#election2016

#election2016

I had another blog post in the works. It’s about half way done. But I couldn’t work on that until I had got my thoughts about the election out.

Today, I think of Trump’s words describing his ability to use fame and power to assault women. And I remember the other men I have encountered in my life who have tried to use power to assault women and how unsafe and betrayed I felt.

Today, I think of Trump’s comments towards Latinx and their communities using his position to disparage their role in the United States. And I remember the Latinx in my family and my life who I care about so deeply who are now looking at a country that elected a man who viewed them in this way.

Today, I think of Trump’s action mocking those with disabilities. And I remember how lucky I am to not have to consider a disability when planning my daily routines and I consider how this mocking being deemed acceptable will only make these daily routines more difficult for those who do take a disability into consideration.

Today, I think of Trump’s use of the Pocahontas stereotype. And I remember the Indigenous students I have known who faced stereotypes and racism in ways which have caused them to reconsider their goals and whether or not they belonged in the spaces they were in and succeeding in.

Today, I think of Trump’s rhetoric around Muslims. And I remember the wonderful Muslims I have had the pleasure of knowing and the racism and Islamaphobia they already face and I fear the backlash they may face from the legitimization of those sentiments by this election.

Today, I think of Trump’s choice of a Vice-President who believes in conversion therapy. And I remember the LGTBQ folks who have honoured me so much by coming out to me and speaking to me of the stigma and fear they face and I worry their American counterparts will have to be much more careful before having those conversations with folks in their lives.

Today, I think of Trump’s views on race and Black Lives Matter. And I remember the day I spoke about solidarity at a BLM protest and the conversations I was lucky enough to be a part of that day that showed me the reality of Black folks I will never be able to experience.

Today, I think of Hillary Clinton and her efforts to break the glass ceiling. And I remember every time I have been the only female in the room. I remember every time I have been masplained to and every time I have been underestimated because I am a woman. I remember how unsafe it can feel to question the status quo in a male dominated space. And I thank Hillary Clinton for bringing us so close to breaking that glass ceiling and for providing a solid set of shoulders for the next generation of female American politicians to stand on.

Today, I think of the United States and the clear divisions facing that country. And I remember that while Trump has been elected and I fully believe it is a step backwards, there is significant outrage and from this outrage conversations are happening and I hope from these conversations come change, motivation and one day empathy towards those with lived experiences you will never have.

Today, I think of Canada. And I remember we are not perfect and that many of the sentiments that lead to Trump’s rise exist here within Canada and it isn’t enough to feel thankful we don’t like in the US but rather we need to question these sentiments and divisions as they exist today in Canada.

Traditional in trying times

Traditional in trying times

This past week, I attended the Decolonizing Conference 2016 at the University of Toronto. While I love spending time in spaces such as this in which decolonization, race and anti-oppression are centered, they often remind me of the gaps in public education systems and the type of assumptions that leads us to all carry.

In the first session of the day that I attended the presenter at one point referred to herself as a “traditional Mohawk woman”. For me, someone familiar with the way many Indigenous folks in Canada will use the term “traditional”, I understood this to mean a woman who continues to practice ceremony and participate in traditional governing structures or community structures in some way. However come discussion period one audience member asked what was meant by this term and when given an answer along the same lines as my understanding as stated above, the audience member followed up with questions including “So is it like a class system then?”, “Does that mean Mohawks who live outside of the community aren’t traditional?” and “Does that mean you’re a better Mohawk?”.

I don’t blame the audience member for the questions that to me were cringe-worthy and distressing. Rather, I blame our education systems. Indigenous folks are often expected to explain our lives to others. We often don’t match the images held in the heads of non-Indigenous folks. This lack of agreement between the images our educations systems have taught folks and the images of real Indigenous folks often brings non-Indigenous people to believe they have a right to question the authenticity of Indigenous peoples.

Non-Indigenous folks have always felt they have a control or say over what a real “Indian” is. I believe this stems from the way non-Indigenous folks have been using Indigenous representations to tell the stories they wanted to about the New World since the arrival of European settlers. These narratives includes the “noble savage” or the disappearing Indian narratives. And today, because accurate and current representations are so rarely present in education and media, when folks are presented with an Indigenous person who does not meet their expectations, they don’t believe it because it is not what they were taught to expect.

This disbelief of the authenticity of Indigenous folks can lead to erasure of the lived experiences of Indigenous folks and beliefs that because Indigenous people have changed with time, just as any group has, that they no longer have a claim to Indigeneity.

However, I want to take the time to remind Indigenous folks that traditional or not, white-passing or not, on-reserve or not, you are an authentic Indigenous person. You existing and claiming your rights and heritage is authentic. You speaking out against colonialism and racism is authentic. You can choose to live your life in different ways and be influenced in different ways by the changing world we live in, but you will always be authentic.

#NoDAPL

#NoDAPL

The Dakota Access Pipeline is something I must speak to.

This pipeline is heartbreaking and terrifying to me.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about pipelines lately. I recently realized that the “pipeline” that growing up was just the word for a clear track of land at the end of the road I grew up on where I would go to walk the dog, is in fact a pipeline that transports natural gas and is now set to be converted to move oil. Now, I can’t tell you why it took me this long for the reality of the pipeline I grew up with to hit me, but I can tell you how it haunts me. I picture myself as a child walking with my dog running ahead of me to the pipeline only to find a spill. I picture the cows on the farm I lived next to walking in a creek now polluted with oil. I picture the deer, coyotes and other creatures that use the corridor created by the pipeline confused and coated by oil as they searched for food and water.

The idea of a pipeline running under the Missouri River which will lead to a spill is something I cannot even imagine. Because it will spill. Maybe not in the first year, or the first five years or the first ten years but one day it will. And there will be death and destruction.

This pipeline is also contributing to the systemic destruction of a culture and sovereign nation. This pipeline is being developed on Lakota Treaty Territory. This includes culturally significant land that would never be the same and is worth no amount of potential revenue from this pipeline. This pipeline is ignoring the right of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to determine how their land is used. They have very clearly spoken. It is time others listened.

To some this may seem like just another pipeline. Just another protest. Just another hashtag. And it may be if we don’t stand. The Scared Stone Camp is filled with protectors from across Turtle Island. Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks. This could be a turning moment. This is a moment for the US government to do the right thing. This is a moment for self-proclaimed allies to do the right thing. This is a moment to start building a new future. A future with less pipeline and more clean water. A future in which Indigenous peoples’ rights are respected. A future without ongoing colonization and genocide. A future that won’t make us look back and wonder “What the Hell were we thinking?”

I hope with every aspect of my being, this moment won’t pass without change.

I stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Sacred Stone Camp.

Am I the diaspora?

Am I the diaspora?

Many aspects of my identity, particularly over the last few years, have been linked to my relationship to my Algonquin community and the town where it is located. It has framed how others think of me and how I think of myself in relation to others.

But going back home and working within the community in ways I never had before has ,e questioning my claim to this identity in ways I thought I had moved past. I’ve often struggled to deal with the question of whether or not I an Indigenous enough or Algonquin enough. Before I had been battling questions from non-Indigenous folk asking if since I didn’t have status if I’m really native, but this time around I’m battling with questions from me wondering if I can claim this identity that when I’ve spent so much time away while others have been there fighting the fight.

However reconsidering the idea of diaspora. Merriam-Webster defines diaspora as: a group of people who live outside the area in which they had lived for a long time or in which their ancestors lived. I do fit this definition. But to me when I think about the term diaspora there are many other aspects and nuances that come to mind. I think about people maintaining connections and history with their past and origins. It also brings to mind people supporting their home and community while living away.

I do like to think I have done this in some ways. I like to think in some ways I have been fighting the good fight just in a different way. I have supported Indigneous student activism at McGill and in Montreal and I’ve supported Mohawk students in working towards post-secondary education.

So maybe my identity is to be for now, part of the diaspora and recognize I have been fighting the good fight from a different angle, but each battle leads towards resurgence.

The world in my hand

The world in my hand

Well, it’s how I thought I’d feel when I graduated from an undergraduate degree at a (objectively) prestigious university. Instead I told a friend “I thought I’d feel much more prepared by now than I do”.

Graduating with a BA in political science can feel like graduating with a degree in writing critiques. Useful? Yes. Clearly applicable to life after academia? Not always. I was often left wondering how I was supposed to turn the ability to write a term paper into a career. I felt like I graduated with no concrete skills.

Thankfully I graduated with an opportunity. Through the Coady International Institue I have been given the opportunity to work on community development right here in Canada. The Coady promotes asset-based community driven development (ABCD development to be cheesy) and is with this mentality I’ll be framing the “development” aspects of my program.

I’ve always been reluctant to be part of international development programs and work for two main and very interconnected reasons:

  1. Most development programs I’ve be aware of have focused on international development. And yet, in Canada and the rest of the Western world we still struggle with many development, social justice and equity issues so why is it we feel we are equipped to then travel to other place to do development work? In Canada for example it’s popular to do voluntourism trips to build wells in other countries or to support NGOs looking to build access to clean water and yet we have First Nation communities living under boil water advisories for decades. Why do we feel qualified to tell other countries how to develop when we can’t develop ourselves?
  2. Why do we feel it’s appropriate to put so much money and time into building the capacities of students and staff from the global North to work on development internationally rather than put those resources to developing leaders within their own communities to lead development? I realize there are people determined to put their privilege to good use to fight for equity and that there are certain skills that don’t currently exist in areas that need them but many programs seem to take it for granted we in the Western world are the right people for the job on development in countries most of us know little about.

The program I’m a part of is in my opinion the development program that most alleviates these concerns for me. By requiring applicants have a reference from the community they would work with they help prevent participants from parachuting themselves into contexts they don’t understand and by allowing development within our own backyard to be looked at with the same priority they help avoid the assumption that the Western world knows best.

However I do still have concerns and qualms about working in and being associated with development work. I suppose we’ll just have to see how this goes.