Saturday, February 8, 2014

First Nations Education Act launch day at Kainai High School, Blood Reservation, Alberta

First Nations Education Act (FNEA) launch day at 
Kainai High School, Blood Reservation, Alberta
Feb. 7/14

 I am a Yellowknife Dene born in Treaty 7. My mother was from Yellowknife. I have status under the imposed Indian Act. I live in the urban setting of Calgary and traveled out three hours each way to see this historic event. Let's start by acknowledging this event happened in Treaty 7 Territory of the Blood Reserve which is the Kainai Nation, at the Kainai High School. I have heard two ways to pronounce Kainai: ken-eye or G-ai-nah. This gentleman explains it well here. A huge thank you  to the Kainai Nation for hosting and opening up for this public event.

When we took the directions from the official press release of the PMO, I posted on Facebook that if these are not right, to please text me. I had the support of a former resident of the Kainai, Kimberly Wesealfat on the phone when I came to barriers, which I did face and had her help getting through. I wore a Liberal Party of Canada lanyard and card around my neck and wondered if that would help or hinder me. I told my daughter I worried we wouldn't be allowed in. I didn't say that it was because all the registered First Nations are on a RCMP watch list here, here, here, here, here and can not seem to find the 3.1 billion dollars it took to carry it out, but I was thinking it. I didn't want to scare her so I said, "because I'm a Liberal." She said that I need to take that off then, LOL! I wish it was that easy, LOL! (However, I'm sure many people would agree with her, take that shit off, LOL!) While I do chuckle, the truth is, that concept of conforming when it's not right, is not funny and a piece of me wished I taught that better to her.

There was two line ups. One for invited guests, which I was not, and the public. We all had to show picture ID or we would not be allowed in. (As some people may know, not only is that a violation of rights but a barrier for some First Nations.) Some people showed their Indian Act imposed status card. (Some people mistakenly call it a Treaty card which I'll blog about later.) I showed my drivers. We all got wanded and our purses checked. I told my daughter they are not allowed to touch her and to stay close which she said scared her that this situation was happening. We were told to wear blue dots on our hearts and went into a different room than the invited guests. At least we got in! I heard others say people were turned away shortly after we got in. Some people made placards with messages that were taken away.

I do like to take pictures and videos and I did. So this video here is just of my daughter and I listening to the events. We found a few faces we knew, like Professor Anthony Hall from the University of Lethbridge, so we set up shop. You can see the agents watching over us, creating tension. My daughter was bored at this point so off to the washroom we go. This was actually my highlight because there were some girls in their regalia playing around. You have to hear a jingle dress to understand how sweet, adorable and innocent it is to watch and hear a jingle dress play hide and seek. It's impossible because of the noise but when you're little, it`s so sweet and just fun. Also, the ribbon was sticking out of the lockers so as a by-stander, it was the sweetest thing in the world to witness. (Thank you ladies for being my highlight!)

It just went downhill from there. The new Indian Affairs minister spoke glowingly of  predecessors. To me, this is the supreme position of managing apartheid so that anyone would willingly and eagerly take that position makes me feel nauseous. The highlight of the speech was when Shannon Houle of Treaty 6 courageously spoke of the people of nations NOT agreeing to this, not being consulted and that we object. In the feast room, this was the reaction and we supported her with cheers which no media outlet reported as far as I seen at the time when this blog was created. Not too much after that moment so we just waited and waited for the speeches to end. Shawn Atleo spoke so well of the FNEA and wanted to mark it with this ceremony so I was left wondering why he didn't have this whole production and the paddle signing ceremony in his territory. I felt very disillusioned with the AFN at that point.

To people who may not understand, Shawn Atleo is National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in Canada. There are two kinds of chiefs. One is one of the people that speaks on behalf the consensus of their nation. The other kind is an indian act chief that does what the Indian Affairs ministers mandate. To be fair to indian act chiefs, if they don't play along, their nations get less funding. It is perfectly working apartheid, discrimination and pain in the communities. I would also argue that most Canadians see this in their own politicians, which is why there is so much political apathy. When we see party infighting, it's akin to the lateral violence we see in First Nation communities, people attacking each other over political ideology. First Nations don't have political parties though. They have the indian act that dictates their actions so they don't get to make decisions like other municipalities do. You either work with the dictatorship of the indian act or you receive less. That has caused so much friction in the First Nation communities. So when I say I was disillusioned with the AFN, I mean I have to question now if the AFN is just a support group for indian act chiefs or does it represent the people? At this point, I don't think the voice of the people is being heard, even after Idle No More. His words hurt the spirit of reconciliation in trying to appease Harper`s new bill.

Now, back to lateral violence, the first thing that happened after the official ceremonies ended was the MC talking to the crowd in the feast area. Right away there was a lateral violent joke made about Shannon Houle's action to speak out. The crowd was unhappy with the joke. You can view the video here. Then in the language of the Blackfoot, we were told not to cause trouble.

For people who may not understand why there is so much gravity to this, I reference back to Shawn Atleo's speech where in residential schools, tongues were pricked when their own language was said. There were beatings for not conforming. First Nations through residential schools and through the indian act have been taught to conform or else. The law was you hand over your kid to residential schools or go to jail. The media and history books paint anyone of First Nation descent in a negative way, rather than as a martyr for standing up for civil liberties, rights and freedoms. Louis Riel was hanged for this and many of the history books talk about him as a traitor because he stood against the slaughter of the Metis and indigenous people of this land. So that is why when you see the next videos why people didn't do more. It pains me to read people say "well, they must have done something to "deserve" that" as victim blaming is rampant in a colonized society. Until our truths come out, there just can't be reconciliation until there is more understanding of this bigger picture.

So there had been some length of time from when the MC said that joke to when one of the crowd and her daughter were asked to leave. Video I am only assuming she was being targeted because of the lateral violent joke that was said and her being singled out, a reminder for the First Nations, if you don't behave, this is what happens to you. Shortly after that, her other 17 year old is removed. Video I am not too sure in this video why they were asked to go but I took this video of others being told to leave. Video This is incredibly embarrassing for everyone. The people used to remove the women were The Brave Dog Society who are supposed to protect the people from the Government of Canada`s people.

The Government of Canada agents watching over us this entire time, the stops at the door, just can created this awful, avoidable tension. However, conformity is taught and valued in a colonized state so that is why no one dared stepped in and the colonizers excuse people who do this as "they are just doing a job." That job has a long history of oppression here in Canada and I wish people would lose that shiny image of the Mounties and government agents.

So, after they got rid of those they deemed to be troublemakers, the media came in. Shortly after, The Grand Entry began. I noted it began with the colonizers flags first. From there it was nice to watch the drummers and dancers. I was given food and was grateful to have something to eat too. (Thank you to those caterers that gave food to the public.) The last people in our section that did not leave to being forced out, did silently hold up Stop Harper signs which they were escorted out. Video

Shortly after that, we left when the dancers came over to eat. I did go to the washroom and was told that the girls being told to leave were identified as Idle No More. The same person told me that they should be able to peacefully protest. The truth was, they were not protesting and were just targeted for speaking out against a lateral violent joke. It also shows that people in the office were being told lies of what was happening.

This is not reconciliation.

So I hope there is a bit of perspective of what it was like to be at this event launch. Thank you for reading and watching my videos.