The Final Post

Hey, everyone.

Well, I finally finished The Inconvenient Indian. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always fun. But if I had to define what I thought of the book in one word, it would be necessary.

I’m sure there was at least one book in your life that changed you in such an important way that looking back you can’t even imagine how you would think without reading that book. For me, a few would be books like The Order of The Phoenix and The Hobbit. I’d put this book up there with them, but the effect it had on me was vastly different. All three books showed me a different world I couldn’t imagine, but this one had no magic and was somehow had a villain to rival all the monsters of Mordor.

By the amount of time I spent reading and writing, I can tell you that The Inconvenient Indian was not an easy read. But I recommend that if you end up reading it, you write about it. It’s a powerful book and I learned a lot. The book is not overall positive. Talking about Indigenous issues in North America has never been a light topic, but the book takes it to a whole other ballpark. You just get a sense of what Indigenous people go through on a daily basis and have been going through for the last 500 years.

  I can’t do the book justice. But what I can do is show a sliver to hopefully show you what I mean. With that, let’s get started.

NUMBER ONE: STARLIGHT TOURS

“You see my problem. The history I offered to forget, the history I offered to burn, turns out to be our present. It may well be our future.”

King, Thomas. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2012. Print.

You may have heard of this in a context not even of Indigenous people. It has been fairly well documented in the history of racism in America.The basic premise is that a cop sees a (typically) young black man and arrests him. As they drive around, the cop yells and screams abuse at the man and denies that he had no reason to arrest him. Of course, he doesn’t have any reason to arrest him, so he drives out into the middle of nowhere and lets the man get out of his car and drives off. At best, it’s an inconvenience, and at worst, you could be lost.

Now, it should come to no surprise that this has happened in Canada. Racism is international.

But there is one more difference than from America. And that is the climate.

  

If you’ve ever been to The Prairies in the winter or known someone from The Prairies, one sentiment that you’ll hear over and over again is that the winters are cold. Really cold. And if you’re out there in the middle of nowhere, lost, with very likely little cold protection of any kind, the scenario completely changes. You know when I said that best case scenario is it’s an inconvenience? Well, in this case, best case scenario is you survive. And often, you don’t.

The first instance of this happening is in 1990 when Neil Stonechild was found frozen to death. It was suspected that he was the victim of a starlight tour, but the investigation was fumbled. The only instance of some getting arrested is with Darrel Night, who actually managed to get to a power plant and get help. Cops got 8 months for “unlawful confinement.” A light sentence, especially when you consider that another Indigenous man, Rodney Naistus, was found dead less than a kilometre from where night had been dropped the very next day. And even more dubious when a man by the name of Lawrence Wenger was found again days later in the same area.

Just in case you were sceptical that violent, institutionalised racism exists with aboriginal people, too.

NUMBER TWO: THE OKA CRISIS

“What do Whites want?

The Answer is very simple and it’s been in plain sight all along.

Land.

Whites want land.”

King, Thomas. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2012. Print.

The Oka crisis has a lot to do with a very white thing indeed- a golf course.

The 9-hole golf course has always been a spotty subject when it came to ownership as it was built on Oka (the Oka nation is in Quebec, for reference) and when the Oka tried to legally stop the construction, their right to the land was ignored and the construction went on.

But when the town decided that, “You know, 9 holes are not nearly enough. We have to have at least 18 holes to have a truly respectful golf course.” Now, that would be bad enough, but the land they choose for the development was very special to the Oka as it was an ancestral burial ground.

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.The Oka took hold of the burial ground and stopped any kind of construction efforts. This is the start of The Oka Crisis. It gets pretty convoluted from there, so I’ll give you the ingredients.  

  • The conflict began when the provincial police force of Quebec stormed the scene with
  • flashbangs and tear gas. Shots were fired.
  • Two people died, a corporal was mortally wounded and an elder suffered a heart attack after being chased by a mob.
  • Well equipped military personnel arrived at the scene, and other tribes joined the Oka.
  • The whole event lasted 72 days before dissipating.
  • Overall, The Oka crisis cost the government $200 million dollars. But in the end of the struggle, 7 years after the crisis, the Department of Indian affairs (now Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada) bought the land and gave it to the Oka. A complete waste of time and money.

Now, it is my shared opinion that a lot of land conflicts between European and Indigenous people stems from a differing view of the land.

You hear a lot that Indigenous people all have this special, Pocahontas-esque connection to the land, and that’s the reason why they protect their land so vigorously. Now, (and I’ll say this very loosely because A: I can’t speak for the over 600 different recognised tribes in Canada alone, and B: I’m not Indigenous.) I’m going to say that’s largely false. The big difference is that from a European point of view is that land can be owned. It can be bought or sold, traded and taken, won or lost. It’s a lot like currency, but worth even more. While that’s well and good, from an Indigenous point of view, all land is held in trust with every living thing. Sure, you could have your area and I could have mine, but borders are not concrete things. They can change.

  This, among other things, completely changes how old treaties were viewed. Indigenous people came to those treaty agreements with the notion of finding a way to share the land, while European people came to those agreements coming into those agreements with the notion of finding a way to take the land. Jesus, is it any wonder that Indigenous people got ripped off?

Let’s move on.  

NUMBER THREE: STANDING ROCK

“If the last 500 years have any indication, What the native people of north America do with the future should be very curious indeed.”

King, Thomas. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2012. Print.

I’d like to end this post with a call to action.

Standing Rock refers to the Dakota Access pipeline that, if constructed, would go through the Sioux Standing rock reservation. Last summer, a protest was started and a camp was created by LaDonna Brave Bull, a Sioux elder. It has now attracted thousands of fellow protesters, and Mark Ruffalo for some reason. He wrote a post for The Guardian, which I highly recommend. (Side note: as a person whose comment section reading is that of mainly from Youtube and Reddit, The Guardian’s comment section absolutely blew me away.)

But just as the protest started gaining mainstream coverage, the protests turned bloody. Attack dogs, bulldozers, armed officers in riot gear, you know, the whole package.

I choose this story for a couple reasons One, this is going on right now. The last starlight tour I could find was in 2000. The Oka crisis came to a close in 1997. It’s a reminder that nothing has really changed, but that makes it important for my second point.

You, you, yes you, can influence what happens. I would be happy beyond belief if everyone would do something to help the plight of the Sioux. This means signing the official petition (http://standwithstandingrock.net/take-action/) tweeting about it, talking about it, and generally making it known. Or if you want to go the extra mile, you could donate (http://standwithstandingrock.net/donate/) or send supplies. Winter is approaching fast, and a lot of folks don’t don’t have enough clothes to stay warm.

   But you could also help in less direct ways. You could get this book, and let it change the way you think about Indigenous issues. You could learn about the potential challenges that Indigenous people face in your city and your country. For instance, in BC there is a proposed electrical dam called the Site C Dam to be built that’s supposedly for “residential use.” But if you look farther into it, it becomes clear that the only real reason is to fuel the electrical costs of yet another oil fracking project. (http://www.stopsitec.org/)

You can read.

You can write.

You can speak out.

You can protest.   

You have a lot of power to make a change. Use it to fight for a cause that you believe in. Because indigenous people have been marginalised, beat, been treated differently for no fault of their own for 500 years. Isn’t it time to make a stand?

Thank you for reading. I will be looking for a new book to write about soon, so keep your eyes open for that, whatever that turns out to be.

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Author: lambchopone

I'm​ many things. Mainly a gamer.

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