Tuesday, July 15, 2008

An open letter to BC 150

Here is a letter I recently sent to the organization promoting the 150th year of British Columbia as a province in a variety of television ads that don't seem to show any Indians. By the by, the legality of its status is doubtful, since the area was neither ceded, won in war or given to the founders. That doesn't seem to matter, now.

Anyway, here are excerpts of the letter:

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I appreciate it very much. It has allowed me to reflect on what the issue is for myself.

And it is this:

The images you present are of assimilated Indians - entertainers, artisans for upper class citizens and aboriginals engaging in ancient indigenous sports, but with no outward signs of inherent cultural expression.

We see no Indians doing Indian activities. No pow-wows, no drumming, no elders sharing with children or any obvious visual reference to Indian culture.

Try to imagine how your average, under-educated, socially-excluded, addicted, poverty ensconced First Nations individual might perceive the images presented.

I truly don't want to be too heavy on the negative here, but you must agree with me that the bulk of first nations individuals embrace the description put forth. No?

Believe me, this is not something I want to be right about. But, as a Lifeskills workshop facilitator working throughout western Canada and the Arctic, this is the overwhelming image that emerges.

It is unfortunate, but authentic.

The key issue: Indians have never been included in Canadian society, and the BC150 ad reinforces that notion.

If you disagree with this position, I say, it is not your call being the dominating population force currently.

Further, if you disagree, I would understand, since poverty, under-education and suffering are hard to look at, and is easily overlooked in historical and contemporary evaluations of 'the Indian Problem'.

- end quote -

Racism can take many seemingly innocent faces.

Racism isn't bad or evil.

It is about ignorance.

And that is fixable.

Terry Harris,
First Nations Facilitator