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.
Sometimes I get fucking pissed.
One of the most frustrating things to me is activist appropriation.
My heritage is First Nations. I have First Nations blood in me, at least half. I am not a hard core activist for Native issues, but am constantly being told by settlers what’s what. What should be.
I have never lived on a reservation. I was born distinctly middle class and never learned much about my Native culture until I was much older. I don’t look Native, and most people never would assume this to be the case.
I do not ignore the realities that this nation was founded under conquest and slaughter. I do not ignore the realities that many of those also born First Nations are struggling in this, our own country. It saddens me.
What drives me to no end, is the constant activism I see from “settlers” and their need to just take over the entire conversation.
I understand the need for ally-ship. I get that they feel they are “speaking for the voiceless”. Except we all have voices. And they are loud. And they are being bastardized by their voices.
I was once told by a settler that it would be cultural appropriation for me, a white looking female, to learn about and celebrate my culture at this late stage in life. That for me to sing the songs of my ancestors, or express my wares in such a way would be wrong. Even though my family was barred and beaten and shamed from this celebration in the past and that’s why I never learned it in childhood. Fuck you. It is my heritage. But somehow your education on it trumps my blood. It’s all about privilege and I need to “check mine”. OK. Maybe you should fucking check yours mother fucker.
I hate the suggestion that we are all living “on Native land” and therefore should somehow cede. Should somehow kick the settlers back to their “homes”. All nations were made on blood and conquest. Ours no different. Before the settler came, there was still conquest. This land was taken on blood before. There are no “homes” for most to go back to. My non-Native side has been in this country for more than four hundred years. There’s no where to go anymore. And what of the development that has already transpired on that land? Do we create more refugees? Do we destroy what’s there and try to restore the land? Restore it to what exactly? What point in history do we consider as the most grievous, the point of true thievery?
At some point, compromise is necessary. I think we’ve more than reached that point.