Gifts and Apologies

ImageIt is the gift giving season, isn’t it? Yes, we give presents to show that we care for others. Right? Or do we just gift someone with whatever, just because, and roll our eyes at the crowds of inconsiderate, downright rude people in our way as we go about our “duty” shopping?

As for me, I’ve already got all the gifts I need. A healthy family, people who show up, a roof over my head, a good (and never ending) education, heat in the winter, food in my belly (lots of it too) and potable water. There are many of my brothers and sisters, and cousins, and aunties and uncles, and friends, and on down the line…who don’t.

Some of them, women in particular, started a movement called “Idle No More”. Oh we could argue about the men who hornswoggled the media spotlight, who took credit where no credit was due, but that would just distract people from the whole idea. Because actually “Idle No More” can’t be allowed to get lost in petty arguments about whose idea it was, or whether or not you are Status, Non-Status, Legal or not, Shadow Indians, Grey Indians, Apple, Urban or Rez.

This movement has grown so fast and so healthy because it is the right idea for this time. And time is running out.

Now I have friends who are, quite frankly newcomers to Turtle Island, some are even the first generation to live here. And maybe they don’t quite get the history, or maybe they just don’t want to be bothered with the history, or maybe they get confused by political gobbledegook or jabberwocky. Some have even pointed out to me that “Prime Minister Harper” has “apologized” in public and they feel we are being ungracious to expect that he follow up his “apology” with action. But you see an apology isn’t an apology if it isn’t followed up with action, repeatedly and sincerely. So, what we are expecting now is that this “apology” be made authentic and sincere. And the only a government can do that is with action.

Strictly speaking the apology only covered Residential Schools and as horrific a genocide that was (is) it’s just the tip of an iceberg. A very cold, sharp, scary iceberg. And even this apology hasn’t really got teeth or legs. That is aside from blaming the churches and them throwing a few dollars here and there for showy events rather than allowing people to speak until everyone has heard their stories. Because those stories make people uncomfortable, maybe even ashamed — and really what can anyone do now?

As for me (and I think I’ve got a lot of folks behind me on this

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– Native, and Non-Native alike) I’d like people to be able to expect a roof over their heads, healthy food in their bellies, heat in the winter, a decent school and educational system for their children, clean air, water and protected land to be just that – protected! Sounds simple doesn’t it.

But there’s a fly in the ointment here. Because protected lands that were “gifted” to First Nations haven’t been protected at all. Promises have been broken over and over and over again. If you’d like a quick read and a little background, I’d recommend that you pick up a copy of “The Truth About Stories – A Native Narrative” by Thomas King. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll want to continue on to “The Inconvenient Indian” by the same author. That is if you like a good story and as Thomas explains, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.”

So promises to protect lands whether that be a reserve (reservation in the U.S.) or a National or Provincial Park or just to keep the land safe for the sake of the land, or those who live on, in, or around it need to be kept. So whether it’s a government or a corporation or a neighbour who doesn’t keep the promise to steward the land in a good way, we all need to pay attention, to stand up and say, “Hey wait a minute. I won’t let you get away with that.”

Oh and don’t ever let anyone tell you that the government “gifted” First Nations with their “land” … The land is not for sale and you don’t own it in the same way you don’t really own anything else. It just is.

We’re welcome to live on it, tend it, live off of it – but we lose that right when we don’t take care of it. And deep down in your heart of hearts, you know that; you knew that from day one. So it’s no gift… As Thomas King says on page 137 of  The Truth About Stories – A Native Narrative, “It’s a lovely sentiment, isn’t it. Gifts. The Great White Mother and Father and their Red Children sitting around a Christmas tree, enjoying the holidays, the Indians eager to see what presents their parents have bought for them. A Currier and Ives moment.”

Only it’s not and you can’t buy land. Even if you believe that you can; even if that’s what the government, the corporations, and the banks want you to believe.

The land is finite and there are constraints to what it can absorb and still sustain itself and us. Though I imagine it will heal once we’re gone – and we’re working on that just as fast as we and those big Corporations can.

But you can make a difference. You can stand up and be counted; can make your voice heard. There is a hitch though. You have to follow that up with sincere actions. I have faith in you; I believe that you can do it. That we can hold each other accountable as well as governments and corporations. I’m counting on you, we’re all counting on you – especially Mother Earth.Image

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