We didn’t have it that bad

If you’ve been paying attention to the news on Six Nations lately it’s apparent that people are dying. Drug overdoses, car accidents, homicides, we’ve seen it all. It’s easy to sit on a high horse and point the finger but maybe we are all partly responsible.

It has already happened, we have all done it. If “hurt people hurt people” Six Nations is in a world of hurt. If you take an honest look at yourself, and those times that you broke someone down instead of building him or her up, you will see it. We are killing each other and ourselves.

It begins as children when an adult says, “What are ya, stupid?” We are teaching our own kids that they aren’t valuable by our very actions that we learned through colonization and residential school. But in order to break the cycle we have to be aware it even exists!

Sadly, indigenous people in Canada suffer worse and with more hardship than the African-American population in the U.S., according to Maclean’s. For example, our incarceration rate is 10 times the national rate, African-Americans are only three (yes, we are saying there are unfair judgments). Indigenous peoples have a life expectancy average of 72.8 years old. African-Americans’ have an average of 74.9 years old. The most alarming statistic is the 23 per cent drop out rate of indigenous population compared to their eight per cent.

For those who have lived their lives on reserve we don’t need fancy numbers to tell us we’ve had it rough. We feel it when we look into the casket time after time. Death after death after death. We’ve been in collective mourning for at least 400 years.

When all you know is pain, risk-taking behaviour can become like an addiction. Some people just want to forget so they have to live on the edge. Other people struggle with healing and are afraid to change. Then there are others who take a totally different path.

When you visit Six Nations, please have patience with our people. We might not always be in the best mood. Probably everyone has experienced a waitress or gas pumper who was having a bad day. Well you know what? We’ve been having a bad century or two so give us a break.

Maybe our customer service isn’t as good as Google but I can remember returning to work at Weken Electronics the day after my brother died, strictly due to financial reasons. Much respect to all of those on Six Nations working minimum wage to pay the bills. There is no such thing as “Indian money” unless you are Cayuga you get $5 every year at bread and cheese.

And all of this discussion highlights the big fat fact: most indigenous people are super cheerful and happy. I’ve heard raucous laughter at a few funerals. Some of the gentlest people I know have been through the most trauma and heartache. “I didn’t have it that bad,” they will always say — and we do.

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