Friday, 26 July 2013

Preserving the History of Aboriginal Institutional Development in Winnipeg

Indian & Métis Friendship Centre, Winnipeg

I had an opportunity to speak with researchers Darrell Chippaway and Larry Morrisette about their work cataloguing and preserving the history of Aboriginal organizations in Winnipeg. This is a SSHRC funded project combining the expertise of the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, Aboriginal Community Groups and organizations and various Elders. The researchers including Kathy Mallett, Evelyn Peters and John Loxley are attempting to gather the reports, records, meeting minutes, notes and photos from as far back as the 1960s Aboriginal institutions. Many of the principal Aboriginal organizations started in the 1960s, but because they have been attempting to build their programming they have not put resources to documenting their past. The Western Scientific empiric-historical method of writing about history often excludes histories that have not been written. This preservation of the archives of these organizations will show the development of Aboriginal agency within our great city.

We spent time discussing the history of the school of Children of the Earth, the Winnipeg Indian and the Métis Friendship Center (started in 1958 and run by a Board of non-Aboriginal peoples (Moonyas)). The ignoring of urban Aboriginal people by too many researchers (often searching for the last exotic tribe for the kernels of past truth) is being rectified by this collective of academics. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Hunger Strike Protester: Kim Edwards Fighting for the Rights of Children in Child Welfare

This is an interview with Kim Edwards who is fighting for the Human Rights of children involved with child welfare system in Manitoba. Kim is the Godmother of Phoenix Sinclair, the little girl killed by her mother Samantha Kematch, and her mother's boyfriend, Karl McKay under terrible conditions of physical and mental abuse.

Kim has not been eating anything for the past 56 days only taking water, and some coffee and soda. She has asked that a Royal Commission be called to investigate the services that are offered or not offered to families involved with the CFS system. There is currently a provincial inquiry into Phoenix's case, which started last fall in 2012. Testimony has been given by many witnesses showing the failings of the system. It has been heard that social workers frequently lost track of the girl and failed to keep tabs on her and her family and nothing to stop the abuse.

Kim feels the commission is biased and will not produce real transformation that will protect all children in Manitoba. She has a sense that the commission will sweep under the rug any real chance for change. This is why Kim started her hunger strike so the terrible manner the system functions can be better understood and hopefully altered.  Kim has been sleeping in the open at the Manitoba legislature asking that the name of Phoenix be removed from the commission of inquiry so a wider investigation may take place.

The use of the hunger strike is an interesting method to gain attention and moral persuasion to fight without physical violence for a cause you believe in. Kim has a strong belief that there is an inherent structural violence in the Child and Family services system that even normal and well intentioned peoples cannot overcome. The nation-state makes a very poor parent; there is little love, nor emotional security that the state can provide to a child which is needed in their growth as human beings. I have had the opportunity to attend a couple of days at the hearings and my sense was there was a general lack of responsibility and accountability. There were no witnesses willing to say it was my fault, my role had these consequences; that I will stand and be counted. It is a shame that we have been unable to use the inquiry to find real solutions to the CFS not only for Phoenix but all children. There seems to be an entire industry built around CFS and the watching of abuse. It is perhaps the age we live in but the lack of accountability is telling. I had the opportunity to talk to a number of social workers and semi-independent agencies who are attempting to meet the needs of their people outside of the legislation. Many feel the current legislation is not intended to protect children and families, but the government from liable and fault.

While many see the CFS as an Aboriginal issue, it has very wide repercussions; from lower GDP, broken families, high costs, higher taxes, slower learning in schools, great social ills; it seems that we have come to a point of immobility; the inability to move forward or even to the side.  In the idea of the Wars of Influence, there exists a long term war occurring between the state and Aboriginal peoples. How many causalities are we willing to see before we commence real discussion about a system that responds to the needs of communities and families holistically. In any war of attrition, real solutions or the end only come about when one or both side decides enough is enough and too much blood has been spilled. While some may say it unfair to see CFS, the state and Aboriginal peoples in a war of influence on this issue, there are certainly larger issues at stake. Kim is a simple pawn within that larger fight, Phoenix is a pawn. It is about control and sovereignty. Is the state ready to hand over complete autonomy to Aboriginal CFS agencies and let them devise their own rules? If you viewed CFS and the state as an occupying power related to other wars such as the 2nd Iraq War between the US, Sunni and Shiite Muslims is the concept of a War of Influence existing with a low level of violence possible? Many First Nations people view the CFS as so heavy handed that good will between communities has been destroyed. I know of no family in Manitoba that if they were told CFS was coming to their home that panic would not set in. There is generalized fear of CFS no matter what your socio-economic status. It is perhaps time for CFS to take lessons from policing and create community based programs that build relationships.

To Learn more (podcast & interview)


Friday, 5 July 2013

A Call To Action - Centering Anishinaabeg Studies Understanding the World through Stories

I had a long conversation with Dr Niigaan James Sinclair who has helped edit the book Centering Anishinaabeg Studies Understanding the World through Stories. There were three editors in Jill Doerfler, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair and Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark. The book follows the 3 Rs type of teaching. In this case the book is divided in chapters entitled Roots, Relationships, Revelation, Resistance,  and Reflection. These are action verb words that attempt to create ripples through out the world reflecting the Anishinaabeg world view. While this is not the definite way of viewing Anishnaabeg peoples it offers a major compilation for Anishinaabe studies.

This book is not only primarily for students of Anishinaabeg studies, but is a gift of stories to non-Anishinaabe peoples as well. The stories should be seen as calls to action concerning world-views and our relationships. The relationship not only concern people, but all of creation from the bear, moose and all animals.These stories are according the Niigaan, a gift to people to change the world about them.  He finds the use of story represents a action based world view which asks us to better ourselves and our views concerning creation.

For Niigaan this is a very political book about our conceptions in science, math, and literature. I hope you enjoy. tapwe.

To Learn More (Podcast) 

The following is taken from the Michigan State University Press. 
For the Anishinaabeg people, who span a vast geographic region from the Great Lakes to the Plains and beyond, stories are vessels of knowledge. They are bagijiganan, offerings of the possibilities within Anishinaabeg life. Existing along a broad narrative spectrum, from aadizookaanag (traditional or sacred narratives) to dibaajimowinan (histories and news)—as well as everything in between—storytelling is one of the central practices and methods of individual and community existence.