Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Red Revolution's Wars of Influence & the Required Ultimate Sacrifice of Chief Spence

In any revolution which involves the emancipation of peoples, there are a number of required stages needed to complete a successful revolution. The Red Revolution in Canada is the most interesting case because it will be the first time Indigenous peoples in a minority situation have the potential to force a level of reckoning with the dominant settler population. The Red Revolution really started in 1969, but it has been a long unfolding revolution that has been unable to find full resolution. There have been many episodes in this War of Influence, but we have not had much drastic movement in a number of years. Canada it seems has been stuck in the stage of negotiation since 1969, after the issue of the infamous White Paper. It is a revolution in stasis where only the basic needs for negotiation have been meet without any real attempts to find long term solutions to issues facing Indigenous peoples in Canada. Various programs may have been put into place, but many of these programs have not erased the long standing issues surrounding what sociologist Michael Mascarenhas terms 'White Privilege.'

In 1969 Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien attempted to eliminate the concept of treaty rights and Indigenous peoples by off loading the Indian problem onto provincial governments and assimilating all Indians into the body politic. After the debacle of 1969 and the Liberal Government's retreat in the face of mounting Indigenous opposition, the Canadian government felt that they would no longer use the shock and awe method, but a progressive method in order to bring Indigenous peoples into greater integration in the Canadian state. They also set about to negotiate this incremental change while still maintaining the overall system.

The current Conservative Government's attempts to introduce slow change has hit a major road block because they have attempted too much change in too short a time period. They have a made a strategic error, but they have done so in a modern communications age. which may prove fatal. They failed to learn from the past and have potentially galvanised a generation. Their attempts to create incremental change as outlined in a parliamentary private members bill by Conservative Saskatchewan MP Rob Clarke  ignores the needs of agency of the very young Indigenous population in Canada. Rob Clarke who interestingly enough is also Cree is seen by many to be a Judas. It is the young educated urban and reserve Aboriginal youth who truly believe that together they can change Canada to become a more equal and respectful nation. The incremental change was not sufficiently incremental and became a shock and awe method imposed upon Parliament and First Nations in Omnibus bills.  

Revolution Needs Violence Real or Symbolic

There is a problem with any revolution though, it can only succeed through the use of violence. Because Canada has reached a certain level of development as a liberal democracy there is no need to pose bombs, or use weapons, but only to use the ultimate modern democratic nuclear weapon, the moral weapon. Two circumstances have come together to push the uncompleted Red Revolution to a finish; the twitter #idlenomore movement of the youth and the hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence. I am not sure Chief Spence realised that these two elements for  successful revolution would come together like they have. It is undeniable you need a cause, a movement, a people, a martyr and real or symbolic violence. Theresa Spence the chief who been on a hunger strike has become for all intense purposes the future potential martyr symbol of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

What is Idle No More

The Idle No More movement for myself is about equal opportunity to education, to jobs, to making a living, to supporting a family; it is about culture and regaining stolen languages; it is about our children who continue to be taken by child and family services and made wards of the state; it is about resources and the equitable sharing of resources; it is a belief that self-Indigenous government was not ceded or given up, that Indigenous peoples have a HUMAN RIGHT to decide upon their own affairs; it is a belief that Canada, our country, our Native land does not need to have winners or losers, but that we all can share equally in what this country can offer and that we can respectfully live together a create a nation which does not live with an apartheid system of structural violence, but is a true liberal democracy which respects difference, encourages difference and different ways of viewing the world. It is in essence a dream I hold for all our children.

Ultimate Sacrifice Required of Chief Spence

As in any war or revolution people must die or be hurt. The only real question one need ask is how long it takes until one becomes willing to sit down and truly negotiate and to find a solution? No Canadians will actually die in this revolution, though many Aboriginal peoples would say Indigenous people are dying literally and figuratively on reserves and in cities in poverty and neglect. Canadian democracy will be tested, this has become the moment of truth for our nation. Where do we stand as a people, the Canadian people?

For the success of the Red Revolution, Chief Spence must make the ultimate sacrifice for the Indigenous population in Canada. If Chief Spence gives up or does not increase her demands to include the  500 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommendations of 1996, the current movement of social media and flash mobs will become passé. She must become that beacon that will demonstrate the structural violence that too often exists within society, yet goes unrecognised by too many Canadians. If we hope to find a solution to this 'Indian Problem' we need moral violence that will test the moral compass of Canada and all Canadians.

I Dream that all Canadian people truly believe in the words of our Constitution and all Canadians can live together in respect.


Thursday, 20 December 2012

White Man's Water, Alcoholics Anonymous & the 12-steps in First Nations

For the past half century, Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12-step recovery program has been the dominant method for treating alcohol abuse in the United States. Reservation communities have been no exception. Erica Prussing describes in her research White Man’s Water: The Politics of Sobriety in a Native American Community (University of Arizona Press, 2011), a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment does not, in fact, fit all. We discuss how communities try to make sense of the changes that have been forced upon them and the differening choices made by different generations. There is also a sexual difference in the way alcohol is used and the repercussions it has on people, families and the meaning behind who controls sex and the implication that drinking has upon social norms within a nation.

Prussing lived for three years on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana, working with community organizations, building long-lasting relationships, and gathering testimonies of alcohol’s often disruptive impacts on the lives of many Northern Cheyenne. While many young women have embraced the 12-step program, others – particularly of the older generation – find its moral assumptions foreign and unhelpful. What emerges from Prussing’s account is not a reductive and totalizing “Cheyenne culture” but rather a complex negotiation of tradition, community, and recovery in the face of persistent colonial challenges.  This nuance and attention to detail makes Prussing’s call for indigenous self-determination in health care all the more powerful.

Erica Prussing is a medical and psychological anthropologist with special interests in the cultural politics that surround health and health care for indigenous peoples.  She is currently Associate Professor of Anthropology and Community & Behavioral Health, and serving as Academic Coordinator for the American Indian & Native Studies Program, at the University of Iowa.  She earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California at San Diego in 1999, and an M.P.H. specializing in epidemiology from the University of California at Berkeley in 2000.  She completed postdoctoral training in mental health services and health outcomes research at Children’s Hospital and Health Center in San Diego.  Her recent publications about sobriety on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation appear in journals such as Ethos, Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, and Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, as well as in the monograph White Man’s Water: The Politics of Sobriety in a Native American Community (published in the First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies series at  University of Arizona Press, 2011).  Her current research examines how anthropology can shed critical light on the concepts and reasoning used in epidemiology, and provides an international comparison of how indigenous peoples are increasingly using community-based epidemiological research to achieve greater local control over how their health needs are defined and addressed.

To Learn More (podcast & Interview)


Thursday, 13 December 2012

Saving Anishnaabe one app at a time, Darrick Baxter and Ogoki Learning

This is another late night stairwell interview and conversation I had with Darrick Baxter, the dynamic President of Ogoki Learning Systems who developed an app or application for the Ojibway/Anishnaabe language. We discuss why he would do such a thing, the importance of language, and why he has made the source code free to all Indigenous language users who want to create their own language apps to save their languages. We had just heard the Chief Clarence Louis speak at the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce Gala Dinner on Nov 14, 2012.
In 2008 the United Nations dedicated it as the International Year of Languages, warning that thousands of languages face eventual extinction. Canada a rich nation and a member of the G8 has done little since then to save the cultural treasures which were born of our native soil. Around the world a language dies on average every two weeks and many aboriginal languages in Canada are among those considered in peril.
I was so inspired after having spoken to him that I decided to use his source code and create the same app for Michif and Nehiyaw (Cree). I hope we can have the same impact on our young Cree and Michif people. The image comes from Darrick's web-site and as you can see he is able to create some great looking stuff. Now I just need to find the money!!!
More information can be found on his web-site Ojibway People and Language – The new native language app from Ogoki Learning Systems Inc.


Monday, 10 December 2012

Longest Blockade in Canadian History - Grassy Narrows First Nation, 10 years on

The longest running blockade in Canadian history still continues today in Ontario. In December 2002 members of the Grassy Narrows First Nation blocked a logging road to impede the movement of timber industry trucks and equipment within their traditional territory. The story of the blockade is a story of convergences and relationship. There has been a growth among the people of Grassy Narrows about their own identity and that of their relationship as a community to the dominant culture and to other Indigenous Nations and peoples.

In Strong Hearts, Native Lands, Anna J. Willow demonstrates that Indigenous people’s decisions to take environmentally protective action cannot be understood apart from political or cultural concerns. By recounting how and why one Anishinaabe community was able to take a stand against the industrial logging that threatens their land-based subsistence and way of life, Willow offers a more complex “and more constructive” understanding of human-environment relationships.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

First Nation Water Rights at the Centre for Human Rights Research

Journalist Helen Fallding discusses the crises facing First Nation communities in Canada about lack of safe and reliable drinking water. too many communities do not have running water and must get it old style from the lake or river. This lack of water when surrounded by lakes causes health problems and issues because people are unable to bathe properly. These situations are especially egregious for families with young children. People become sick and ill and often it is possible to catch a skin disease. I discuss how some First Nations have pulp and paper mills which dump chemicals into the local water making for possible high cancer rates and death within a community. Helen talks about the new initiatives of the Centre for Human Rights Research as well as her work with water and her work as a journalist.

Helen Fallding is a lifelong human rights activist who ran women's centres at the University of Toronto and in Victoria, B.C., helped the Carcross Tagish First Nation negotiate a land claim and co-founded Yukon's first gay organisation. Her first job as a reporter was with Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon — the Beat of a Different Drummer. She joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1998, where she was Western Manitoba regional reporter, legislature bureau chief and then science reporter before becoming assistant city editor. Helen has won awards for feminist activism and for journalism, most recently for a series of stories about lack of running water on Manitoba First Nations, published shortly before she joined the University of Manitoba and the Centre for Human Rights Research as it manager.

To Learn more Interview (Podcast):


Monday, 3 December 2012

Thomas King & the Stairwell Interview: The Inconvenient Indian

This is an incredible stairwell interview with intellectual Thomas King about his thoughts on those Inconvenient Indians. There are the Indians that are destroying the natural order of things and getting in the way of progress. Civilisation has come the point where it can no ignore the effects of these creatures upon the natural world and its economy. History is full of individuals who have faded from history it is time for something to be done. Thomas King (Cherokee) looks at the history of North America. The book starts as a humorous account while looking at the story of Canada and the United States. As the book progresses you hear the voice of King as it becomes angrier and angrier on the treatment reserved for too many of the Indigenous populations on Turtle Island, it is a true crescendo. For Thomas history is the stories of our past, a past that hold a great power over the present because they exist in the present. History exists today.

Thomas King & Robert Falcon Ouellette
in a dirty old stairwell Nov 2012

The interview was completed during a fire drill at the radio station. We were forced to flee with his wife and his driver Mr Bruce in tow in search of a quiet place to discuss his thoughts and reasons behind his book. We eventually settled on the stairwell of the Pharmacy building. I sat on the floor while Mr King spoke above the din of passing students. It was quite the spectacle and students hushed as they passed realising they should be sending a text message instead of speaking.