Growing up on Six Nations as a child I came to learn that most people I knew didn’t vote in provincial and federal elections. I didn’t ever really question why or why not — but accepted that because our people are our own nation, that it was not something that many participated in.
Growing up on the rez I experienced real rez life. I grew up on macaroni and tomatoes, hamburg gravy and bean soup. I went to the bathroom in a slop pail that I had to go empty back the bush. There was nothing else for us kids to do except to ride up and down dirt roads on our bikes and harvest frog eggs from the swamps or build forts in the sumac. And when we were tired out we’d haul water from the well and drink from the dipper.
I mean, it was life on the rez.
But as I become a teen and started going to school among people who didn’t come from the rez, it was surprising to me how they didn’t know about things like dippers and slop pails. For them, going to the bathroom didn’t include covering your number 2 with ashes — they simply flush and walk away. Getting a drink was turning on the tap.
Moving into adulthood, I started to understand the divide between real rez life and the lives of the rest of Canada. The socio-economic stressors of rez life and the poverty that inherently came with it, while it built strong character and made me an interesting person — also was a huge hurdle — one that we all struggle to this day to overcome.
To me, this is why I believe that voting in the federal election is an essential part of fighting for the faces yet to come.
Some may say that voting in the federal election is ‘stepping out of the canoe and into the ship’. I believe that this is a risk worth taking if it means that we as a community, or at least me as a community member, get to have a say in who we are dealing with regionally when it comes to our issues. I would rather risk other people’s perception of whether I am in the boat or the ship — instead of not voting and not having a say at all on who sits at the table with our elected leaders to work on the solutions we need.
This election, I’m proud to say that Six Nations has TWO band members running for the Brantford-Brant riding, and happily, all of the candidates have extensive working relationships with the Six Nations community, our history, and our organizations.
No matter how you personally perceive the choice to participate in federal elections — this is a historic campaign where Six Nations issues matter in a real way to all candidates in this riding and all are listening and willing to find real solutions.
For those on the fence about whether to vote or not — I encourage you to step out and participate. For those who are opposed to participating — let’s activate the love among us and lend strength, support, and encouragement to our band members who are in the running and wish them much luck!