as the normalization of the state and her occupants.
Throughout these articles I keep seeing references to the social , economic and cultural issues pertaining to Native and Non-Native relations, living conditions and of course the historical relationship of residential school issues that exist in this country. Yet no author outside of the writers who actually wrote David Hancock’s name and refer to his political decision, make reference to the political issues which formed the crux of the social and economic and cultural issues outlined in all these writers words.
Everywhere it is termed as a social economical and cultural, but it is a political and historical issue because we are living in a settler state mentality of the divide and conquer mentality of the Manifest Destiny of Christendom, and how the Europeans who first travelled to the New world saw a land ripe for the taking of their resources and heathens and infidels ready for conversion to Christianity all in the name of the father, the son, the holy ghost and the holy spirit Amen!
This then brings us to the front page and all these articles which points away from the real problem which is the lack of Canada, her governments and her people from acknowledging and restoring the political and sovereignty of Canada’s First People to it’s proper place in relation to the settler based society of citizens and governments within Canadian society. We must be given our right to govern and look after our own people to help heal a people whose language, land, laws and customs where stolen from them, just like in the United States of America and the State of Hawaii, where Queen LiLil’uokalani royal government was overthrown by unscrupulous businessmen back by the US Military and where today the Hawaiians and American Natives face similar issues as of Canada’s first people.
So why is attendance an issue, is it apathy from the parents or the children? After years of standing up for our rights as Canada’s first people, we are still struggling and living in third world conditions. Parents and children give up on Canada and we stay in our comfort zone, where we can live as a family and not worry about the white system coming down on us as a family because we are not assimilated enough for their way of life. No one race on both sides of the cultural divide is not making sacrifices. Turnover for the teachers? Because they cannot buy their own home or land? Well, that is how our ancestors felt under the Indian Act, where we could not own land or hold giveaways or potlatches. It’s back to that Settler mentality of ownership of something we have no control of anyway. We are all caretakers of Mother Earth, not owners.
Why do the parents duck away? Why would we want to see or trust white people again after years of broken treaties, lies, accusations, and all around hate by the white man because we were Indian and consider beneath everyone else. Years of racism does that to a person where we lose our sense of worth and simply stay in areas where we feel safe and with people we love. And the phone calls to the teachers, after years of inter-generational abuse, the residential schools, the fostering system, and difficulty in getting accepted as equals in this society, our parents, our grandparents are still hurting and distance in family relations because of the denial of our language and worth as a people, escaping from reality through alcohol, substance abuse, TV programming or just plain sleep as we live in our dream world. Then when it comes to the exams we are dealing with an archival system that is systemic and caters to the ruling ideology, not snare lines, trap lines or the simply forms of living off the land. A colonial system based on the settler’s way of life in succeeding in dominant society and moving up the ladder. From the time the kids are born we must change the diapers of the ruling class, change the cultural, educational and political apparatuses of the ruling system so that the children of the ruling class know how to relate to different cultures instead of using stereotypical reasoning or historically defined judgement calls to define a native persons’ role in life.
And all this comes back to the next article, "Desperate measures reflect deep problems by Paula Simon" Right away we are offered a perspective of hands on governance by Ed Stelmach’s government with one governmental reference to health care and of course this educational directive by Hancock. Of course it smells of neo-colonial measures because we live in a settler’s society where white people were given governance over the first people because of the Christendom factor in defining the new world. The Indian agent, the white politician and Dominion of Canada army coming in to overthrown Riel’s provisional government because he was a half bred, today it is all the democratically elected natives and Métis fired and the education apparatuses is overseen by one government appointed appointee. (See Indian Agent).
Again we have colonial mindsets blinded by their sense of superiority on seeing the real cause of the problem which is a lack of a real and sound political relationship to Canada’s first people and her provinces which should be based on a sovereign based relationship of nation to nation status as defined by our indigenous leaders, academics, and our artists. And supported by the UN Declaration of human rights and not based on this settler mentality of being conquered and under the thumbs of our colonial superiors, which is not seen because of Hancock "risky" broad sweep of fascist control. Simons is correct to say that it would be unfair to base this educational problem on the trustees, the problem is based on the whole notion of how the settler society defined native/non-native relations in Canada and the federal apartheid racist legislative policies of the federal and provincial governments of the past, present and no doubt future governance of this country.
And as far as the legal fight between the board and the Peavine Métis Settlement, that is a result of the divide and conquer mentality that exists in our communities because of the systemic racist governance of this country and the policies that divide us as a people as a means of control and containment on our reserves, settlements and squalor urban conditions. If we are painted as divided, then we are painted as unable to handle our own affairs of which is propagated in the media to show Canada’s settler defined society that they are in control and we are not. But let’s look at the Canadian and provincial governments and democratic society right now, and you will see how we are all divided and defined by a capitalist expansionist society that defines the success and failure of individuals through material and economic worth and not by the roles and dynamics of family relations and community relations which if is health and sound, we would not have these divided problems as a country.
Simons again hit the issue on the nail with the bringing up of the residential school issue. Harper’s apology does nothing when it comes to putting food on the table and managing the cultural baggage we have as Canadians as we begin to examine the true cause of these social economic and political issues affecting native and Métis people and how all this relates to Canadian society. This educational dilemma is a small percentage of the problems that exist in Canada and her relationship with her first people. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission came off with its dismal start because of the Europeanization of its appointed professionals and justice professionals and how LaForme refuse to release his euro-centric defined notion of power to professionals in their own fields who felt that they were marginalized by patriarchal positioning and refuse to go along with LaForme’s decisions and recommendations.
Today the TRC may have finalized all its appointed hired professionals through an euro-Canadian defined hiring process, but will these white ratified new appointees truly set aside their differences and seek what will address the demons of Canada’s residential past or will their euro-Canadian defined education and professionalism get in the way of the common good, (which is the well being of our children, the healing of Canada’s first people and the restitution of a people destroyed by a racist systemic country and its people) or will they allow the own sense of superiority and allocation of power be complacently defined by the constructs of the Affirmative Culture and the Status Quo? I await to see how many of the professionals in this country put themselves on a pedestal and use the media positioning of the issues affecting Canada for their own sense of self aggrandizement.
So where do our dear poor children fit in this malaise of discontent and ideological positioning by the writers in this media, popular media and governmental practice of controlling the masses and the normalization of the everyday? Well unfortunately for all parties involved, in the back seat of the hay wagons as the ones who know what’s best for the children hum and haw over who is right and who is wrong. Instead of trusting our Creator’s plan in the Great Mystery of life and putting all children at the first of the line of value and utilizing the notion of self sacrifice on all our parts as humans; so that we can grown as a one community, one humanity , as one global village under the guidance of the universal order of truth, sacrifice and trust in our heart where in the Great Scheme of life is where the Creator lives, not in our governments, our churches, our homes or our minds, but in our hearts. So we can live each day with honesty humility and respect instead of the capitalist notion of what defines success in dominant society and what defines our failures in society. The loss of our children’s ability to realize their potential in life will be our biggest failure as we continue to play the blame game and use outdated colonial, draconian ideals to correct what is wrong with our cultural, educational and political apparatuses of this country and not use common sense to resolve the historical wrongs of this country and change the ideological condition of our society.
A society that continues to create divisions of race and saying we are the root of the problem because of choices and divided notions of place in society. I say again change the diapers of the ruling class which I interpret as change how the ruling class educates their children in how history has defined native and non-native relationships so that the child is not taught by the grandfather, the father and other family members that all native people are drunks and belong in jail or that those native brothers will never amount to anything. That was told to my brother and my late foster mother Ann Bilan of Alberta by a grade one teacher many years ago when we were adopted by the late Mr and Mrs Bilan from the Mundare orphanage. Well today, my twin brother is a prominent and respected criminal lawyer in Alberta helping Non-Native, Native and Métis people who have fallen in their walk on life’s path. I have had a successful career as an actor, modern dancer, performer, filmmaker and digital film teacher for native based education organizations, and I have not given up yet even though I joined the class action lawsuit against the Alberta Government for the abuse I experienced in 16 foster homes between 1 and 4 years old and the physical and sexual abuse I experienced as a ward of the crown.
So in closing, I come to the editorial page and the sound off, where the only sensible comment out of all those words from the writers is the former student who lived through the educational process of that district because he saw the problems from all parties due to his/her history of education and what the district is up against. He/she saw the totality of the problem because he survived and finished school and now looks back and perhaps sees the historical conditions of the native /non-native relationship and why no-one has the support to support the children. The politics of survival takes precedence as the parents struggle just to keep a roof over their head, keep food on the table as well as come to terms of the cultural baggage we all inherit as Canadians but keep putting our head in the sand. The teachers , one from Donnell’s article commendably spent "at least 10,000 of her own money’ to help the children, but like Hollywood throwing tons of money to resolve the cinematic problem, that analogue of using capital to resolve societal problems will not help either. Like the former student suggest, the grandiosity of the school division must be broken up and we all must get back to a simple way of life in terms of education and finding ways to help our children to feel good about themselves and their families, new ways of increasing the literacy of our children and not be afraid to use a small education base for each community and allocated all of societies resources to help all our children in distinct traditional and contemporary territories urban or non-urban areas and not be afraid t make sacrifices as a family, community, a territory and a nation to show the world that we are a one humanity and not divided by borders or the shades of our skin.
As far as the moronic comments pertaining to the important issue of education , for example the banana republic comments and James, their comments only show the systemic racist society that exists around us because Timbuktwo references and banana republic references are in themselves racist terms relation to the euro-centric relationship to geography and a euro centric reference to the tropical people and their relations to euro centric values of thought, geography , history and distance. The other comments are reasonable sensible and address important issues , but again these issues all relate to how the Affirmative culture defines history, culture education, church and state and our relationship as racial nations defined under the guise of the Manifest destiny, the settlers society rationalization and society’s failure to look beyond their own backyard and judge all other nations with impunity of imperfection and on control of their own sense of reasoning, justice, governance , and knowing what is best for the natives of the new world!
No one wants to be accountable to history’s role in defining our relations because we have been so far removed from the simple essence of life as one people and allow one people’s definition of history and our order in the universe to define a country or series of countries because of a few old men or families of class distinction define what the Creator wanted through their creation of the Manifest Destiny and how they defined Christendom which turned all indigenous cultures from their mother tongue, land and language and gave us the dysfunctional relationship we have today based on greed, selfishness and a capitalist notion of what defines material success educational success, or in this case the failure of a system that has failed the essence of our survival our children. For the editorial to title his/her comments under the notion of Dismissing school board a good call, is deploring in the sense that this paper is not looking at the totality of the problem or root of the problem and fingering the trustees as dysfunctional but not looking beyond the educational apparatuses of this province and looking at the historical and political relationship of native and non-native relations. I left this province 29 years ago as a young "Indian "man because all red-neck Albertans saw "Indians" as drunk or in jail. Sadly to say the justice system still sees our troubled first nation’s people in those stereotypical positions, and that is why so many of our people are incarcerated.
If the editorial board says we need the tools to navigate the cycle of poverty, despair and hopelessness, then I say those words are simply saying the system has no intention of Canada’s first people of leaving that cycle of worthlessness that was bestowed in every Native child in Canadian history who was affected by the racist assimilation and apprehension polices of Canadian society. All legislation supported by the Canadian people each governing part of history and still exists today.
We as Albertans and Canadians must all make self sacrifices for the sake of our future, our precious children. We are up against a enormous beast, (popular mass culture) which devalues our human relations and family values as inferior to the plastic and digitize imagery of corporate and Hollywood imagination monsters all creating works based on profit, violence and the destruction of the human spirit and our potential as being one with the Great Mystery of Life and our Creator.
It is time to grab the bull by the horn and as the editorial writers say that [the government]… won’t tolerate the status quo…’ but it is quite another thing to change the status quo of a racist society and create an action plan that will work, and not be doomed for failure because a select few are not willing to sacrifice monetary worth or ideological success or control for the well being of our communities, our children and our children’s children which is all our future. I will not doubt have to publish this in my DAM blog because perhaps my ideas and opinions are too radical for a contemporary province like Alberta or nation like Canada to handle. After all, I wrote this for our children who will inherit what is left of our dying planet Miigweech, O’Siem, Miigweech, thank you, all my relations