Demeaning cartoon causing a stir
The Beausoleil First Nation chief and his community’s fire chief agree that Hamhawk Hazard has to go.
“It is demeaning and stereotyping to portray a First Nations person to be very unintelligent,” said Chief Roly Monague, commenting on a controversial cartoon character being used to teach safety to children in materials that were approved by Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation (OFNTSC). “Little kids will be reading this and we have been stereotyped enough in our lives. This kind of stuff in this day and age is not well received.”
Chief and council support the stance of Fire Chief Allan J. Manitowabi – who said the caricature has no cultural significance – and have asked OFNTSC to have the Hamhawk Hazard name and character changed.
“I was shocked and surprised to see this material had been sent out to tribal councils,” said Manitowabi, who began his fight to change the depiction after he first saw it in an electrical booklet that was published in 2010. “At the time I inquired by phone to see where this had come from and found it had been OFNTSC approved.”
The OFNTSC Fire Program provides First Nation Fire Prevention Officers with technical advisory services for fire prevention, code interpretation, emergency service vehicles, and community fire prevention issues. Manitowabi said the corporation has overseen the creation and distribution of numerous fire prevention materials and brochures using Hamhawk Hazard without consultation and approval by First Nations fire services personnel.
“Speaking with Elders from our community, they feel the material is scary for kids and is putting constraints on how we see ourselves,” said the fire chief. “They say the picture is derived from negative portrayals through caricature and is misleading of the culture of First Nations – it presents flawed imagery of Native people.”
Community Elders say if the materials were produced using provincial and/or government funds, there is a clause in the use of federal funds that stipulates those resources are not to be used to promote prejudice, racism, stereotyping or any kind of put-down from one group to another groups based on race, colour, creed, or culture.
In November 2011 the First Nation’s chief and council sent a letter of concern about the Hamhawk Hazard booklet.
The following month OFNTSC executive director Bob Howsam responded, saying the booklet would be examined and changes made.
In a recent interview, Howsam confirmed that his office is aware of Manitowabi’s concerns, noting that the electrical booklet – which is part of a series of booklets on First Nation children’s safety – “is no longer active.” He said it will not be reprinted, but other booklets in the Hamhawk Hazard campaign will continue to be handed out to First Nation communities who request materials.
Howsam – former Regional Director General, Ontario South for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, said the Hamhawk campaign received financial support from INAC.
(Article first published by Anishinabek News at www.anishinabeknews.ca)
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