HomeLearning Blog

Welcome back to my Blog. It’s been a while.


I have a couple projects on the go, but they’ve been on the go for a while. So, to fill in the space between those, I’ve decided to write this piece on my personal experience with home learning.


I’ve always been a little bit of a home learner. When I was in elementary school in Vancouver, we had an arrangement with the school that every Wednesday I would spend with my mom, and do stuff with her. This could mean a lot of things, from drawing, to going for a walk, to gardening; the time I spent with her was always educational in a way that school couldn’t deliver to me. This time I spent with her was also where I wrote my first blog posts, including this one. Make sure to read the comments, because some are absolutely hilarious, such as me demanding MORE COMMENTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  with all my classmates typing like they had just discovered caps lock and exclamation marks, which, to be fair, they probably just had.


So fast forward to a little bit less than a year ago. Our lease ran out, and we made a decision. Mom’s contracts could be could be done remotely, so after much fantasizing and talking it over we decided on this plan: over the next school year, I would go into a homeschooling program and we would travel around, staying with friends and family. At that time, school was being quite stressful, on top of a couple of really stressful years personally so I was ready for a change. And I definitely am happy I went for it.


The program I went with was called SelfDesign. It’s fully accredited with the BC Ministry of Education. At the beginning of the year, I worked with my mom and Chris, the learning consultant we chose, to plan how I was going to learn for each subject area. For instance, I choose to read a graphic novel called Climate Changed for my science. And at the end of each week, I wrote a reflection on what I did each week and sent it to Chris. It was a correspondence because she would reply and ask questions or give me suggestions of how I might dig deeper. The learning consultant offers guidance on what to do for the subjects and also relates what you do to the Ministry requirements for your grade. Basically, they are the people stopping you from playing video games for science or whatever.


But the thing I really like about the program was that I really could choose what I wanted to learn. In my entire time there, no idea I proposed was ever denied. I ended up reading a book on indigenous history and rights for social studies. I did Photoshop and FL studio for music and art. I listened to a Spanish podcast for second language. In this way, I was really able to learn in the way I do best. So hell,  if I had picked the right game and made a good enough case for it, I likely could have been playing video games for science.


The program also let me have a lot of freedom as well. One of my concerns going in would be focus. How good would I be able to do work without a Teacher’s assistant breathing down my neck? Well, surprisingly good. I think that because the system was tailored to me, by me, I always felt very engaged. But it gave me freedom in other ways.


So let’s start with the travel. I went to a total of six destinations: Toronto, Vancouver, New York city, Mexico city, and Guanajuato, and a small town in Nova Scotia called Kingsburg. I’d been to Vancouver and Toronto before, and I wrote respective blog posts about New York city and Mexico. As for Nova Scotia, well, the reason I didn’t write about it would be a little boring to read about that time. It was very beautiful, and I loved the tranquility of it. Doesn’t make great writing, though. 


Easily the worst bit of high school, more than the handful of bad and mediocre teachers, more than the tests, is the mornings. At least to me. Last year, they were brutal. And it wasn’t like I was going to bed at one in the morning or anything, but it was just too early and I was getting too little sleep. But, now I’m in charge of my school, I choose the start time. And even those two extra hours made a world of difference. I was able to get up in the mornings without my mom having to drag me out of bed. And if I did sleep in, there was no frenzied rush. It just meant that school would go a bit later than usual. It meant I was more productive too because I was able to go into my day with passion and energy, instead of the first one or two classes just being places to stare at a whiteboard, barely taking in anything the teachers saying, no matter how important.


However, despite the benefits of home learning, I still am going back to school in Kamloops next year for two simple reasons.

One, it’s easier to graduate high school if you are, you know, in a high school. And two, honestly the bigger reason for me, is friends. I’ve missed the people in high school a lot this year, and while social media and the internet, in general, has done a lot for keeping in touch with friends, it’s still lonely when your daily contacts go from a classroom of people down to just about four or five close friends.

But, overall, I’m very glad I choose to do this year. It’s been a great adventure, and, if you’re sick of school and want a change, and any of the benefits I listed (or all of them) sound compelling than I would suggest thinking it over. Just know about the potential downsides.


Thanks for reading.



Hey, everyone.

So I just finished my second big travel adventure, a trip to Mexico with my dad. We had a lot of fun and took a lot of photos. I had a pretty interesting experience, and I want to show you some of it.



On our first day in Mexico city, we grabbed a taxi back to our hotel, which was right in front of a beautiful park that had a castle in the middle of it, called Chapultepec Castle. It was stunning and had some interesting history behind it. But after our travel day, we soon headed back to the hotel room.



we decided to go for a walk to the Zocalo, the central square of Mexico city. the differences in architecture. There seem to be about five different time periods, all clashing together in the most unlikely circumstances. Mexico city is incredibly modern, but lots of old architecture still exist around it.


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Fun fact: did you know that Mexico is built on a lake bed? The city used to be a lake town, but in the 1600s, they built a drain. The city sinks into the lakebed about 6 inches each year.



Oh yeah, these guys were cool. They were street performers, and they doing some impressive stuff. I wish I had a bit more footage of some of the other stuff they were doing, but the guy taking his shirt off while bouncing, on one hand, should be an example.

So when it came time to ask for some money, my dad handed me a 100 pesos to give to them. To a Canadian, that’s not too much. As of writing, about $6 CDN, and about $4.50 US.

But they shouted when I handed the bill to them, you could have sworn I had given them a hundred dollars. He asked me a few questions in Spanish, none of which I understood, but then asked me where I was from.

“Uuh, Canada.”


I eventually walked away, and as I did, he said something that made the whole crowd laugh. When I asked my dad what he had said, my dad responded “basically “don’t rob those guys, they’re our friends!”

Looking back, the scene does give me a moment of pause. It’s important to note that the Mexican economy is quite weak compared to Canada or the US. And the average wealth of the middle class has suffered for it. While I wasn’t trying to throw around money, that’s kind of what I was doing. I kept that in the back of my mind throughout the rest of the trip.


This day, we hopped on a tour bus to go to some different. We went to a few places, including a site of a mass student shooting before hitting the big attraction.



It almost looks like a mountain, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s the Sun Temple, part of an old Aztec archaeological site that was a pre-conquest city, called Teotihuacan.

(Not so) Fun Fact! Did you know that sometime in the 1400s, reportedly upwards of four thousand prisoners of war were sacrificed to the Aztec gods on the top of that temple?¹

That aside, the place is beautiful. I was even ready to climb the Giant temple, but I didn’t. For one very easy reason.

¹Source: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150227-a-place-for-human-sacrifices




These days, we were in Guanajuato, for two reasons. One: Dad had been there before and knew how gorgeous it was and Two: we really-


– didn’t want to be in Mexico city on new years. While we were in the hotel room, we would periodically switch to the Mexican news, and one time we did, we saw a story about some kids who blew themselves up with firecrackers and another where some people were smuggling incredibly strong alcohol in gas cans. When the camera cut to the news anchor, you didn’t need to understand the language to understand how tired and just how done he was. And that was before new years!

So we figured a nice, quiet town like Guanajuato would be perfect. But even here, the news year’s celebrations were definitely up to snuff.

We also had a lot of time just walking around the city. One of the more memorable places we went was a cool market in a huge building that looked like a aircraft shelter to me. We found people selling everything from pigs heads to mini statues of Don Quixote.

Oh yeah, the town seemed to have a thing for Don Quixote. There were multiple statues, inspired businesses, and tons of merch all about the self-proclaimed knight. They even have a culture festival called Festival Internacional Cervantino, named after the author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes. I suppose it’s fitting of a town to hold a lot of pride for such a famous work of Spanish art, especially a town with such a lively art scene. You couldn’t walk down a street without finding someone playing some kind of music.


On the flipside, there was also a mummy museum, filled with these guys. Spooky!

Overall, Guanajuato offered spectacular views and sights but in a more relaxed fashion to Mexico city. However, in both places, I never felt unsafe. 

You always heard that about Mexico. About how unsafe it is, and while that’s certainly more true in other places in Mexico, and you should always keep your guard up as a tourist in an unfamiliar place, when I’m being completely honest, if I had to pick a place throughout the entire trip that I felt the most scared, i would pick Houston. Tellers behind 3 inches of bulletproof glass. Angry cops with their hands always on their guns. Comparatively, some guy yelling at you selling a dubbed copy of My Neighbour Totoro for like 50 cents didn’t exactly make my heart stop.

And not to say that Mexico isn’t dangerous! The drug war and civil unrest certainly makes the country a heated climate, but the parts of Mexico we went too were very safe.

And always, people were so hospitable and helpful. With all the food, the music, the culture and all the wonderful people, I really loved my trip there and would love to go again, and would definitely recommend anyone else to go there as well.



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.


“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.


“What do Whites want?

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


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.  


“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.


Well, that was a great response.

I want to thank everyone who wrote in suggestions. You all had great ideas, but to be completely honest, once in NYC, I almost felt like we wanted to go our own path, as you’ll see in our writings. I didn’t see times square. I didn’t walk the Brooklyn bridge. I hung around cool places and did my own thing. Overall, far from a typical trip but fun nonetheless.


We stayed with our friends Dave and Eva in Pearl River. They both are very interesting people, and both are public sector workers. Dave is DSNY (New York City Department of Sanitation) which is responsible for garbage disposal and emergency response, and Eva is the assistant principal of a high school in the South Bronx. They have a place in Pearl River, which is just an hour away from the city.




So on this day, we did a walking tour around Harlem. It was done through a group called Hush Tours (http://www.hushtours.com) and while it was mainly a lot of fun, it also had an interesting subplot about gentrification, and how a lot of the families and people who created the culture there are being kicked out because it’s too expensive. Our tour guide, Rayza (who is a rapper- here’s a link to his single Welcome to America.) put it well-I’m not against things getting fixed up, but you’ve got to meet people in the middle.”  Crazy stuff.

But in spite of that, a lot of Harlem culture is still alive and well. We actually got to meet this guy.


the-bridgeSo on our second day, we visited my mum’s friend Oliver. He is an interesting guy, and he is married to a well-known author called Ruth Ozeki, who I actually read a book by. It was called My Year of Meats, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. His apartment really showed his interests – he had mealworms eating styrofoam (because mealworms can actually safely digest the stuff and so could reduce what we send to landfill. I think it could be interesting for a science project.) Anyway, we grabbed a couple sandwiches,hung out in a community garden and walked along the East River.




This day was… interesting. Trump got elected, and especially in a dem state like new york, and even more blue concentrated in NYC, the mood that I got as we walked around was sombre, to say the least. This day, we walked around a bit, met some friends from Kamloops at Katz’s Deli “send a salami to your boy in the army” before heading to a cool hotel near Prospect Park in Brooklyn that we rented out for a night. We also saw a cool indie movie called Moonlight at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Really interesting story. I’d say a bit more about it, but personally, I went in completely blind, and I think I got more out of it because I had no clue what kind of story I was going to be told. If you do want to know more about it, however, The guardian has a good review. http://bit.ly/2c2VmRj



This day, we took a walk through Prospect park, which was made by the same architect that made Central Park. A beautiful walk. Afterwards, when my mum asked me what were the few last things we wanted to do in NYC, I responded “something nerdy.” That translated into going to a comic store and buying some graphic novels. One of them is even educational. Once done with this inconvenient Indian stuff, I might move on to this book. It’s called Climate Changed.

We also went to an interesting little project Oliver told us about. It’s a barge, called Swale,  that contains a small food forest on it. Sadly, it wasn’t open but I did climb onto a ledge and get an aerial shot of it.


After that, we had dinner with Eva and started on the road the next day. A very fun trip all in all.

Skyrim: Special Edition Review

When I first heard of Skyrim Special Edition, I was excited. Skyrim was one of the games that got me into gaming. I was planning to buy it before I saw that every owner of the original got SSE (as I will be referring to it as) for free. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was expecting something.

I should note that my machine qualifies all of the requirements for SSE. I have an intel core i7, 16 gigs of ram, and a 970m.

The game runs like crap. On low, I get around 15 fps, which is barely playable. anything else is a slideshow. Bethesda has a laughable support page for SSE on their website, which I have visited multiple times and had no success. what baffles me more is that my Nvidia Geforce Experience program when optimising the game says I should be running it on near ultra! I suspect no amount of troubleshooting can make up for a bad port, as my console friends have no issue.

But even when I decide to go low, the game is packed with issues. props not loading, important NPCs not loading (my favourite one is where the prisoner tries to escape, and the archer shoots him, right? But in my playthrough THE ARCHER DIDNT LOAD. He just kept running.)

After all that I decided to play the original Skyrim. It should be noted that I have quite a few mods on it, But for these comparisons, I turned off all my mods and set it to low. I didn’t even notice that much of a difference. Yes, SSE has better graphics, but not by much. If you can handle a bit of grey in your game, I would choose the original, for two reasons.

1  Much Cheaper.
2 Much smoother.

Add on the fact that I ran it at 150 fps on low, and 60 on ultra, I think we have a winner.


Now, let’s bring up mods.I actually do like Bethesda’s approach to modding. While I am a fan of Nexus, it is clunky and outdated. Being able to mod from in game is nice. but a number of mods are pitiful compared to nexus. Even with a lot of mods being ported over, it’s still going to be less diverse. I haven’t seen one Thomas the Tank Engine mod, and that disappoints me.

I actually do like Bethesda’s approach to modding. While I am a fan of Nexus, it is clunky and outdated. Being able to mod from in game is nice. but a number of mods are pitiful compared to nexus. Even with a lot of mods being ported over, it’s still going to be less diverse. I haven’t seen one Thomas the Tank Engine mod, and that disappoints me.I suppose if you have a super computer and care more about how you mod more than the mods themselves, but if your thinking of getting back into Skyrim, I suggest loading up an old save, or starting a new adventure. That’s what I did and I am enjoying it immensely. And if you’re getting into the series, buy the original. It’s cheaper, and I guarantee you will have a better time.

I suppose if you have a super computer and care more about how you mod more than the mods themselves, it might be worth it but if your thinking of getting back into Skyrim, I suggest loading up an old save, or starting a new adventure. That’s what I did and I am enjoying it immensely. And if you’re getting into the series, buy the original. It’s cheaper, and I guarantee you will have a better time.

Don’t buy this lazy cash grab. It’s not even close to its price tag of free.

New York

Hey everyone.
This isn’t a common blog post. Right now, I’m working on my concluding blog post on The Inconvenient Indian, which has taken the majority of my time and effort. I can’t give an ETA, but if I had to guess, probably mid next week. No promises. Just to make sure you catch it, you can:

  1. Follow me on twitter. According to my statistics, about 86% of all my traffic comes from twitter.
  2.  Subscribe to my blog using the WordPress subscription tool. Just click on the box on the info bar on the right of the screen. Should be at the top.

But I didn’t write this to promote. I’m writing this as a public invitation.

You see, I need your help.

In a couple days, I will be in NYC, and I’m excited. My one problem is that I have no clue what I’m gonna do while I’m there. So I’m going to do what any reasonable person would do in my predicament: turn to random strangers on the internet for advice. 

I’m only half kidding. But I know that NYC is a pretty popular travel destination, so if you or someone you know has gone to NYC, and know a place that’s a lot of fun, leave a comment and I’ll see if I can get to go there at some point during my trip.

Thanks in advance.

The Toronto Reference Library: Heaven on Earth

Okay, I was able to go to the Toronto Reference Library a little while ago, and I was amazed.


You can tell by my face.

But in all seriousness, the place is like heaven on earth. There are five massive floors, all of which are at least twice the size of my hometown library, the Hastings public library.


So ten libraries for the price of one. Not bad.

But reference libraries are supposed to be huge. There also mainly academia focused, as 4 out of five floors were filled with books you could not take out. But honestly, I was surprised that there was even a floor for the masses and that it was well supported. I’ll give an example. It’s not too uncommon to have a library that has a tv room or something similar. But I’ve never seen it done like this.

So, what’s happening is that each of those weird circular things hanging from the ceiling is audio players. Meaning, that if you stand under one of them, you hear one channel, and if you stand under another, you hear another channel. I was mainly surprised at how effective it was, and I’m guessing that the maker space had something to do with it.

That’s right. The library is home to a maker space, and it’s badass. Lots of well-supported computers (A huge relief from the average library, which is a couple hilariously slow Linux computers, and if you’re lucky, maybe a computer running vista) and a supplies cabinet that takes up the entire 10-foot high wall. I sadly didn’t take a picture, despite it being the easy highlight of my trip there. So you’ll just have to trust me when I say it’s incredible.

I suppose this all leads me back to a weird detail that I saved for last. My favourite author, Cory Doctorow, is actually the reason I decided to come to the TRL. If you don’t know about Cory, He’s an fiction author and has written books such as Little Brother, FTW, and Pirate Cinema and the co-creator of Boing Boing, which is my launch page and will always be my launch page. He’s also the first person I ever followed on twitter.

What I didn’t know is that around my age, like me, he got bored of school. But instead of doing what most people do (stick with it and remain bored) he stopped going to school and started taking the subway to the TRL. When I heard that tidbit, I just had to see what it was like. And I, as you can tell was not disappointed.

So if you are ever in Toronto, or if you live in Toronto, I suggest you pay the TRL a visit. It’s worth it.

“Stephen, You’re Wrong”

Hey Everyone, Harry here. This is a part two of sorts of my blog post on The Inconvenient Indian. This one is more focused on colonialism. 

Canada has a long history of colonialism. That’s the blunt truth. But nor according to former prime minister Stephen Harper.



Simply put, Stephen, you’re wrong.

I suppose before I get too far into it, I should give the definition of colonialism, as there always seems to be a sense of confusion. A quick google search brings back




the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers and exploiting it economically.

And colonisation comes from “to colonise”. With that piece of information, let’s get into this.

I really didn’t want to talk about Columbus. His one claim to fame that everyone knows (even though it wasn’t taught in my school at least) is that he “discovered North America.” It’s questionable if you can even “discover” a continent that has millions of people already living on it, and if you still want to play for “discovery,” a Viking fellow by the name of Leif Erikson came over sometime in the eleventh century. There’s even evidence China visited even farther back. However, Columbus is the face of colonisation, and I suppose the beginning of this mess.

After Columbus came back and Europeans came over, America was formed, and Canada a bit later. The only problem was the aforementioned millions of people already living here, who already had their own relationship with the land which seemed to work pretty well. But, between the diseases that settlers brought over that Indigenous peoples  had no immunity to, and the many wars, treaties which reduced the amount of land that Indigenous peoples held, and wars again, the population dwindled enough that you could almost ignore them. Also, sometimes settlers would  just claim land, with no struggle, war, or even communication. British Columbia, where I have lived for almost all of my life, is unceded land. No agreement was ever made with the people who lived here  to give the Canadian government the land. They just… took it.

And that’s how native land went from being all of Canada and America to becoming reserves. And because reserves aren’t big enough to maintain a population of this size, coupled with the government’s crazy bureaucracy and neglect, poverty is often the result.

So, when someone like Stephen Harper says that colonisation does not exist in Canada, they are lying. Reserves are evidence that colonialism exists. Residential schools are evidence that colonialism exists. Hell, the existence of Canada is evidence that colonialism exists.

And I understand why you may want to try and hide from the past. Colonialism is not pretty, but it’s part of being Canadian. I’m a Canadian citizen, which means I live in a land that was taken by force from the people who were here first. And as long as I continue living here, I need to acknowledge that fact within me.

I’m going to end this off with a question: What can Canada do better? This is a difficult question because I don’t think there’s a perfect answer that would fix this mess. But we can always improve. For me, this means education. I only really found and understood this important part of Canada because I did learning outside of school. And while we always did have some kind of First Nation education, it never dealt with a topic like this. Sure, colonialism was alluded to, was fumbled around, but never taught. And that is tragic in my eyes.

I’ll keep reading The Inconvenient Indian. Expect a couple more blog posts like this.


On the subject of Mussels

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A couple of days ago, I had an interesting experience that I thought I should share.


So, in case you don’t know, right now I’m staying at my family’s cottage in Ontario. It’s a beautiful old wood log cottage, right next to a beautiful lake. the kind you see on postcards. So, as a family, we like to spend as much time up here as possible. I’d like to highlight all of my family, but for the purpose of this story, the most important person is my Uncle Rob.


Uncle Rob is an aquatic ecologist, meaning he knows a lot about lakes and spends a lot of time in them. He was snorkeling around in the lake when he found mussels. A lot of them, in fact. So, he decided to harvest some so we could try eating them. After a quick google search to make sure we weren’t going to get poisoned, we started to prepare them. And as the mussels cooked, Rob told us about something happening in one of our neighbor lakes, Lake Simcoe.


You may not know this, but mussels place in nature is that of the cleaner. Mussels eat algae, too much of which makes lakes dirty. They do a pretty good job of it too. And because of their hard shell, not many predators try to get at them. But their biggest worry (at least in  Lake Simcoe) isn’t predators. It’s invasive species of mussels, the Zebra mussel, and the Quagga Mussel.  They came into the Great Lake system in the bilge water and on the bottom of boats from Europe and Asia. These new mussels quickly began forcing the indigenous mussels out of their own habitat. Also, these mussels filter water at a much quicker rate. And while that might seem like a good thing, algae is an important part of the ecosystem, as it is food for fish as well. All said, they caused massive damage to Lake Simcoe. Luckily, as far as we know there are no invasive mussels on our lake.
As Rob wrapped up his story, the mussels were ready. Within minutes, we were all at the table, ready to dig in on our delicious meal. Expect not quite. The mussels were not good. They were plain, chewy, and left a strong muddy aftertaste. Not great. We soon figured out that the mussels from our lake tasted like, well, our lake. And the conversation quickly evolved into how to make our lake cleaner. Without the invasive mussels. I’ll keep you posted.

Harry Reads: The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account Of Native People In North America

theinconvientidianOk, this week I began reading The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account Of Native People In North America by Thomas King. As of writing this, I have yet to finish the book, so this will probably be part one of two (or more) writings.


The first thing to know about the book is that, while covering a lot of historical ground, the book is not a history of native people in North America for a reason. Kings says in the prologue that if he were to write a history, he would “be obliged to pay attention to the demands of scholarship and work within an organized and clearly delineated chronology”, and while that might sound like a copout, I find that removing the need for a chronology helps with the structure more. You see, chapters in this book aren’t written events-first, they are written topic-first. What I like about this is mainly the chapter names. For instance, the prologue is titled warm toast and porcupines, referring to how he finds writing fiction “is buttering warm toast” and how writing a history “ is herding porcupines with your elbows.” All of the chapters have similarly mystifying titles that remain so until you actually read the chapter and think about what it means. A smart way to get people to think about what they just read.


The book is written very captivatingly. Richard Wagamese, writing for the Globe and Mail, compared him to Mark Twain, and I have to agree. History, like every subject gains, or loses, a lot of its potency depending on who’s teaching, and Thomas King really is great. He’s witty, interesting and smart, and his anecdotes throughout the book truly make it worth reading. He sums up what I just finished writing quite beautifully with “Mind you, there is a great in The Inconvenient Indian that is history. I’m just not the historian you had in mind.”


Now, I’ve left probably the most important bit for last, which is the subject matter of the book. Put simply, it’s in the title. Specifically, the bottom line. However, the subject matter is anything but simple. This book delves hard into the history of native people. The first historical event that he brought up was so outrageous that I had to check it out.


The Almo massacre is set in Almo, a town you probably have never heard of, as the first time I tried searching for it, Google would just autocorrect me to the Alamo. It’s not famous for anything and seems to be one of the many farming communities that never grew into anything else. As far as I can tell, the only thing the town is famous for is the massacre. And the massacre is famous for good reason. According to the plaque erected in Almo for the pioneers, in 1920, 300 settlers were  headed east, when they came across only 5 survived. If so, that would make it the second largest massacre ever.  


One teensy problem, though. The Almo massacre never happened.


You might think “Oh, maybe there was a smaller incident, and it was blown out of proportion.” And I was thinking the same thing at the time, but no! The Almo massacre is straight fiction that was somehow regarded as fact. It wasn’t until 1993, when the Idaho Yesterdays, an academic journal, finally set the record straight. The main point disregarding the Almo massacre is that news of Indian attacks was highly publicized, and nothing can be found on the Almo massacre until far later. Strange considering that it, again would have been the second largest massacre ever.


Now, I’d love to send you to the original piece in the Idaho Yesterdays, and while it looks like the paper was digitized at some point, the link is no longer maintained and I don’t have the time and the resources to get to a proper university library to validate something for a blog post. Sigh, where’s open education when you need it? The best i can do is send you a few sites that do little but prove I haven’t been making this up. Sorry about that.
I’d say that’s enough to conclude my first blog post on this book. My early impressions have been very good, and I look forward to continuing reading. Stay tuned for part two!