Beyond the Land Acknowledgement

Womens March Winnipeg 2020

First, I love being in places and hearing a land and Treaty acknowledgement, whether its at a community meeting, a sports venue or in my granddaughter’s daycare.  I think Yes, we are still here!

I was speaking with my friend today about the Womens March that is happening tomorrow, January 18, 2020 in Winnipeg.  She asked who is speaking?  Are there Indigenous Women speaking?

We have both attended previous marches because like many we believe in the paramountcy of Human Rights which are Indigenous Rights which are Womens Rights which are Children’s Rights which are 2SLGBTQQIA rights, which are Environmental Rights!

What has been missing in all the Womens Marches in Winnipeg is the voice of Indigenous Women.

For sure, organizers are mindful of land acknowledgements and bringing in an Elder to offer a blessing, maybe a drum.  Missing always is the action beyond the March.

In Canada, we have all been witness and Indigenous Women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA sisters have just finished participating in the most contentious and trauma-inducing National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.  This had been an Inquiry into the situation of Missing and Murdered Loved ones that families and advocates had fought for over many years and successive governments.  The marches have never acknowledged this hard-won victory for Indigenous Women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA peoples.

The National Inquiry found that successive Governments have advanced genocidal policies against Indigenous Women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA peoples. This is from policies such as the Indian Act which in fact created refugees known internationally as internally displaced persons for generations of Indigenous Women and their families for generations and have done nothing to remedy this situation.  Every move towards the acknowledgement of these genocidal policies has been because Indigenous Women stood up, went beyond a march or a public protest and took governments to court.  They have won in every instance.

The final report of the National Inquiry released on June 2, 2019, issued 231 Calls to Justice which are legal imperatives for Governments to Act.  For those that organized the Womens March across Canada and in Winnipeg, I urge you to take up the Calls to Justice, to take up the call for allyship.  If you are not sure, how to do this, go to page 30 of the Calls to Justice for resources to support you.

I would also like to bring to your immediate attention, the Calls to Justice for All Canadians.  The National Inquiry and indeed Indigenous Women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA peoples call on you to give life to these Calls to Justice.  We will move farther together when we address the causes of violence and work together to create a safer society for all of us.

15.1       Denounce and speak out against violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

15.2        Decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and Indigenous history in your local area. Learn about and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ history, cultures, pride, and diversity, acknowledging the land you live on and its importance to local Indigenous communities, both historically and today.

15.3        Develop knowledge and read the Final Report. Listen to the truths shared and acknowledge the burden of these human and Indigenous rights violations, and how they impact Indigenous Women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

15.4        using what you learned and some of the resources suggested, become a strong ally. Being a strong ally involves more that just tolerance; it means actively working to break down barriers and to support others in every relationship and encounter in which you participate.

15.5        Confront and speak out against racism, sexism, ignorance, homophobia, and transphobia, and teach or encourage others to do the same, wherever it occurs; in your home, in your workplace or in social settings.

15.6       Protect, support and promote the safety of women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people by acknowledging and respecting the value of every person and every community, as well as the right of Indigenous Women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people to generate their own, self-determined solutions.

15.7        Create time and space for relationships based on respect as human being, supporting and embracing differences with kindness, love and respect. Learn about Indigenous principles of relationship specific to those Nations or communities in your local area and work and put them into practice in all your relationships with Indigenous Peoples.

15.8        Help hold all governments accountable to act on the Calls to Justice, and to implement them according to the important principles we set out.

Beyond the critical importance of land acknowledgments is the responsibility to take action.  What will you do to ensure that the Calls for Justice will be implemented?

Womens March 2017
Beyond the Land Acknowledgement

Genocide and General Elections – What Candidates are not talking about

2019 beyond the bar b q and kitchen gatherings in this election as candidates from all political parties, what are they not talking about?

Genocide

On June 3, 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls issued their final report to Canadian Governments. Each government recieved a copy of this report in their hands. It seems like each government immediately put it on the shelf or in the shredder. Nobody is talking about it!

The Inquiry found that the reason for this on-going national tragedy in Genocide. I won’t go into the details here or the 231 recommendations. I will encourage you to spend some precious time to educate yourself and read the report. It can be found here: mmiwg-ffada.ca

I was curious when no party leaders attended the open debate on gender issues, as to what the party positions were on the report and the Calls to Justice. Provincially, no political party is addressing the finding of genocide. As to the Calls to Justice, again there appears to be no plan – no action to be the changemakers we require except for the NDP, who have “committed to establish a MMIWG committee of cabinet led by Indigenous Women, who will work with families to implement recommendations coming out of the inquiry. ” Its a start. The suitation of Indigenous Women is not an emergency requiring action now not more time to twiddle thumbs.

check out these links to the Provincial party platforms and make up your own mind. Conservative Party NDP Manitoba Liberal partyhttps://www.manitobaliberals.ca/our-platform Green Partyhttps://greenparty.mb.ca/platform/

I encourage all Manitobans to make an informed choice and urge you to require your candidate to be bold and decisive: Do they even know what genocide means?

Genocide and General Elections – What Candidates are not talking about

Where are Joseph Boyden’s Grandmothers?

He is Ojibwe from Nottawasaga Bay traced to the 1800’s on his mother’s side.  Nottawasaga Bay was originally home to the Anishinaabeg of the South Georgian Bay.  The Anishinaabeg were among the early casualties of forced government policy of relocation.  Senator Murray Sinclair when chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission often spoke of the fact that seven generations of Indigenous children were displaced due to colonial policy.  I can only think of those grandmothers that through their grief had an undying hope and laid down their prayers seven generations ago, that our people would survive.  Joseph Boyden’s story is one of surviving that displacement.  He is the seventh generation.

 

While he made not have had to suffer the very disempowering effects of growing up as a direct recipient of the effects of colonial policy, because by all accounts, the policy worked in his lineage. And it is in this vein that most people have tried to dismantle his claim to his indigenous roots.  Joseph Boyden’s story is however, indeed one of the failure of the colonial construct to disempower and assimilate the Indian. Joseph Boyden felt his connection to his roots and the land and claimed it.  Is that not what we teach our children each day, “Be Proud!” “Don’t let anyone shame you or your people!” So as not to confuse the discourse, he [Joseph] is not Grey Owl, he is not Little Hawk, he is indeed Indigenous by blood.  The question posed by APTN is blood quantum .  There are other arguments that have been brought into the discussion, but they are collateral and not applicable to the question put forward by Jorge Barrera and need to be discussed in another forum.

 

What we need to examine is the recognition through this discourse is how deeply the scars of patriarchy and colonialism run.  Commentators both Indigenous and non-Indigenous  are quick to focus on his uncle, Earl Boyden aka Injun Joe, and the dominance of his Celtic roots while completely dismissing his Mothers Ojibwe roots.  How colonial is that!  Yes, Joseph Boyden has tried on many different identities and this is in fact a legacy of colonialism and patriarchy.  People are trying on different identities, trying to find a place to fit, especially when no family or community claims them.  This is the reality of the orphans of colonialism – who is going to claim them or are they forever going to meander through legal definitions of belonging.

 

About the controversy, my daughter said, “ancestry is who you believe you are, and where you think you belong.  It’s your social ties.  Race is often misused, it’s a term of the past.  We cannot impose upon someone, what we think their race is or what we think it should be.  Rather, we must support and uplift those willing to do the work to find their ancestors and their stories.”  Sure, Joseph doesn’t have a beading pattern or colours that identify his connection to his mother’s people and neither does his mother.  That is in fact, a residual effect of the colonial construct.  Even Joseph Boyden’s own statement, released on twitter in response to APTN’s story, “A small part of me is Indigenous, but it is a huge part of who I am,” is an testament to how deep the twin flames of patriarchy and colonialism run.  I am thinking that he is referring to the concept of blood quantum and legal definition as most people do, because its easy and not as messy and telling the story and living the story of lineage.

 

The story of lineage is mostly a matriarchal process that has been under attack since the first settlement.  To fully claim Joseph Boyden, means to fully claim our mother’s lineages and indeed her power.  That might be too much for some and has proven to be to much for the heavyweights in the arts industry. We can see how quite easily these heavyweights dropped the reference to his indigeneity and supported him only for his literary works and talent.  Indeed, his indigeneity is disposable to Canada.  This is very troubling, in a perceived era of reconciliation as Canada begins its celebration of 150 years as a country.

 

For Joseph Boyden, that “small part of him that is Indigenous”, is what makes his heart beat and gives him the resilience to bear the current discourse.  In becoming the poster boy, he has helped frame the conversation as we continue to seek reconciliation within our own ranks, brought on by historical and indeed by contemporary systemic trauma of colonization.

 

It is not a question really of how Indigenous he is, Joseph Boyden is Ojibwe from his mother’s lineage.  It is time that the grandmothers of his mother’s people, the grandmothers of Georgian Bay should claim him and give him a place to be rooted and to be home.

 

For my relatives, who don’t fit the image of a Hollywood Indian or the circumstance of the Indian Act, and all those children that have been displaced or stolen through egregious Child welfare policies, I hope they won’t be judged by legal colonial standards that are being applied in this case.

 

So, to all the aggrieved, if you believe that our grandmothers prayed for us seven generations ago, to remember who we are, you must believe that Joseph Boyden and many others were part of that prayer.

 

Notes:

Most definitions of indigeneity invoke four criteria: historical precedence, non-dominance, cultural distinctiveness and self-ascription. Historicity denotes a group’s prior occupation of a geographic area that is partly or wholly subsumed, but not necessarily aligned with, the boundaries of the nation state. Non-dominance is usually understood in the political rather than demographic sense though, in the settler states of North America and Māori demography in Aotearoa New Zealand 61 Australasia, the two are synonymous. Colonialism and the attendant diminution of indigenous sovereignty are central features of non-dominance, usually underpinned by contemporary political claims for some form of self-determination (Maaka & Fleras, 2005). Cultural distinctiveness refers to patterns of social organization, beliefs and customs that have an historical basis but which have typically been affected by colonialism. Self-identification denotes the power for groups to define their own parameters using criteria that are meaningful to them. 3. The introduction of Māori descent and iwi questions in the 1991 census

 

References:

 

Barrera, J., (2016) http://aptnnews.ca/2016/12/23/author-joseph-boydens-shape-shifting-indigenous-identity/

 

Boyden, J. @josephboyden on [twitter] published 24 December 2016

 

Kukutai, T., (2011). Maori Demography in Aotearoa New Zealand: Fifty years on.  New Zealand population Review 37: 45-64 retrieved 1/9/17

 

Lederman, M., 2017. Amid heritage controversy, publishing heavyweights stand by Joseph Boyden. The Globe and Mail. Pub January 06, 2017 12:08 PM EST

 

McMahon, R. (2016). What Colour is your Beadwork, Joseph Boyden? Published on Vice.com on December 30, 2016.

 

Thompson, N., 2016. Author Joseph Boyden defends Indigenous heritage after investigation. The Canadian Press posted Dec 28, 2016 2:20 PM ET last updated Dec 28 2016 4:30 PM ET

Where are Joseph Boyden’s Grandmothers?