|Fighting over a bottle of Métis Water|
Thursday, 31 January 2013
Dr Michael Mascarenhas has written a masterly book Where the Waters Divide: Neoliberalism, White Privilege and Environmental Racism in Canada that demonstrates many of the issues facing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relations in Canada. Using water as a backdrop to look at the larger issues of the why Aboriginal peoples see themselves as being in an inferior position and why non-Aboriginals do not see any issues because the system is colour blind and based on common sense. Michael is able to clearly state what neo-liberalism is which unfortunately most Canadians both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal fail to adequately understand. Michael demonstrates the neoliberal economic bias within the Canadian political system and how it affects not only First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples but all Canadians. He has been able to analyze how contemporary neoliberal reforms that came to the fore within Canada and the Western world since the 1980s with de-regulation, austerity measures, common sense policies, privatization and show how they have shaped contemporary racial inequality in Canadian society.
Michael has brought together theories and concepts from four disciplines; sociology, geography, Aboriginal studies, and environmental studies to build critical insights into the race relational aspects of neoliberal reform. “In particular, the book argues that neoliberalism represents a key moment in time for the racial formation in Canada, one that functions not through overt forms of state sanctioned racism, as in the past, but via the morality of the marketplace and the primacy of individual solutions to modern environmental and social problems.” Because many Canadians are no aware of Canadian history and how the economic system in Canada came to formed they are not aware of how most Canadians have benefits from the past policies which still affect a system wide racism in the economic policies. The Economist writes that the greatest challenges are not based on redistributing wealth, but ensuring mobility for large social classes within society and economic systems. The average Canadian is “not aware of this pattern of laissez faire racism, and because racism continues to be associated with intentional and hostile acts, Canadians can dissociate themselves from this form of economic racism, all the while ignoring their compounded investment in white privilege.”
Dr Michael Mascarenhas joined the Science and Technology Studies Department in 2007. Dr. Masarenhas completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of British Columbia in 2006, and received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Michigan State University in 2005. His current research examines the relationship between recent environmental governance regimes and their impacts on social relationships and structural hierarchies. In over a dozen publications, he has written on water, wolves, seed-saving, standards, supermarkets, family farms, and forests.
Where the Waters Divide: Neoliberalism, White Privilege and Environmental Racism in Canada by Michael Mascarenhas.
Monday, 28 January 2013
Kathy Mallet is a mother of two adult daughters and a grandmother of three boys and one girl. Kathy is a band member of the Fisher River Cree Nation, and has lived in the inner-city of Winnipeg since the early 1950s. In 2008 she received the Grass Roots Women’s Award, and in 2000 she received the first Manitoba Human Rights Commitment Award. Kathy’s first award came in 1985 when she was recognized for her community work by receiving the YWCA Women of the Year Award in Community Service. Most recently Kathy received the Order of Manitoba on July 11, 2011 and the Grandmothers Keep the Fires Burning award.
To Learn More (Interview and Podcast)
Wendy Prince, Cree woman from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation and also familial connections to Peguis First Nation. Notawiy(mother of three amazing adults), Kohkum (grandmother of two). Wendy currently supports young parents(13 -23) in the areas of housing, budgeting, educational pursuits, finding appropriate childcare, parenting, and provides 1-1 counseling(i.e grief & loss, self-esteem, family violence, etc.) via the Parenting Student Support Program @ Mount Carmel Clinic.
To Learn More (Interview and Podcast)
Thursday, 24 January 2013
1) to understand how notions of identity and community currently function vis-à-vis what Sherene Razack calls civic “place-images” (2002) in Canada, how these mobilize civic practices and power relations in settler society;
2) to analyze Indigenous new media art practices (video art, digital photographs, multimedia installations) within cities: how civic “place images” interact with Indigenous epistemologies in these works, reorienting prevailing notions of urban space, identity, and community for Indigenous and settler citizens; and
3) to look at public responses to these artworks: the ways in which these artworks allow for the building of new “place-images,” towards decolonized citizenship practices in Canadian cities.
|To Learn More (interview & Podcast)|
Thursday, 17 January 2013
Liz says “The final responsibility of a writer like me … is to commit something to paper in the modern world which supports this inexhaustible legacy left by our ancestors...and yes I am angry.”
To Learn More: (Interview Podcast)
Monday, 14 January 2013
On one occasion, while driving back with a student from Tastaskweyak Cree Nation (formally known as Split Lake Cree Nation), we talked about about many subjects, mainly personal experiences. As we entered into the city of Thompson, my student passenger focused her attention on the Lamb airplane. This female student, who shall remain nameless for privacy reasons, said that she was having the shakes as her memory was glued to this airplane. She said, “Do you want to know what I see when I see that plane?” She said, “you know what, I remember the times they would force us into those planes to take us to residential school.” She said that she still to this day has nightmares from those times she was kidnapped from home by the Federal government.
I want to make it clear that I did not question the honesty of my former student. Given that our society today would only find support in the written word, I found it valuable to do so, in order to state without question that these things in fact happened. Mr. Olson found it difficult to do such a job, nevertheless, he did it because that was the only work he could find at the time.
A question one might raise is: “Why is he being so negative toward the Lamb family?” Well, that is not the point here however, the point is, why were no members of the Aboriginal communities consulted prior to erecting such a monument which triggers an ugly part of this history. I was blind to the fact that this monument held such negative nightmarish memories for many Aboriginal people of the north. I found it incumbent to write about this oversight.
Thursday, 10 January 2013
This is an interview I did with the great and knowledgeable Tony Belcourt who is a Metis leader from Ontario. He was there when Aboriginal organisations and especially the Metis defended their ideals of sovereignty and treaty rights. He discusses the roles and the histories surrounding the 1980-1982 Constitutional negotiations between the federal, provincial governments and the Aboriginal governments. For anyone wanting to know more where the word Aboriginal comes from, the origins of many Aboriginal organisations and the importance of this era to Indigenous Rights in Canada you would do well to listen to the words of Tony.
Understand the past to create the future.
To Learn More (Interview and Podcast)
Understand the past to create the future.
To Learn More (Interview and Podcast)
Thursday, 3 January 2013
This was an opinion piece I had sent to a number of news papers, but I never received much of a reply, it seems that Aboriginal languages are not interesting enough so I will publish it here. The National Post said it does not fit within their news parameters. Perhaps its a bit long, but you are all intelligent people. I also talked about Aboriginal languages with Radio-Canada on Oct 24, 2012 after the release of new stats that showed how they are declining.
Michif: a Language Born and Near Death on our Native Land.
Canada’s Aboriginal languages are dying and they are dying very quickly. 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. The statistics from the 2011 census hide some terrible facts about the state of these Indigenous languages of Canada. While Anishnaabe and Cree (Nehiyaw) both have large speakers with people as second and mother tongue speakers it seems that by delving deeper into the statistics we are able to arrive at some startling discoveries. Dale McCreery a Métis from British Columbia and a linguist conducted a study of Cree language. Now, why would a Métis (Michif) be interested in the Cree? He wanted to interview adult learners who had learned to speak the Cree language not as a mother tongue, but as a second language to better understand “the challenges facing adult learners of Cree [which] would likely mirror many of the challenges facing adult learners of Michif.” Cree was not something they regularly spoke at home even though grandparents and parents might have spoken the languages. He was fascinated about the techniques of how they learned and what enabled them to speak the language with English as their mother tongue. According to Statistics Canada there are over 14 630 people who speak Cree as a second language in Canada and 83 475 as a primary language. This should make Dale’s time very easy finding how Cree has managed to survive so easily compared to other Indigenous language. Unfortunately Dale only managed to find 6-8 speakers who could hold a conversation and who had learned Cree as a secondary language. It seems the statistics are not telling us the entire picture. There are many people who have taken Cree in universities, technical colleges and school, but it seems that these institutions have failed in enabling us to learn the language. It seems many people write down information in the census which is not entirely true.
What is the actual state of Cree? Many are writing down that their language skills are better than they seem due to issues of identity. This is probably the same for both mother and secondary speakers. I had an uncle who very rarely had the chance to speak Cree which he learned as a child. He went to residential school and did not teach the language to his children and they did not teach it to their children. When his daughter would attempt to learn a few words such as hello (Tansay, Monanaantow) he would say you are speaking all wrong. She felt that she was not good and did not want to attempt to try again. Many of the secondary language learners at universities feel great social pressure as Cree people to know their language. Many prayers are conducted in Cree by the knowledge keepers and they cannot follow the words, but because it is not an appropriate time to ask questions of what certain words mean they never learn the understanding of the prayers. Often by the end of the university courses students are able to do multiple choice tests and even understand some of the seemingly complicated verb endings, but unfortunately they are often unable to hold a conversation. At one university Cree course I took, every week I would introduce myself in Cree to my fellow students, but they could not even recognize the word hello (Tansay). They had finished taking 13 weeks of Cree language classes and will now indicate on the census form that they have some knowledge of the language, but they cannot say hello. They have wasted their time and money and we have wasted the opportunity to have someone who can preserve a language. The statistics give our Canadian and Aboriginal leaders a false sense of security about the languages. The Senate is writing a report about the Aboriginal languages and they will indicate that only 6 to 7 will have a reasonable possibility of survival in the next 20 years. My uncle and elder told me in no uncertain terms that Cree would no longer be spoken in 20 years except by a few pockets scattered across the country. I would say “come on uncle all the experts say Cree is the strongest, we will survive.” But in the cities who speaks Cree? Winnipeg with a population of 60 000 Aboriginal people supposedly has 2000 speakers of Cree. I have met very few though and the ones I have met are invariably elders. We believe the reserves will unquestionably maintain the language, but I am not sure because one of the findings of Dale is that when a school gets a Cree language class into the elementary and high schools the families will stop speaking Cree at home because it is now the schools responsibility. I have been to few reserve communities and when I try to use my broken Cree with some of the young students who want to go to university, they cannot even carry on a simple conversation. The elders can, but the young are too busy watching TV in English, using their iPhone in English and studying at school in English. The language is dying on reserves as well and is maintained only by a few die hard traditionalists. Invariably situations of herd mentality arise. As an example when you have a group of francophones and you add just one anglophone the conversation will invariably end up in English because humans are social animals and we want and need to have communication. It is just easier to speak English, because if the young person cannot understand you then you must take time.
The saving of a language will be hard daunting fight, but when you take the time to consider how to do so invariably it will be with our children. Children spend 7 hours a day in schools across this province. Unfortunately there are no classes offered in the schools for Michif in Manitoba. My children attend the Manitoba French School Board (DSFM) where they fly the Métis flags, but yet there is little integration of Michif culture into the curriculum. This is not new, for all provincial schools are struggling with integrating a general Aboriginal culture into schools and some more than others. While the DSFM has been very good at preserving a general French culture many of the students like my children are not only French, but the sons and daughters of the Métis, the Michif, a people of bridges and connections. I personally would like to see more done.
You may ask what am I doing, well I have decided that the University of Manitoba will do its part by offering not only Michif languages courses, but Cree and Anishnaabe as well. Currently there are few university courses in the entire country teaching the Michif language and none in Manitoba. We will not make the mistake of having people who take a language class and can only tell you the names of colours and few numbers, but attempt to teach the real learning of an Aboriginal idea of relationship. We will allow the families including parents, children and grandparents to come together and learn the language. This is a first for university level courses. Participants should be able to learn simple commands that families can use in their daily lives, which they can practise with their children. While this is only a small drop in the bucket of the great need to preserve a language and culture of a people, we each have a role to play. I am committed to finding other initiatives which will allow this unique language not to fade away on the land of its birth. I encourage those who are interested by our Aboriginal languages to advocate and demand that services be made available to preserve our cultures which are older than time.
Marci akwa khitwam.
Dr Robert Falcon Ouellette is a Program Director with the Aboriginal Focus Programs at the University of Manitoba and runs a blog At the Edge of Canada: Indigenous Research www.attheedgeofcanada.blogspot.com