By Chezney Martin
When we protest to protect the lands of our ancestors, they say go ‘back to your reserve.’
When we lock down our reserve to protect our elders, they call us ‘racists and segregationists.’
Why am I able to draw such a parallel? It’s not even supposed to be a ‘we’ and ‘them’ issue.
Corona is a virus that infects without remorse and without choice, it has no favourite flavour when it comes to people. But it does have a penchant for attacking those without strong immune systems with a vengeance. That means that there is no ‘we’ and ‘them’ issue, it’s all of us.
That also means that this is an issue of protecting our loved ones.
Our elders are those that carry memories of when the water was clean enough to sip from the ditches of our dirt roads, that carry knowledge beyond our belief, and that carry stories of how much the world has changed as their bodies have aged in time.
Our children are those that carry an openness to those memories, those stories and carry the burden of inheriting our footsteps, our missions and our ways of life and history.
The elders and the children of any community are the life blood of the people, the engine that keeps who we are moving forward.
And they are the most at risk.
Our elected chief and councillors recognize this just as much as our hereditary chiefs recognize it. Our men, those that inherited the duties of protecting the people, recognize it and acted as soon as they could.
There is no malice in their actions. Their actions are prompted by ancestors that would have done the same; protect and sacrifice, clamber to the front lines to offer themselves for the greater good of the people, the ones that need to be protected.
They aren’t greeted with wonder and honour by the outside world though.
Instead, they are greeted with people that are angry at not being able to buy cheap cigarettes and cheap gas, who in the same breath will tell our people to ‘get jobs and stop cutting corners,’ which is hypocritical to no end.
They are also greeted by people that will say ‘fine, if you cut us off then we’ll cut you off,’ and ‘don’t let anyone with a status card by groceries off-reserve,’ while cigarettes and fuel aren’t even essential services offered by the community. They have plenty of both off reserve.
They are greeted by more people that complain of living on-reserve when they shouldn’t be who say ‘but now I can’t leave,’ and take advantage of our limited health care services that are supposed to be there for our people.
To those community members, those men and women that jumped at the opportunity to help safe guard our community, I salute you for standing against more than you might have bargained for.
Thank goodness our communities don’t supply the world with toilet paper.