New poem for slam.
*to the tune of O Canada.
Oh Canada. Our home on Native Lands. Pride built on lies, we were never taught to understand.
That this land was here before Europeans, that we thrived for thousands of years. That the white man’s cultural ignorance led to millions of deaths and tears.
Their primitive colonialism, destroyed so much good. We need to make ammends and fight for equity. We need to make ammends and fight for equity.
Oh Canada. I love you, and all the privileges you have afforded me, but my Native sisters and brothers are suffering. We are dying, disappearing, exposed to racism every day, turned away, denied, locked up, posioned by governments and corporations, and show every indicator of a people in serious crises. High numbers live in abject poverty, unemployment, we die younger, nearly half of the children in protective care are ours, our numbers in prisons outpace every other dramatically.
This is not because we are bad, incapable, unintelligent. It is not because we want to be victims or are too corrupt.
You see, after they broke the treaties, trust, and cooperation, purposefully exposed us to deadly diseases, slaughtered us in droves, quantified our blood to make us prove our status, and beat who was left onto tiny reserves without thought to our nomadic sustainability, they stole us from our families. Until the mid nineties they locked our children up in schools away from everything they knew and beat the culture and language out of them, along with their dignity and self-worth. A lasting legacy.
This continues to this day but in a new form. Capable parents with minor flaws find their babies stolen from their loving arms, placed in white foster homes, repeatedly moved and disrupted, away from their culture, languages, and traditions with little legal recourse.
We all share the history of the Two Row Wampum Treaty. Gushwenta. The belt consists of two rows of purple beads on a white background, where the purple respresent these two peoples, Natives in their canoes and non-Natives in their ships, side by side down the river of life together in peace. Supported with the strings of trust, but each taking our own path down the river, with our own laws and ways.
Our path is still being stolen as we are forced more and more each day to change our course to meet that of the ships. Instead of coexisting in peace, the river has been drained so that only one may pass, our canoes overturned by the waves of the ships, the waters polluted by toxins, and our path diverted by a dam we had no say in creating. Our people drown crying for a life-preserver to be thrown, while you stand lamenting our impending demise, but somehow remain unwilling to lift your arms to make the toss.
Throw us a life-preserver and help us back into our own canoes so that we can continue on our own path in peace. Perhaps one day we can meet at the middle of the river and dock our vessels together in the full flowing water without upsetting the balance. But we can never get there unless all of us make the effort to row in that direction together.
*We need to make ammends and fight for equity.