The Battered And The Bruised

A very informative post on violence against Indigenous women.

The Road to Empowerment:

maracle-first-wives-clubLee Maracle is “one of the country’s most prolific First Nations’ writers” (CBC).  Her work “re-imagines century-old myths and traditions for future generations, and reflects antipathy towards sexism, racism and white cultural domination” (University of Windsor) Maracle wants to empower Indigenous female identity and this can be seen within her short stories book First Wives Club Coast Salish Style.  She believes that “the passing on of women’s knowledge is essential to the healing of people and the environment” (University of Windsor).  Maracle’s The Laundry Basket short story chronicles main character Marla and her struggles with domestic violence.  “It was when she had stepped out of the bounds of orthodoxy that he had ‘put his foot down’ or rather began putting the back of his hand across her face” (Maracle 49).   Marla’s husband felt he was superior to her and held the power in their marriage because he was white. …

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Idle No More, The Movement

A great summary of the Idle No More movement!

Less Idling, More Changing

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Movement:

  • “Idle No More calls on all people to join in a peaceful revolution, to honour Indigenous sovereignty, and to protect the land and water” (www.idlenomore.ca)
  • This is an ongoing movement since 2012 that fights against environmental degradation, economic and social inequality
  • One of the largest Indigenous movements in Canadian history

 

Story:

  • Idle No More began as a series of teach-ins throughout Saskatchewan to protest the introduction of parliamentary bills, (i.e. Bill C-45) that would erode Indigenous sovereignty and environmental protections.
  •  December 10th was “National Day of Action” and inspired thousands of people to commit to resistance against neo-colonialism.  
  • The Idle No More movement has inspired thousands to create change.  There has been a lot of uproar and attracted a lot of media attention.

 

Their Demands for Change:

  1. Repeal provisions of Bill C-45 (including changes to the Indian Act and Navigable Waters Act, which infringe on…

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Availability of Indigenous Knowledge

Preserving and promoting Indigenous knowledge is very important to keep this culture alive and relevant. It is also equally important to make sure that the knowledge being spread about Indigenous culture is accurate and not stereotyped. Indigenous people can be misrepresented in museum exhibits around the world. They are often depicted as primitive, during the period when they first came in contact with Euro-Americans, they were “Natives.” The Twentieth century improved this image slightly, incorporating the Indigenous perspective. More recently in museums there is a focus on individual tribes instead of casting all Indigenous people into one category. The following quote describes the problem with Indigenous representation in museums.

“Finding a solution to the problem of audience reaction, especially considering the plethora of images that currently depict natives as an element of the past (for example, sports mascots and the appropriation of native religions by New Age spiritualists), seems impossible to eradicate …  An “authentic” representation of natives can be achieved only through native curators’ exhibits … that tribal museums can simultaneously speak for natives and speak to natives and non-natives alike.” (Sleeper-Smith)

The previous quote offers a solution to the misrepresentation of Indigenous people in museums. Sleeper-Smith believes that Indigenous people should lead the exhibits, this would avoid stereotyping of their people and culture. By doing this both Indigenous and Non Indigenous people can experience Indigenous culture instead of stereotypes and misrepresentations. The picture below is a strong example of a negative Indigenous representation.

Cleveland-Indians

The above picture (not meant to be offensive, it is meant to bring awareness) depicts how relevant these negative stereotypes are, even in the Twenty-First century. This is an example of what Sleeper-Smith describes in her above quote. These are out dated stereotypes. The promotion and preservation of accurate Indigenous culture is what is needed to get rid of these outdated thoughts.

Indigenous knowledge can be spread through many formats, not just through their history in static displays, like in museums. The Indigenous community is also online, like most things are in the Twenty-First century. The internet was initially conceived as a space where community can form, interactivity. This fits in with the Indigenous philosophy of interconnection,within their ideas of language and communication. Indigenous people use the internet to say that they are alive and thriving and to share their knowledge and culture with everyone.

“Idle No More calls on all people to join in a peaceful revolution, to honour Indigenous sovereignty, and to protect the land and water”

“INM has and will continue to help build sovereignty & resurgence of nationhood”

“INM will continue to pressure government and industry to protect the environment” (Idle No More website: http://www.idlenomore.ca/vision)

The Idle No More website and affiliated social media sites promote meaningful activities. The concept of the online community evokes feelings of friendliness and familiarity. Idle No More is a strong example of this online community where everyone is there to learn and help each other in a safe environment. Idle No more gets people of all cultures up and moving and promoting accurate knowledge.

“The movement was initiated by activists Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam, and Jessica Gordon in November 2012, during a teach-in at Station 20 West in Saskatoon called “Idle No More”, held in response to the Harper Government’s introduction of Bill C-45” (Idle No More, Wikipedia).

The Idle No More website and movement are both responsible for sharing mass amounts of information with both Indigenous and Non Indigenous people. They are bringing awareness to their past and present and calling for a change. The website and affiliated social media sites promote accurate knowledge about Indigenous people and the Idle No More movement. It is a credible and vital source that everyone can learn from. With this information so easy to access, there’s no excuse for false stereotypes or ignorance.

The Importance of Traditions and Ceremonies

Traditions and ceremonies are an important part of any culture. We grow up with our own traditions and ceremonies. We may even experience how they have adapted or changed over time to suit the present. Through traditions and ceremonies we feel a deeper connection to our heritage and culture. The following definition is from the Oxford English Dictionary.

“Traditions are a long-established custom or belief that has been passed on from one generation to another” (OED)

In the novel Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko it becomes apparent that preserving Indigenous traditions will lead to preserving their culture and people. This can also be said for any culture, but for the purpose of this assignment I will stick to discussing Indigenous people. We can use examples from the novel to prove the importance of traditions. Rocky represents a character that is moving away from traditions. He is enjoying the white world and dismisses his traditions, this ultimately leads to him joining the army and meeting his untimely death. The following quote describes Rocky after he has received some education away from home.

“They told him, “Nothing can stop you now except one thing: don’t let the people at home hold you back.” … After their first year at boarding school in Alburquerque, Tayo saw how Rocky deliberately avoided the old-time ways. Old grandma shook her head at him, but he called it superstition, and he opened his textbook to show her.” (Silko 47)

The above quote describes how Rocky’s teachers and coach bluntly tell Rocky that to succeed in life, Rocky should forget about his roots and culture. The ideology that to be successful in life, you have to forget about your culture and traditions is just wrong. In my previous post about healing, I talked about wholeness and the many parts that make us a whole. A part of our identity is our culture and traditions. To be asked to just forget or leave your traditions and culture behind as you move forward in life just seems immoral.

Also in the novel Ceremony, there are examples of why following traditions are important. The medicine men in Ceremony become symbols of preserving their traditions. They still follow old traditions and healing ceremonies. Betonie notes that traditions are important, but they also have to change over time, because the world, including ourselves, are constantly changing. Ceremony highlights that it can be difficult to take pride in ones cultural traditions, especially when others may view them as weird or irrelevant like Rocky did when he was described as feeling shame towards their traditions. It is important to continue with these traditions, even as they change, so culture’s won’t disappear.

In the novel First Wives Club: Coast Salish Style by Lee Maracle, Maracle breaks away from how other cultures may view Indigenous traditions and people. She creates a novel full of short stories which gives the reader representations of strong Indigenous individuals. We can feel how striking their emotions are in each story.

“It never occurred to her that for the boys, laundry is not looked upon as “woman’s work, wifely drudgery, not fit for male consumption.” It is new and they want to be a part of it.” (Maracle 56)

The quote above makes it clear that all Cultures and people go through the same processes in life. We all raise children, get educated, experience what it feels like to work for a wage, we also share many more experiences just by being humans. It is important as humans that we continue on with our cultural traditions so we can pass them on to future generations and share our knowledge with anyone and everyone. The following quotations really capture what story telling and sharing stories embodies, which is what novels are.

“Oral tradition embodies historical knowledge gained through observation, experience, practice, and being indigenous.” (Struthers 1268)

“Our understanding of the world is constructed by language and traditions of our heritage.”              (Struthers 1273)

The above quotations describe what story telling means to our culture and world. All cultures share stories and pass them on from generation to generation. Cultures also have traditions and ceremonies they partake in. This can be said for individual families as well as individuals. We all have our own personal traditions we like to follow daily or maybe annually. It is important to keep in mind that passing on traditions and ceremonies keeps a culture alive for future generations and for the present. Traditions, ceremonies, knowledge, and experiences are something that should be shared with the world and celebrated by anyone and any culture.

Indigenous Teachings and Healing

Indigenous teachings can be described as how Indigenous people, as a culture, approach issues and perspectives. Indigenous people have their own way of approaching healing as well. They incorporate wholeness, balance, relationships, growth, and harmony into the healing process. The concept of wholeness is a very important aspect of healing and teaching.

“Wholeness is the incorporation of all aspects of life. In order to focus upon the whole it becomes necessary to give attention to each part” (Hart 93).

The above quote describes that there are parts that make up a whole. This concept can be seen through the four elements (fire, water, air, earth) as well as the four seasons (spring, summer, fall, and winter). Each of these individual parts make up one whole. Therefore, to understand a whole we must understand the aspects that make us a whole.

The concept of balance is also important and closely linked to the concept of wholeness. Balance is something that is constantly being pursued, we are never perfectly balanced all the time. For a person to achieve balance they need to be in harmony with all aspects of themselves. When we focus too much on one aspect of ourself this creates an imbalance. As a human being, it is the Indigenous way of thinking, that if we do not achieve balance then we cannot develop into our full potential as individuals.

The concept of growth is also important. It speaks to the development of the body, mind, and spirit in a harmonious manner. Every individual has the capability of growing , this is a life long process that develops our sense of self. Many Indigenous teachings believe that growth is a movement through life cycles towards wholeness, balance, and harmony between ourselves and other living things.

If we look at healing through an Indigenous perspective, we know that healing is not defined as something you do when you are ill or have a problem.

“Healing is viewed as a journey; it is something that is practiced daily throughout our lives … Healing is the transition that restores the person, community, and nation to wholeness, connectedness, and balance” (Hart 95).

The above quote captures what healing means through Indigenous teachings. This quote is expressed in the novel Porcupines and China Dolls, written by Robert Arthur Alexie. The whole community attends a healing workshop where traumas such as sexual abuse and mistreatment of children in residential schools are exposed to everyone who is listening. These demons have to be released so that the community and individuals can heal. Being able to confess their trauma and know that the men weren’t alone and to be able to talk about the trauma was a start to the healing process. The individual healing process started by being able to say their trauma out loud and share it. The community also started to heal; to accept what happened and became stronger by banding together, they didn’t have to handle their trauma and pain alone. Indigenous people believe that the only way to heal a wound is to deal with it, to let it grow and fester will just kill you and your spirit. The healing workshop let the people know that it was okay to heal and not be fragmented, but to be a whole self.

“Two hundred people sat in stunned silence and in total admiration of these three Warriors. They quietly kneeled in humble reverence and veneration as the Reverend Andy led them in prayer for lost souls, lost youth, broken trust and forgotten promises” (Alexie 207).

The above quote takes place at the end of the healing workshop. The men that shared their traumas are considered warriors because they fought and let their demons go for everyone to take witness to. The process of healing has begun. Below is a quote from the Globe and Mail newspaper article on Harpers apology to Indigenous people for the suffering and trauma they have experienced.

“”It has been a very long time that the elders have been waiting for this,” she said quietly. “I am surprised that they are actually telling the truth about some of the things that have happened”” – Julie Marion, Mi’kmaq (Curry & Galloway).

Similar to the healing workshop in Porcupines and China Dolls, the above quote from Julie Marion embraces the truth. By talking about past traumas and bringing them to the surface, this starts the healing process. As stated in Porcupines and China Dolls, healing is a journey, and by focusing on ourselves and community using the concept of wholeness and growth, the healing journey can be more enlightening. 

Breaking Away From Stereotypes

Whether unconsciously or not, most of us (mainly North and South Americans) think of stereotypes when it comes to the Indigenous community. This post aims to bring awareness and educate about this outdated reality. Joseph Boyden’s novel Three Day Road brings to light these stereotypes. The white soldiers view the Indigenous soldiers, Xavier and Elijah, as natives that have lived out in the bush their whole lives. They believe that all Indigenous people still ride horses and that they are savages.

“”What if they mistake us for Plains Cree and give us horses to ride? I ask. “They’d better not.” After a pause, Elijah continues, “Maybe we’d learn and be good at it. I can just see us climbing onto horses and falling off as soon as they start running. All the wemistikoshiw would stare. They would wonder just what kind of Indians we are.”” (Boyden 54-55)

The white soldiers carelessly mistake one tribe for another without putting any effort into learning the differences or traditions of even one of the tribes. Xavier and Elijah also experience segregation because their culture is looked upon in such a negative manner. When Xavier and Elijah are taking the train, they have to go to the back of the train with the other Indigenous people. This shows how intolerant we can be towards other cultures that we may not understand or not know enough about. The following youtube clip discusses two specific Indigenous stereotypes.

In the above youtube clip, Taiaiake Alfred, an educator, author, and an activist, discusses his view on Indigenous stereotypes. He describes two stereotypes; the noble savage and the righteous warrior. Alfred depicts the noble savage as being the good and peaceful Indian. Alfred remarks that it is through European culture that the righteous warrior has been depicted as the violent and bad Indian. Alfred makes the comment in his lecture that these stereotypes are still present in North American culture. In North America we have been bombarded  by images that tell us what it is to be native, for example, in novels, television shows, and movies. Through popular culture we are being shown the noble savage and righteous warrior. We are rarely shown the individual person. This only makes it harder to break away from these stereotypes and why so many people still believe these stereotypes are a reality. There is a huge lack of knowledge surrounding Indigenous people and their culture.

In Three Day Road, Xavier and Elijah are first seen as the stereotypical bad/righteous warriors. The white soldiers see them as skulking and wandering through the woods killing the enemy. After the soldiers get to know Xavier and Elijah as individuals, they learn more about their culture and they begin to accept each other. According to an article from the Globe and Mail newspaper, Indigenous people are taking pride and embracing their culture.

“Urban Aboriginals say that having a strong sense of their own culture and identity is a precondition of – not a barrier to – a successful, fulfilling life” (Adams & Kunkel).

Everyone as individuals should be embracing other cultures, just like most of us embrace our own cultures. Can the solution to ignorance be forced interactions (like in Three Day Road) during traumatic experiences? Is this what it takes to realize stereotypes aren’t reality? It shouldn’t be.

Annette Portillo, a professor at the University of Texas, takes pride in her methods of teaching. She teaches Indigenous literature to predominately Non-Indigneous students. In her essay Indigenous-Centered Pedagogies: Strategies for Teaching Native American Literature and Culture, Portillo describes her teaching efforts to re shape how her students learn and to educate them on Indigenous literature and culture without bias and stereotypes.

“My interactive classroom methods are shaped by indigenous-centered models, where extensive dialogue and exchange of ideas creates a dynamic learning experience. I guide students through the material by providing the necessary socio-historical background to primary texts and allow them to become active producers of knowledge. I strongly believe that it is our responsibility as educators to be conscious of how our teaching methods inevitably contribute to the multiple ways in which students will leave our classes with newly acquired knowledge about Native American literature and culture” (Portillo 173).

Portillo chooses to teach her students about Indigenous stereotypes by confronting them head on. She discusses why they are still relevant and the challenges that herself and other instructors face when it comes to un learning these Eurocentric stereotypes.  Popular culture in the past and present have been filled with Indigenous stereotypes. More recently in films such as Pocahontas, Avatar, and the Twilight Saga, there are obvious stereotypes confronting us from our screens. Indigenaity is being portrayed to us using  the Indian princess, noble savage, and shapeshifter/spiritual stereotypes. These stereotypes are widely accepted because they are continually being used and thrown in our faces. So how do we get past these stereotypes that are ever present in North American culture? We can choose to educate ourselves and seek out unbiased and stereotype free information about Indigenaity and their culture. We have nothing to lose and only knowledge to gain.