By Terri Brown
Statues toppled and churches burned is the news of the week. I listen with awe and amazement. As I search my being for a reaction the soul remains quiet and says little.
The inner child who spent time as a prisoner in an Indian Residential School is afraid to say what she feels and thinks. Being silenced by the colonizer for too long, leads to fear of retaliation and harm to our Peoples. The death of over 4000 missing and murdered Indigenous women sends a strong message of what could happen with impunity.
Rage has been smouldering for decades as we watch injustice, anti-Indigenous racism change its shape and become deadlier. Internalized racism, lateral violence, Stockholm syndrome, and survivor guilt is the result of the injustices.
Depression, addiction, and anger turned inward has many casualties as we continue to count the number of overdoses, suicides and Indigenous femicides. Turning that around is a move in the right direction and a movement away from self harm and self hatred.
Current leadership and First Nations scholars struggle to be heard by the mainstream. They attempt to maneuver within structures that are foreign to the First Nations’ way of being.
Condemning direct action taken by youth and activists is self harm. It is discouraging and silencing like the colonizers would like. While I do respect some leaders, I question their colonial mentality.
Relationship with government and academia is based on a colonial pedagogy. Validation is given when one gives up Indigineity including Indigenous way of being and thinking. Activists will not comply.
When Jody Wilson-Raybould spoke truth to power she said some things are non-negotiable setting a strong precedent from a great role model. Take heed! Her integrity, strength and power of truth is integral to her spirit that is in sync with her ancestors. We need more of this type of leadership before we lose it all.
We had to learn to think like the colonizers, write like them, be like them, pray like them , look like them in order to succeed.
Acceptance into power positions within government and academia is colonial acceptance. The way forward is to decolonize ourselves, communities and nations. Appeasing the colonizer and continuing with colonial ways is not reconciliation. First Nations pedagogy still lives if we care to look. First Nations ways is the alternative to a world speeding to non-existence in the name of power and greed.
Decolonizing our way of being is a big challenge, it means rematriation, empowering the collective voice and correcting power imbalances. I look toward to the younger people to show another way of protecting our lands, resources and Peoples. A new mind set is required as our participatory and accepting approach has brought only grief and marginalization. First Nations femicide numbers continue to climb as evidenced by the National Inquiry into Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. This reality is a silencing weapon of war and genocide. Whose next?
Activists are modern day warriors. They shaped Idle No More (INM), a movement which upholds Indigenous Sovereignty with vision to protect the environment and the Indigenous way of life. INM are my kind of people, my kind of warrior and my kind of thinkers. They do not seek colonial approval or validation from the outside. Is it any surprise this movement was founded by women? Denialism casts a shadow over leadership resulting in lack of vision and courage. The history is before us to date 1,505 unmarked graves is genocide. We should be angry and dismantling structures not looking colonial blessing and assent.
Clear lines of delineation/demarcation is needed on our terms. What would Jody Wilson-Raybould do?
When the ships in Vancouver harbour and the trains came to a standstill and brought the Canadian economy to its knees… I looked in wonder at such genius. I look on with respect because this movements time has come. I would never stand in the way of what the activist warrior hearts strive for. Activists are proof that our ancestors are among us. Go in strength and do what my generation couldn’t do and couldn’t imagine.
First Nations have been observers in the Canadian state. First Nations were forced to embrace the colonized way, with few benefits or participation. Only doing what was allowed. This lead to diminishing human rights and crimes against humanity. Enough.
First People cannot decolonize alone. The line must be drawn to stop the erosion of Indigenous ways, culture and language. There are many allies standing by who are prepared to address the power imbalances, prepared to reshape the economic forces. Young settlers see that this planet is in trouble and can be of great help to us with their connections and expertise. First Nations must give direction for the way forward.
Statues and churches are inanimate objects and do not compare to killing and burying children and babies in the thousands. We can finally say the word genocide in an Indigenous context. We were never allowed to utter the word during the writing of UNDRIP because of Canada’s erroneous status on human rights and due to prior negotiations of First Nations leaders at the tables of the United Nations.
Reconciliation is not about doing the minimum to feign good faith or deceive. It is establishing and upholding fundamental human rights and freedoms for ALL. Is that too much to ask? I say not
Can reconciliation happen in my life time? That chapter is yet to be written. Seeing is believing and words are just that words.
Medu Ukg diggi dena tia Medu
Make no mistake!! We will rise! Like the smoke from Ess Tsu (Granmother’s) campfire we will rise!
Terri is a Crow Clan member of the Tahltan Nation. She has a daughter, two sons and six granddaughters. She lived a traditional lifestyle until she was forcibly sent to a residential school in Yukon. Her father who was a trapper and mother looked after the family of 8. Terri is former Chief of her people and former President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Terri founded the Sisters in Spirit Program to document the deaths and disappearance of Indigenous sisters. She served 6 years with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada with a mandate to inform all Canadians about what happened in the residential schools. Terri is a survivor of Indigenous genocide and this motivates her to work for equality, justice and peace for all. Terri is a board director of Women Transforming Cities.