Colonial ideas behind racism
There is no doubt the Idle No More movement has magnified the racist undertones within this country.
Just scroll down on any online news story related to the movement to read the comments that are bred from ignorance.
And then there’s the First Nations woman who was abducted in Thunder Bay. The perpetrators told her that Idle No More would fail and that “you deserve to lose your treaty rights.”
That statement – that we “deserve” any mistreatment we get – is perhaps the core thought behind all the racism First Nations people encounter.
After all, when settlers first arrived to Turtle Island centuries ago, most tribes still lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The settlers perceived us as being intellectually inferior – or “dumber.” This justified them taking a moral high ground and they proceeded to use their technologically superior weapons to massacre, dominate and suppress our people over the centuries.
The mindset of those early settlers is one that continues to exist today as we struggle to claim our inherent rights to this land and water, this Mother Earth we so dearly love.
That mentality of superiority affected me during my teen years, and I had this underlying shame about our people that I bottled up.
As I learned in my history classes about the great technological advances and innovations of the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Chinese, I could not help but wonder why our people were unable to develop intellectually as these cultures overseas.
And I saw the struggles our people have today, with the alcoholism, low employment and graduation rates. I was proud of the traditions of our culture, but ashamed at how we seem to be inferior to the rest of Canada.
Then I read Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel.”
In his Pulitzer-prize winning book, Diamond asserts that the indigenous peoples of Africa, Australia, the Philippines, and Turtle Island are not intellectually inferior compared to the rest of the world.
Instead, the people of what is now Europe and Asia benefited from geography and environmental factors.
For instance, they had access to domesticated animals like horses, cattle, pigs and chicken, animals that continue to be the source of our meat.
The Incas of South America domesticated the llama for transportation, but almost no animal indigenous to Turtle could be tamed, let alone domesticated (the key difference being breeding in captivity).
For vegetation, the Eurasians (people of Europe and Asia) had wheat, barley and rice. They could be planted and harvested with relative ease.
The most notable agricultural product on this side is maize, but it was more difficult to plant. Where wheat and barley could be strewn over fields, maize had to be planted individually by hand.
These are among some of the advantages that allowed the Eurasians to establish settlements and advance themselves intellectually at a higher rate than indigenous peoples in other parts of the world, who mostly had to worry about day-to-day sustenance than sit around and work on ideas.
That is not to say that indigenous peoples had no innovations. The Mayans are the most notable example, thanks to doomsday prophecies in recent years.
And since the settlers have dominated our cultures and enforced racist policies like the Indian Act and the residential school, we have taken a while to “catch up,” to show the settlers that we are very much capable of being their intellectual equal.
In my journalist career, and my life experience in general, I have met many of our people who are lawyers, doctors, judges, psychologists, engineers, artists.
It has taken centuries but our people are awakening, showing that we are not intellectually inferior, that we do not deserve to be dominated by a foreign entity.
Idle No More is part of that resurgence, that uprising of our culture, as our people are stepping up.
The colonial attitude shown by those early settlers is alive today, but it is an exciting time for our people and I hope the momentum carries on because we do not “deserve” this continued mistreatment.
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