Saturday, August 19, 2017

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls - Part Five

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – Part Five
            I don’t know if anyone believes in Indigenous legends and the stories of times past.  But the legend of the Seven Sacred Fires would give you pause if you thought about it in the context of the forgoing blogs and the frustration of the families involved.
            To quote from the legend: “The seventh prophet was different from the others. He was young and had a strange light in his eye. He prophesied that in the time of the Seventh Fire, a new people would emerge out of the ashes of the old. They would ask the Elders for guidance on their journey but some of the Elders had fallen asleep for they too had lost their spirits.
'When they awaken to the new people they will have nothing to offer', said the prophet. Others of the Elders will remain silent because no one will ask anything of them.
These new people will need to carefully choose how they approach the Elders for their task will be hard. If they remain strong and steadfast in their quest, the Water drum of the Medewiwin Lodge will again sound its voice. The Anishinabe Nation will be reborn. The Sacred Fire will again be lit.
Now the light skinned race will come to a fork in the road. Should they choose the right road, the Seventh Fire will ignite the Eighth Fire. This will be the eternal fire of peace and brotherhood among all the people, men and women alike. But should they make the wrong choice, the destruction they brought with them from across the sea will return to them, causing much suffering and death to all of the Earth's people.”
I pulled that out of the stories of my book “TruthSeeker” that I published a few years ago. I don’t know how I came to it, but a combination of a number of things caused me to think about it (as I sometimes do). And suddenly, the whole solution of what I have been proposing was laid out in front of  me – as real as it can get, like a blueprint.
            Central to it is Wab Kinew, Manitoba Legislative Member running for the NDP party leadership. Now just think of his credentials. A journalist and author, broadcaster for the CBC, the TV station I mentioned earlier. He is also host for the documentary series The Eighth Fire (2012) of all things.  The list goes on. Not only that, but he is young as it says in the legend.
            And Wab is well connected too. Running for his party’s leadership, he is being endorsed by Ovid Mercredi, the fiery former chief of the AFN. And that brings up a whole other power base of Elders: Ovid Mercredi, Phil Fontaine, and Mathew Coon Cum to name a few. These are all former AFN chiefs, all fearless advocates for their people, each well connected in his own right.
            Well now if that isn’t a perfect resume for the task at hand, I don’t know what is. Of course, all I can do is to send this blog to him and hope he reads it. If he feels compelled to act on it, that’s his business. If not, at least he will know there is one old white guy who cares enough to make an observation. In any case, my work is done.

            Just sayin’.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Missing and Murdered Indigenous |Women and Girls - Part Four

Missing and Murdered Women and Girls – Part Four
            I suppose I could go on hour after hour, beating the dead horse but it would just be rehashing what has already been said. Clearly this, as much as other things within the Indigenous community, falls on the shoulders of the community itself. It has become totally clear that however well intentioned the government and its bureaucrats are, they are singing the same old song. Maybe they don’t know any better any more. And in the Indigenous community, the chiefs and counsels are sitting on both sides of the fence. And that leaves the victims of these horrific attacks being tossed back and forth like a political football with no resolution at all.
            These victims must mobilize the tools that are at hand to tell their stories in spite of governments and bureaucrats. They must call on the literary and film resources, the museums and public places to bring this to fruition. Indeed, The CBC, being a Crown Corporation and award winning documentary producer could well be the vehicle to bring these stories into being. If the government wants to participate, they may do so under the direction of the victims by providing the funding, the grants, and the public facilities for the display of these stories. Then if they further wish, they could listen and learn.
            You see, over the years of European contact, Indigenous people have been so denigrated and dismissed as inferior people by the “Empire Builders” and so enamored with their gifts and gadgets that they slowly accepted their subordinate place in society. And the “Empire Builders”, seeing their success at subordinating the Indigenous communities have just continued on until they themselves believe this to be right.  And so the Prime Minister strikes a committee to “fix” the problem. By doing so, he has inadvertently created the most colossal blunder of his career.
            Oh, don’t get me wrong. I believe Trudeau is sincere in his concern over Indigenous issues. He has his hand and his heart out to them, no question. But striking a committee of white Empire Builders to structure a path to heal the victims and their families and to zero in on closing the files successfully is the wrong way to go about things.  Firstly, empires are no longer in fashion. Neither are the means and the methods associated with them.
            Listen, here’s what has to happen: From the government side, the “whatever you want to call the department” needs to be scrapped and dismantled, its finances handed over to the auditor general for arms length disbursement and replaced with a committee of Indigenous nations to run by way of consensus. The government should then mandate the CBC to document all the stories to be told in documentary fashion and the storytellers be brought in to a studio to tell their stories, preferably in their own native language with visual translation on a screen. This should then be placed in the Museum of Human Rights for all to see.
             I can’t see for the life of me how the cost of this sort of program would exceed the cost of the committee and all its studies and consultations, especially if the chiefs and counsels were to give their time to this without compensation. It would likely be the first step to a true healing of the communities and rebuilding of self esteem of the nations.

            If you wait until next week I’ll tell you who should act on behalf of the government and who should act on behalf of Indigenous peoples and the ramifications of the proposal. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Missing and Murdered Women and Girls - Part Three

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children – Part Three
            Ms. Poitras is right in her determination that these issues have been studied to death and discussed to death by now and none of the solutions have worked or are likely to. Bureaucrats are good at organizing meetings arranging study groups and so on. But what do they know of Indigenous culture?  What do they know about the deep and rich spiritual heritage that underlies the very fabric of Indigenous communities? You have to be an Indigenous person to know these things.
            And what do they know of the pain and anguish of those who are left to mourn for their loved ones lost in such a brutal way? Not much, I think. Still, they have a purpose. They are good at organizing and running focus groups, and they have access to funding. They should confine themselves to those tasks.
            It’s my opinion that the whole commission should be made up of those people victimized by these tragedies. These people will understand what is needed. It’s also my opinion that the commission should muster the many tools available to it within the Indigenous community. What I mean is that there are Indigenous publishing companies, a major Indigenous television station, writers and actors who can bring these stories into reality. And above all we have the Museum of Human Rights where the stories can be told for the whole world to hear. Where else will you get a better audience?
            To my way of thinking, the Indigenous community needn’t wait for some white man’s commission to go through all its protocols in order to tell its stories. Each nation and each community has its own management structure. And each has an affiliation to a national structure. If the chiefs ever want to do something for their people, they will join forces to marshal all these things together and begin the process of putting themselves on the world map.
            No one needs to wait for government approval or bureaucratic formatting for permission to tell their stories. You’d think there’d be a large studio in the Museum of Human Rights where people are brought in for this very purpose and the process begins. I don’t pretend to have any organizational knowledge of the process. I just know it can be done and a few people who could do that. Before you know it there would be a flood of people coming to share their stories and it would finally take shape for the world to see what Canada is made of and how we treat people of ethnic origin. But it takes the people from each community, not the chiefs and counsels. The people affected need to pressure their administrations to make this happen. Perhaps the “Idle No More” people can mobilize a groundswell of ordinary people to participate.
            My mention of the Mennonites at the outset of this series was not frivolous but had its purpose in pointing out the importance of stories. There is a whole shelf in my book case of stories told by Mennonites of that terrible era. We know what happened, why and how. That doesn’t make it any easier particularly, but at least we can move on, knowing our experience has been recorded for all time.

            But that’s the whole thing. There must be a groundswell from the people themselves. It’s time the government and the bureaucrats acknowledge that Indigenous people ARE people too.  They have a value! The pride in their heritage has been beaten down so much over the years by the Europeans that they dare not speak of their self worth other than amongst themselves.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls - Part 2

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – Part Two
            I guess one of the reasons Mennonites empathize with Indigenous people to the degree they do is the similarities of their respective situations from the past. Me an’ the Missus visited the Mennonite Heritage Center a while back an’ on the way home she says to me, “Holy crackers, there’s Mennonites everywhere!” She was talkin’ about the Mennonite Central Committee and all its involvements in every corner of society.
            Well, it’s true. Them buggers are everywhere. They’re in government, in industry, in agriculture – you name it an’ you’ll find ‘em. The reason I bring this up is that given their treatment in the old South Russia, they should have pretty well been wiped out – but they weren’t. There are many parallels in the story of the Mennonites and the Indigenous nations, the difference being that it was the men and older boys who were taken away instead of the children. That left the women and younger children to look after the farms and businesses.
            What would happen was that in the evening or at night several armed authorities would show up at a given house and demand entry. Using their authority they would search through the house, looking for letters or papers jewelry or wealth of some sort to incriminate the resident. They would then give the head of the house about five minutes to pack a few clothes, a little food to eat and pack him off to a courthouse in another town, promising the mother and the children that he would return in a day or two. That of course was a lie since many of them never returned. It got to the point where every household had a package prepared to give to the head of the family for his journey to court.
            Well that’s a bit of an over simplification, but generally pretty close to what happened. There is a book with lists of people who were shot, or deported to northern Siberia or imprisoned for long terms, some of my own relatives among them. It’s a gruesome record.
            Now this is the point I’m trying to make. One of the women waiting to tell her story to the commission for Missing and Murdered Women and Girls is extremely frustrated with the commission and its activities. The hoops these people have to jump through to get at the commission overwhelms her and she is afraid she’ll never get to tell her tale. That is what confuses me. I totally agree with her in that every time you get to tell your story, you heal a little bit. So the stories must be told – all of them!
            The question is, must they be told to the commission being run by the government? No, they must be told to someone who will listen. To my way of thinking, the system is entirely backwards. Indigenous peoples have been telling stories for ever. They have good memories and a penchant for the truth. We see that over and over.
            So now we have a group of white people who were and are the enemy setting the terms of when and how the affected people can speak, subordinating the indigenous people once again.
            And who are these people setting the agenda? Oh yeah, they’re government people and bureaucrats who have no experience in being bullied by their own kind. They have no idea of what goes on in the minds of the people affected by these losses.

            Just sayin’.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls - Part 1

This is a new series coming up that I thought was important to talk about. It's not so much about the people who have gone missing as it is about the survivors and their families, and the commission regulating the procedure of dealing with the issue. I don't know how many parts there will be to this, but it will end when I've had my say. Here is part one:

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
            Well, let’s begin with studies and their costs. Forget that! There is so much of that out there it appears to be a whole industry in and of itself. I can remember that from my old real estate days when a fellow got a government grant to do a study on starting up a fish farm in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I think he got a $45,000.00 grant to study the feasibility of the venture that never got anywhere. But he was happy with the grant money and went on his way. Then there were the guys who wanted to turn water into fuel, and so on ad infinitum.
            The same thing more or less applies to Indigenous issues. Marilyn Poitras is exactly right in my opinion regarding these studies and inquiries. We’ve been there, done that, it hasn’t worked. So why are we still doing that? I’m not willing to believe that the Government is so na├»ve as to really think they need another set of studies to address the problem or even to define what the problem is – or if there is one. I rather suspect that these studies and inquiries are a foil to avoid making a decision or even to put it off. I imagine a good grant writer can make a decent living uncovering this stuff.
            Well, so much for the churches, the Government bureaucracy and all the other white colonialists intent on maintaining the status quo for as long as they can. It is they who are intent on maintaining this sustainable industry at the expense of Indigenous people. But sooner or later that must also stop.
            As for the Indigenous People, at least in Canada, they are not without blemish either. They were very quick to pick up on the white man’s ways in terms of hoarding money and keeping it from the communities who needed it, and could cite long winded explanations for it.
            And the Elders will not speak. They have nothing to say. If you look at the teaching of the Seven Fires of the Anishinabec, you will see that it is exactly what is foretold. But there is one thing I don’t quite agree with and that is that the people wait for a young man who will lift them out of their wretchedness and a return to the spiritual world. It’s not that I disagree so much as I don’t understand. Why are the people waiting for someone else to lift them out of their misery? Why are they not doing it themselves?

            Well, you mustn’t take too much stock in what I say. I am after all, speaking from the top shelf where all my knowledge and experience are put away as irrelevant, part of ancient history. But I’ll speak my mind anyway. It looks like this is going to be a multiple piece, so look for the next post after this.

            Just sayin’.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Oh God - Part Twenty - Six

Oh God – Part Twenty – Six
                   Schwartz thought about it for a minute. Basically it was not a bad idea, so he said out loud, “I forgive myself for all the crap I did on other people,”
                   Well that didn’t work! God, who was forever in his face, was suddenly absent. Now what?  “Hey God,” said Schwartz, “I forgave myself an’ nothin’ happened. What’s up with that?”
                   “What did you forgive yourself for, Schwartz?
                   “Oh, everything in general, I guess.”
                   “But what specifically did you forgive yourself for?”
                   Schwartz thought for a moment, “I don’t know,” he admitted.  “ I really don’t remember.” That was odd. He really didn’t remember the specific things that had been so prominent on his list of offenses. In fact, he was feeling a little lighter, less burdened as it were for the loss of these memories. “God,” he said in a business-like voice as though he were conducting a meeting. “We have to discuss a few things about my coming here in the first place.” Well he may have lost his memory of earthly things, but at least his organizational skills were still intact.
                   “It was probably a redundant call,” said God reflectively. “The human race never ceases to surprise me. You’d think they’d use the brains I gave them for useful reasoning. But instead they’re in such a rush to do everything faster and shorter, not realizing that it’s contributing to their own demise that much sooner.”
                   “You mean . . . . ,” Schwartz started to say.
                   “I mean they are racing toward their end at top speed. I don’t have to do nothin’. It’s a bit of a shame though about all them other creatures on earth but . . . . . .”
                   “You mean the world itself will come to an end?”
                   “No, the world itself won’t explode or dry up or anything like that. But after all the damage humans have done, it will take a while to heal itself. That’ll give me time to rethink my creations. Fortunately by then I’ll have turned over all the unworthy spirits to Satan to fry into eternity and I’ll be left with the good ones to make the new world into a homogeneous loving and caring place.”
                   “So how long will that take?” wondered Schwartz.
                   “Oh, maybe a million years or so, maybe two, it’s hard to say.
                   “A MILLION OR TWO YEARS! All of life will be forgotten by then,” lamented Schwartz.
                    “Not really, not in the grand scheme of things. It took several billion years before there was any possibility of life surviving on earth, so a million years here or there is no big deal.”
                   “And the souls you sent to hell – what about them?” was Schwartz’ next question.
                   “Ha ha, they’ll be screamin’ an’ yellin’ an’ sizzlin’ on Satan’s barbeque.”
                   Schwartz shuddered at the thought. That could have been him for God’s sake. Well, except for God’s sake. “An’ what about us up here in heaven, what happens to us?”
                   “Well, you good souls who have shown your loyalty and dedication will be sent out again to re-populate the earth with love and goodness and proper respect for the atmosphere around you. It will be a perfect world.  As for Satan’s bunch – to hell with them!” God chuckled at his own joke.

                   There was a huge crash in the kitchen that echoed throughout the dining room. God winked at Schwartz and muttered, “Even here there are some that like to give orders.”

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Oh God - Part Twenty - Five

Oh God – Part Twenty – Five
            “Schwartz mulled that over for a bit.”So there’s really no Heaven or Hell?” he pondered.
            “Of course there is. It’s just not where you thought it was,” answered God.
                   “Aw crap!” complained Schwartz, “Where is it then?” He heard dishes rattling in the kitchen.
                   “It’s everywhere, especially within your own spirit. In fact, your spirit is also within us. We are inextricably connected, so heaven and hell are all around you and even within you. You and your spirit are essentially an extension of ourselves and have nothing to do with your dad blamed churches, religions or cults. Basically, we are all one.”
                   “In other words,” Schwartz summed up, “our whole time on earth is nothing more than an exercise in futility, a total waste of time.”
                   “In one sense I suppose you’d be right Schwartz,” replied God, “if it was about you, but it’s not. The only meaning the things you do on earth have are as a test of your character, the strength of your spirit. After that, they are of no value at all. They are merely a means to an end.”
                   “Well that’s kind of depressing, isn’t it?  I mean, you work and toil all your life for something and then when you die, you have to throw it all away as though it never existed in the first place? That doesn’t seem fair.”
                   “You didn’t think you could bring it all with you did you?” asked God.
                   “No, but at least I’d like to have credit for it. After all, I’m the guy who did all these things. At least I was able to toot my own horn when I was living in hell.”
                   “And who was listening to you?”
                   “Nobody I guess.” Schwartz slumped listlessly at the thought.
                   “And did you also crow about the ways in which you cheated people out of what was rightfully theirs?”
                   “Why not?”
                   “Guilt, I imagine.”
                   “Do you see the futility in all that? Is that what you want for all eternity?”
                   “No, of course I don’t. I just can’t deal with it anymore. I suppose that’s why I keep on about my achievements so much, to drown out my guilt.”
                   “Well, you seem to have a grasp of your miserable situation, but you haven’t cottoned on to the solution yet have you?”
                   “That’s what’s holding me down. Until I do, I’ll have no peace.”
                   “It’s complicated, yet it’s so simple. It’s called ‘forgiveness’.”
                   “FORGIVENESS?” shouted Schwartz. “Who in blazes am I gonna forgive – myself?”

                   “Exactly,” said the Lord.