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

Saturday, June 28, 2008

BC Natives Accused of Benefitting From Racism

The BC Court of Appeal has ruled that BC's Native-only fisheries programs are not discriminatory.

Undaunted by the appeal court ruling, the Fisheries Survival Coalition vowed to continue its fight for the rights on non-Aboriginal fishermen. "I suspect we're going to the Supreme Court of Canada," said a defiant Phil Eidsvik, a Coalition spokesperson and failed Tory candidate in the last federal election.

The claim is that this is a 'Race-based' Fishery, thereby unconstitutional in Canada.

The Supreme Court says, 'Look, they're Indians, OK?', opening up the appearance of a race based decision.

I certainly don't blame these folks for being upset at the unfairness or any advantage they may perceive here. Mind you, this argument would then mean that 90% of Canadian jobs, education, life expectancy and social incluision are race based, in favour of non-Indian people...

What is true is that the First Nation people have traveled and fished there for at least ten thousand years; traded fish amongst themselves; traded fish with the European and Chinese explorers who arrived earlier; were excluded racially; and Fish has been central to coastal and river communities forever.

But, there's another detail needing to be dredged up here.

An important one:

- Just because you're an Indian doesn't mean you're an 'Indian
' -

Sound crazy? Welcome to the kaleidoscopic world of the Canadian Indian!

See, here in Canada, there are two types of Indian: Status and Non-status.

If you are a registered, Status Indian, you qualify for the dwindling list of supportive commitments made by the CDN government, a while ago.

Your parents or grandparents went to Mission School and never really recovered from the experience. You are probably pissed off and depressed.

If you are Non-status, you get all the hassle of being Native with none of the benefits. You are probably pissed off and depressed.

I personally know people who are full blooded Cree or Okanagan but are not recognized by the government as such. In fact, I am related to several of these individuals.

I am, myself, blessed with recognition.

So, anyway, what I want to say here, is that this cannot be a race based issue, because many 'Indians' in this country would be unable to fish at all in British Columbia because of their Non-status bearing in the country.

Whenever I hear someone say they wish they were born Indian, I always have to ask, 'Status or Non-status?'

The usual response is, "Huh?. What do you mean 'status'?"

I'm no longer disappointed by Canadians' lack of respect for history.

Besides -
You want to talk about racism in the BC Fishery?

The Native Brotherhood is recognized as Canada's oldest active Native organization and is a senior BC fishing organization. It was formed in 1931 due to the exclusion of Aboriginals from the lucrative waters of traditional coastal inhabitants.

This is not a racial issue.

It's a constitutional issue.

Terry Harris

Monday, June 23, 2008

The White Mans' Burden: Guilt

All this talk in Canada about 'the Apology' to Indians and how everybody reacted has really got me thinking.

What's behind or underneath all this brouhaha?

What's all the excitement about?

What, exactly, is an apology, anyway?


What is precursor to apology and acknowledgement? What is the groundbeing of forgiveness?


That is what's behind this incredibly sick polite-you-to-death style of racism I've seen in British Columbia. That's what's behind the reality that Canadian Indians have never been accepted into Canadian society. It just hasn't happened. Not like it has in the States, where I used to live.

The acknowledgement of the Canadian government that Indian kids were forced, by law, to go to these concentration camps in such places as Kamloops and Cranbrook, and have the most terrible things happen to them...

To apologize for creating so many screwed up families.

This is an incredible step for Canada.
A step towards wholeness and maturity.

This, by direct inference, means that Indians are NOT naturally screwed up, lazy and 'genetically disposed to alcoholism'!

You must infer more.

For ten thousand years, Canadian Indians lived rich and productive lives. Their families produced stable and productive adults. Up until about the late 1800's, where government agents sent smallpox infested gift blankets to First Nation communities.

This eliminated over 95% of healthy Native Men, Women and Children in BC.

I mean, after this successful germ-warfare attack, only about 4% of the original inhabitants were left.

Then came the Mission School nightmare. Over one hundred years of sustained torment.

No wonder so many non-Indian folks just can't figure out out why Indians can't get it together. They simply don't know BC history. Or Canadian history, for that matter. They don't know what Canada did to the Aboriginals here.

That part is avoided by history books, thank you.

The point I want to establish here is that there is a collective guilt in Canada, by Canadians, for the abuse and neglect and general chaos created in the Indian world. And I don't mean responsibility, either. I mean simple guilt by association.

And now, a collective guilt that has just been lessened.

Please remember that my Lifeskills Lexicon definition includes both healthy and toxic forms.

Healthy guilt leads to action.

Toxic guilt keeps us stuck in defeating behaviours.

When we acknowledge our responsibility in someones suffering, there is a release. A lightening up. New choices present themselves.

Canada has just lightened up about Indians.

There is, after all, Hope for the Aboriginals of Canada.

And, indeed, hope for Canada.

Terry Harris

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day on the reserve: Quiet, real quiet.

Don Burnstick, the hilarious Cree comedian, says, 'you might be a Redskin (NDN) if ...the most confusing day in your community is fathers day...'

Confusing and frustrating.

Probably the most profound and difficult result of Canada's First Nation children being sent to concentration camps at age six is their complete inability to properly parent.

When I say proper, I mean producing self-reliant offspring capable of providing for themselves, productive and mature.

No surprise when you think about it. Parents model adult behaviour to their children. The kids eventually are 'programmed' to mimic the activity they see unfold in front of them. But only after intense experimentation with Life applying their own version of survival strategies.

There is also no surprise when we see adult Aboriginals attempting to recreate the order they experienced as kids at the residential schools. Applying strategies such as domination, control through threats, humiliating punishment, and more.

Survival at Indian residential school meant BEING QUIET! Having no respect given. Offering no resistance to authority. Having authority be sexually predatory. Obeying.

There's more...

Consider the effect of sustained enforcement of this condition on First Nation communities for over one hundred years.

It leaves a big mess, hey?

The Good News?

We're still here!

In spite of all the neglect, abuse and generally awful conditions over multiple generations, Canadian Indians assure the world that we are still alive and still have something of a culture left.

The Parenting can be learned. We are not doomed. There are ways to learn.

We are powerful at the core.

Much hard work lies ahead if we are to maintain stability and health in out villages, country or city, but it can be done.

Please check out my website for links to helpful websites for getting our parenting program together.

And also note the last entry in my Lifeskills Lexicon is "YOUTH - Our only hope."

If you are a Father today, I say congratulations and Thank You.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Harper Apologizes for strategy - "to kill the Indian in the child."

Canada's Prime Minister Steven Harper apologized to First Nations for the 100 year+ institutionalization of Canadas' Aboriginal Children.

The infamous Indian Residential Schools of Canada where Aboriginal children, and only Aboriginal children were rounded up and sent to live, work and pray. And hopefully, lose their Indian ways. One half of the kids attending would not live to graduate. Many secret burial grounds for these children are being discovered today.

One Elder I know called them 'sweat shops'.

My Dad was one of those children. He survived to go on to land on Juno Beach during the D-Day Invasion, and more.

Indian Residential Schools - It was attempted genocide. They failed. And now there's a huge mess to be cleaned up...

It was also a land grab. They won. In BC, anyway.

There was the full range of responses to the apology ranging from 'so, what?', to heartfelt tears being shed and shared.

I, for one, experienced relief from Mr. Harper's eloquent and thorough acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

It's an important step for the ongoing healing of traumatized First Nation communities in Canada.

It's an important development in the maturation process of the country, Canada.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Welcome Native Lifeskills & Leadership Training Blog

This blog will address the issues associated with First Nation communities and leaders. We are hoping to bring greater awareness and deeper understanding to Canadian First Nation aboriginals and Band leadership through our seminars, workshops and writings.

Please come back often.

Terry Harris