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OPINION: What its like to be indigneous during a provincial election.

OPINION: What its like to be indigneous during a provincial election.

This week I had a chance to sit down and interview all six of the provincial candidates running for a seat in Brantford-Brant. As a voting indigenous person living in the riding I was very excited to hear what they were going to say. To start I asked them three questions about my community of

This week I had a chance to sit down and interview all six of the provincial candidates running for a seat in Brantford-Brant. As a voting indigenous person living in the riding I was very excited to hear what they were going to say.

To start I asked them three questions about my community of Six Nations in general –  about the population and it’s nations. The answers I got were stunning. I mean, I wasn’t expecting them to be experts but I at least expected burgeoning politicians to have a baseline knowledge about my people.

The first question was simple: name all the six nations of the Haudenosaunee. Not one of them could do it. Several of the candidates are Brant County lifers… still… they didn’t get it right. Dissappointing.


The six nations of the Haudenosaunee are the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora.

The next two questions were about the populations of indigenous people in the riding. Again, all of the candidates were close, but no cigar.

Here are the facts.

According to the Six Nations official data there are 27, 276 band members: 12,848 of those live on the reserve and 14,428 reside off the rez. In the city, according to the 2016 census there are 5430 and in Brant County there are 935 people who identify as indigenous.

Doing some roughed out census math — which admittedly I am not an expert at — this makes the entire indigenous population in the Brantford-Brant riding approximately 20% of the general population.

Yes. Twenty percent. As in 1/5th of the population, in Brantford-Brant.. identifies as indigenous.

One entire fifth of the people group these six are seeking to represent… identifies as Kahonwe. Yet they could not name our nations, and did not know how many of us they are wanting to speak for in Ontario’s parliament.

The next three questions I asked them were about the indigenous population in general. I wanted to know what they saw as our greatest issue to date, where the Liberals have failed us, and how they were planning to implement just *one* of the TRC’s 94 calls to action.

NDP Alex Felsky and the Green candidate Ken Burns had strong answers for all of those questions. You can read all the candidates answers on our Facebook page.

However the PC candidate Will Bouma’s response had me grinding my teeth. He admitted he hasn’t read the TRCs report. (Here’s the link if you’re reading Will. Google. Two seconds. You’re welcome.) And yet, Bouma complained that if nothing comes of it than it is just words on a page.

During our interview he said it was hard for him to overcome what he referred to as his personal bias and prejudices against indigenous people — because of bad experiences he’d had in his youth. Turns out he was bullied pretty bad by some indigenous kids in highschool. Understandable. But for a candidate to admit he has a personal bias and prejudice against 1/5th of the people he’s seeking to represent was shocking to me.

To be honest, I don’t think Bouma realizes the scope of who he is running for. Maybe he does! Maybe our voices, experiences and future still don’t quite hit that conservative radar.

He mentioned in the interview that no one should ever have to go out of their ‘comfort zone’ which I thought was the very definition of living a privileged life. He did however concede that he was wiling to listen.

Thank you kind sir, for permitting our concerns into your earspace….

*Actually Me…*

Liberal Ruby Toor didn’t leave me with a good impression. She had partial details about what is going on with indigenous people but was a little hyper focused on how great it is that we finally have roads and electricity lines going into the reserve. I had a bit of a deja vu moment while speaking with Toor. It felt as if any moment she was going to present a handful of sugar cubes to feed my horses and ask me where my teepee was.

Toor praised the financial investments made by the liberal government into First Nations. But during the interview she did the thing that we all hate. She brought up the apology. Not only did she bring it up; she *actually* said it was “time to move forward”. She also told me about how much, as common brown people, the Sikh community and the people of Six Nations have in common.

Then she asked me about “the water ceremony…”

It was then that I had my first waking out of body experience… I don’t recall how I answered.

I enjoyed hearing the perspectives of NDP Alex Felsky on the issues. She seemed to have her ducks all in a line. She had specific goals the NDP are planning to address indigenous issues. While she couldn’t name the nations of my community or the population numbers — she is currently actively engaging in work with indigenous people in the area and has plans to continue doing so whether or not she wins the race. But if anyone in the running has the Rocky theme song going in the background it’s Felsky’s team. NDP are fighting hard. Okay maybe the Rocky reference is wrong. Maybe the NDP are more akin to Revenge of the Nerds Lambda Lambda Lambda? Idk… either way they are pushing towards that finish line and are fighting their way up.

How I feel when listening to the provincial debate…

His name is Van Driessen.

If the NDP are the Tri-Lambs the Green Party would be comparable to that hippy teacher from Beavis and Butthead. I enjoyed hearing the perspectives of Ken Burns as well. He expressed clearly that he is on a journey in this campaign and has learned a lot about the indigenous people in the area. But he didn’t offer up specifics on how he or his party could afford to bring us to a place of being nation-to-nation allies.

Libertarian candidate Rob Ferguson told me he had a “lot of Mohawk” in his family and plenty of native friends. Which is Kahonwe kryptonite. Don’t say that. We stop listening. He also said if it were up to him there would be smoke shops in downtown Brantford.

None of the Above’s Nicholas Archer didn’t know a thing about indigenous issues. Which was super disappointing. I was holding out hope that with their cool black logo and anarchy-esque check box that someone would be hashtag woke in this riding. But alas, that was not the case. He says he’s looking for that “third option” — whatever that means.

All in all I enjoyed speaking to all the candidates. I love politics but for so many of our people it is equal dream and nightmare. It’s very hard not to allow yourself to be let down so much that you lose hope and stop participating in the process of selecting leaders that will bring your concerns into the forefront. To have a bit of time to ask local candidates questions to help me form my choice was important work. And I wish I’d been able to do this for our other communities in the province as well.

Because no matter how this thing works out, no matter who votes or doesn’t vote — one of these people will stand up in Toronto on our behalf at some point and make choices that impact our community. I’d like to believe that I have done everything I can to help tip the scales into a positive direction not only for the people of Six but for our indigenous cousins across the province.

Nahnda Garlow

Nahnda Garlow

Nahnda Garlow, Onondaga under the wing of the Beaver Clan of Six Nations, is Outreach Editor for the Two Row Times. Her popular column, Scone Dogs and Seed Beads brings weekly thoughts on current day indigenous identity. Nahnda has been a journalist with the Two Row Times since it's founding in 2013. She studied Journalism, Human Rights and Indigenous Studies at Laurier University. She is a self-proclaimed "rez girl" who also brings to the Two Row Times years of experience as a Haudenosaunee cultural interpreter, traditional dancer and beadwork aficionado. Nahnda is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association.

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  • Kevin Martin
    June 24, 2018, 9:39 pm

    It must be extremely difficult to navigate a native population that is assimilated, ‘pavement Indians ‘(in late stage assimilation ) and those who cling to all that is sacred or safe. Very poignant article. It would be foolhardy and not representative of the two row wampum to not consider those concerns.
    For example what is the unemployment rate, crime rate and imm8grant populations of brant county, as a ‘life long ‘ ‘rezident ‘ I am not aware despite my political activity. So I was just wondering how things are viewed through the full lense.

  • Irv
    June 6, 2018, 12:58 pm

    Enjoyed this article and many others. Thank you.

  • Xuan
    June 4, 2018, 3:58 pm

    Very interesting article. 1/5 is worth paying attention to. You should think of running next time!



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