This weekend The Martian topped the box office with a whopping $55 million in ticket sales. Matt Damon stars in the film as a courageous astronaut who gets left behind by accident on the Red Planet when the space mission goes awry.
For the first time in his life this white American male is surrounded by a completely hostile environment and must rely on high tech machinery to produce oxygen and water to keep him alive until he is rescued.
Although it may sound grim, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian says, “It’s all about cheerful and unreflective persistence, finding ingenious ways of surviving, improvising with what’s available and making the best of things, having a laugh and never giving up.”
For an indigenous person growing up in North America that sounds familiar. We’ve been lost in a different hostile environment called Canada since the 19th century and the movies that tell our story are not blockbusters at the box office. Peter Bradshaw’s review of the Martian could easily double as a review for “Where the Spirit Lives” the 1989 Canadian drama about a resilient female survivor of residential school.
For anyone who doubts the innate hostility of the Canadian system we first must remember that Canada has an international reputation as a “good” country and will fight to maintain that. But the clues for anti-indigenous hostility are all around us.
Six Nations is mourning the loss of a vibrant young woman who took her life on the weekend and we at the Two Row Times give our condolences to the family and community. According to Health Canada, indigenous youth are 5 to 6 times more likely to commit suicide than Canadians are.
I, Jonathan Garlow write these editorials week to week and was considering why this happens and last night had a realization. We are surrounded on every side by a hostile environment that has manufactured and propagated a big lie – a myth – a pseudo-reality. The Canadian system and society tells us that we as the original people of this continent have no value and are worthless.
It is a 522 year old message that is unchanged. Our people started believing it when the smallpox and famine killed 90% of us and reduced our population to virtually nothing. “Your Creator has forsaken you” they would say – “you are worthless.”
Then as the trees were cut down and our proud society was paved over with cement and asphalt, our histories nearly lost and our ancient cities forgotten it was called “progress.” The King of Christianity the Pope who is God’s so-called Vicar and representative on earth declared that we have no souls and are sub-human. The highest authority on earth sent us a clear message – “you are worthless.”
Although we had international agreements called peace treaties they were broken when our survivors were rounded up like cattle and put on the worst patches of land called reserves. As they captured our children and forced them into residential schools the teachers taught them how to hate themselves with a lesson – “Your culture and language are worthless.”
The doors of the last residential school prison closed in 1995 but the aftereffects of colonization manifest themselves generationally within indigenous society through addictions, suicide, alcoholism, abuse, and every possible expression of pain and suffering.
When indigenous people believe the lie of worthlessness there is no need to force the children into residential school because the institution forms within our own hearts and our home becomes the prison. A generation of young children become colonized by their own parents who do not know any other way.
Now we colonize each other. Every time a child is bullied on the school yard they are being told the same old lie – “you are worthless.” When the school yard monitor watches but doesn’t do anything they are tell the child – “If you were important I would help.” And if the parent hears about it and doesn’t take any action they are just confirming the big lie once again and the child learns that when they are abused it’s ok.
This cycle proliferates again and again until it becomes 1181 missing and murdered indigenous women. Canada refuses to investigate because it would contradict their lie of worthlessness to find a solution. They cannot incriminate themselves so there will be no inquiry, besides – the RCMP has already done an investigation and they say indigenous men are responsible.
In The Martian film Matt Damon’s character hopes against hope that he will be rescued someday. The sad reality here in this land is that there is no hope of a dramatic rescue. Our ancestors are with us in spirit but it is put upon the shoulders of our own people to find our way back home. It our responsibility to remind each other that we have great worth.