Staying silent while the Oppressor Speaks
Indigenous people have the true voices in this land. It is voices and languages that flow, like a mountain stream, gurgling like infants. It is the voice of the river during the spring thaw when the voice starts to gain momentum. It is the powerful voice of the thunder beings signaling our people.
Our voice is connected to and is one with the land.
This is why the fraud of Boyden is causing the indigenous grief, anger and betrayal. Several writers have written either supporting or questioning the authenticity of Boyden’s indigenous claims. Mainstream writers are supportive of Boyden because he perpetuates the stereotypes in his fictional writing. What is more upsetting is the indigenous who have been blinded by his showmanship.
An indigenous person writes from the heart. Our ancestral knowledge runs through our veins despite attempts by the settler oppressors to stifle this knowledge.
If you recount the many legislative reforms in the Indian Act and the hard chapter of the history of residential schools, you will see that families, children and language were targeted. Why?
Indigenous laws begin with relationships. The first relationships are formed through kinship. It is necessary to know who you are and who your people are, to continue the communal work we have in our systems. We are not individuals born into purposes for ego or self-attainment. We are born into clans, into tribal nations and into the indigenous world for spiritual purposes and specific roles.
So, again, you have two positions wrecking the take on Boyden’s authenticity and the voice that comes with this purported “authenticity”. The indigenous position believes in inclusion. But this practice has been colonized or lost so now there are distorted notions of adoption and relevant indigenous laws of inclusiveness being discussed.
The bottom line is this. The indigenous did adopt and include people into their tribal nation but it was after much deliberation. Elders, traditional people, spiritual people or headman/women would assess contributions of older individuals who were demonstrating merit to be included in a clan or tribal nation. Adoption could also be of a child of a different tribal nation or with another background. However, this child was raised by the nation, mentored by the traditional people and well versed in the language, worldview and practices of the adoptive nation.
Boyden has followed none of these adoptive practices. He has claimed erroneously membership/citizenship or ancestry (that’s for all you compartmentalized thinkers) in several indigenous nations and no one has taken up his cause from a communal tribal perspective.
Why is this false claim troublesome? It is because Boyden has stated he is writing from the “indigenous perspective”. How can you write from a perspective that is not part of your being? How can you know the ancestral trauma and obligations without having the spirit of ancestors guiding you?
Further to the harm of presuming to be “empathetic” to indigenous angst, Boyden has positioned himself as a spokesperson for the voices of our people.
True indigenous voices have been ignored long enough. True indigenous voices have been silenced for long enough. True indigenous voices now thunder with the unheard cries of our people.
Boyden types pander to privilege. They write what is acceptable to hear for non-Indigenous people. They are the voices that bring further harm to our marginalized nations. They are the voices that usurp the real work of partnership that has always been the original position of our ancestors.
Indigenous thinkers and writers who live and work with their communities are busy at the grassroots level doing the necessary work to rebuild their people. Many of our Indigenous people are broken. They have been broken by a system that oppresses and denies the very strengths that make us who we are. We are a people who share. That is incompatible with a settler society that takes. We are a people who think of the group before the individual. This is incompatible with a society that functions around “individual rights”. We are a people concerned with stewarding the land and waters. This is incompatible with a society that has a government catering to companies with the buzzwords jobs and economy.
These are the indigenous truths and words that need to be written and heard. These values are why the indigenous have continued to survive as a people. The system of reciprocity and communal concern is a better system. With ongoing climate issues, water shortages, fossil fuel overuse and an elite ruling faction, the indigenous are bringing a necessary voice to a world plagued with problems.
When you take this critical voice and message and subvert it to co-opted or scripted responses, you continue the destruction of the planet and all people.
It is this reason why what Boyden has done or is doing is so offensive. For the true indigenous writers or thinkers, trying to get the alternate message out is a daily challenge. It is the voice of integrity in a language of compartments. It is the voice of simplicity saying stop.
The second voice weighing in on this issue is the voice of the oppressor. It is the voice of white male privilege that defends Boyden. Why? Because Boyden has been speaking with their voice. Isn’t that enough of a measure?
The voice of the oppressor also filters through the indigenous community. Words like divide and conquer are being used to pit indigenous voices against each other and did you know that all six hundred and thirty plus opinions on this matter would be correct? Why? Here is the lesson that keeps losing its place. There are six hundred plus nations speaking with autonomous voices on this issue. This means we may not agree but the perspectives are all valid because they are the voices of sovereignty.
Ahhhh!, using a one-size fit all approach will not work for our peoples. We stand as nations, some with similar linguistic backgrounds or practices but proper consultation of all voices involved must be heard. This is perhaps the greatest travesty that Boyden has missed.
As a true indigenous voice, you recognize your people, your territory and acknowledge that you are one small part of Creation. Once you know who you are, you know what to say. Boyden is just the voice of Boyden.