Sunday, May 06, 2007

The camouflaged native as blockader is Canada's fave new stereotype

From a piece by Drew Hayden Taylor (First Nations comedian and author of several books including Me Funny):
Blockades were not part of our traditional culture. Historically, Canada had too many wide-open spaces for native people to successfully blockade anything. But we are an adaptable people. After a while, we learned to blockade roads and railways, just as we learned to hunt with guns, cook with flour and lard and ride in cars. It seems like a natural progression.

Sadly, this image of the camouflaged native as blockader is replacing the drunken Indian as Canada's favourite new stereotype.

Children are in danger of becoming more familiar with the Indian wearing a bandana to hide his face than with the mighty warrior on a horse hunting buffalo. In the U.S., the dominant stereotype is the casino Indian.

Here in Canada, I know many people who've been involved in blockades and other acts of civil disobedience. They do not make these choices lightly. Most of them know things will get worse before they get better.

Everybody remembers the tragic images in Alanis Obomsawin's brilliant documentary Rocks At Whiskey Trench of local whites stoning Mohawks who were being evacuated from Kahnawake during the Oka crisis, resulting in one man dying of a heart attack.

Most people have come to understand that natives' actions at Oka, Ipperwash and other standoffs were justified. All involved years of trying to settle land claims with little response from the federal government. The ante needed to be upped.

On the news, I heard an annoyed VIA passenger bitterly condemn the native blockade: "I didn't think they were allowed to do that, but I guess they can do whatever they want." Our elders used to say the same thing about white people.
At the very least, irate VIA passengers will have an amusing tale to tell their grandkids. "I was part of the great Tyendinaga Railway Blockade of 07." I'm sure insurance will cover those companies or individuals who may have lost money because of the inconvenience. There must be some sort of "Act of Indian" clause somewhere.

Printed in this week's Now Magazine (It's been a particularly good issue). Read the Whole Thing Here


TomCat said...

This was my first exposure to Taylor. His dry sense of humor is fantastic.

Red Jenny said...

He's brilliant.