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Monday, January 29, 2018

Roofing down The Beach for Louis and Melinda


When my wife asked if I would help out on the roofing job, I said I would.  It was a chance to work with and help our oldest son.
Bear didn’t want to take on the roofing job but he was going to have his son for a month and he needed the extra cash.
He took the job down the beach. He needed a man and all he had was me. I said, “I’m no carpenter but I can carry shingles and clean up and I am not afraid to work on a roof.”

The Beach is prime real estate on the Chippewas of Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation and it has been leased out for generations to non- residents. Despite the belief that land ownership on First Nations is communal, that is not the case. In certain communities, some members of a First Nation rent out the best land in the community to white people.  This happens all across the country.
The ownership, use and access to the land have always been contentious between the Settlers and the Indigenous Peoples with numerous land claims and legal actions taken by the First Nation. On Kettle and Stoney Point this reached its tragic zenith with the assassination of Dudley George by Ontario Provincial Police Officer Kenneth Deane during a raid on the peaceful occupation of Ipperwash Park.

George’s sacrifice did lead to the return of the land and a final settlement agreement. The road home remains a rocky one with community and family divisions simmering below the surface as threatening as the unexploded ordnance sprinkled all across the once fully operational Army training camp.

It is still dark when we head from home to The Beach.
Lake Road right at centre side road and then left on centre side road towards the beach and then right on London Road.  
We arrive at 7 am and meet the man of the cottage. He could have been played by Louis Del Grande from the long running classic Canadian comedy drama “Seeing Things”. He is super friendly and much appreciative of the fact that we are taking on the job. I could easily see him using his psychic powers to solve crimes.

We get up on the roof and Bear surveys the situation.

“Those fucking skylights are going to be a bitch.”
“Watch your step. It’s spongy there.”
“We might as well start up there. See how bad it is.”
“I never should have taken this job.”

He goes to the top level and begins ripping up the shingles with the appropriately named Ripper. It is like a flat rake with six stubby teeth to catch up roofing nails. He rips up and I roll back a chunk or pick up what is loose and take it from the top roof down the highest grade decline to the second roof, skip past the two skylights to the west corner of the house and toss the debris into the rented disposal unit. This will take most of the morning.

At 7:30 AM an old man who could be played by a late career Ernest Borgnine is standing on the road in front of the house with a cup of coffee in his hand.
He doesn’t say anything and neither do we.
He just sips his coffee and watches us work in the pale of the morning.
He comes back around 1030.
I can make him out in my peripheral. His second cup of coffee, I bet.
I can see that he is smiling.
It is heating up. It is going to be really hot and we have only a few minutes of shade remaining.
When working on a roof it is necessary to keep your mind and your eyes on where you are and what you are doing.  I don’t really want to make eye contact but it is obligatory and I roam over to the street and my eye is caught.
He shouts from the ground.
“Hey?”
I respond appropriately in vernacular that contains neighborly friendship but also a “you-can- see- I’m- working- here” tone.
“Yuh.”
He unloads what he thinks is a beauty and what I think must have taken him a good part of the morning to craft.
“What are you gonna do after lunch (comedic beat) when you’re all done.”
I just stare back as a number of responses are made available. My mind is often wicked with comebacks and shittier than you would think thoughts and so I have trained it. I hold back.
He awaits no reply to his bon mot and starts walking towards his cottage, chuckling as he goes. 

The temperature would hover near 30 degrees from 11 am on and it would be mid 30s with the humidity for much of the day. It would easily push 40 on that black roof with the tar shingles sucking up the heat.
No shade. No breeze. No level surface to walk upon and spongy spots to beware and skip past the two skylights to throw the debris into the rented disposal unit.

At some point in the morning we meet the lady of the house. She could be played by Melinda Dillon the mom from A Christmas Story who is also the mom who loses her little boy to the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. She was also Hanrahan’s dyke wife in Slap Shot and had that iconic boob scene with Paul Newman. Today, she is the Melinda from Magnolia.
She tells us from the ground that there is a lot of water in the fridge out back and that she “couldn’t go up there” and thanks us profusely for taking the job. I do take the initiative to check out the fridge which has a case of water on the bottom and loaded to the top with Labatt’s Blue.

Louis keeps a close eye on the situation, circling the house now and then picking up the bits of shingle and tar paper that don’t make it all the way into the rented disposal unit. He talks a few times with the neighbor who could be played by an aging Jerry Reed say a couple decades after Smokey and the Bandit.
Louis brings up a bag with bottles of water, he reminds us again to take our time and that there is no rush. “It’s all slow and easy here in Kettle Point.”  I thank him and take a bottle over to Bear who drinks it up and takes the time to explain to me what he is doing. 
I can only marvel at the skill and physicality it takes to do this work. All the numbers and the angles and seeing how it all fits together, my brain does not work like that. Neither does my body. I can skip past the two skylights but I can’t perch on the edge of a roof and cut shingles and punch them into place with an air gun.

There are literally dozens of people who stroll, bike, jog, speed walk and drive slowly by throughout the day who take in the spectacle of roofing. I joke later that night that we could probably sell tickets.
It is about 330pm and the day has been well into peak heat for a couple of hours. In my estimation if we take a break for a couple of hours we can come  back after supper and the sun will be below that tree and we will be getting our first shade since the morning.
I take my plan public and Bear tells me to head on home without him. I say it will be better if we both take a break and that we will still have three good hours of daylight after supper.
I infer ever so slightly that I will not leave without him and that I’m old and I could die.
He agrees. We clean up first.

I am on the ground and I tell Louis the plan and he is in full agreement.
He launches into a bit of philosophy that sounds both natural and completely rehearsed.  “Hey, it’s Kettle Point. No one gets hurt on Kettle Point. It’s slow and easy here. This is where you come to relax.” It has a bro country kind of feel like one of those songs where a fat white guy goes to Mexico and the local girls flock around him and he is completely oblivious to the poverty they live in.

Later that evening a sun savaged neighbor who would be played by the auntie in “There’s Something about Mary” loudly enters.
She is swinging a couple of cold beers and calling out for Melinda. “Melinda…What you got going on.”
Melinda squeals a greeting and soon they have dragged two lawn chairs to the front of the yard and are drinking cold beers and chitter away as they watch Bear and I finish up the top level of the cottage in what will be the hottest day of the year so far.

The next day Bear has to pick his son up at the airport in Toronto and the day after that it pours rain. We return to the job on Friday and once again it is sweltering. During our time off word must have gone around that perhaps it was not cool to gawk at these men working in the heat all day.
So today an unknown number of people have gathered across the street under cover of a thick evergreen and watch us from there.  It is a little past ten before the tops are popping on the beers and by lunch the voices are getting loud.

It is mostly women but I can’t say for sure. At one point I get off the roof to clean up some debris that has missed the mark. After dumping into the rented storage bin I notice that the voices have stopped.
Silence.
The ladies are not making a peep. That’s weird, I think.
When I get up on the roof, I see that Bear has taken off his shirt.

Once again I have to convince him that we should take a break and again it takes an effort but he gives in so he can take a dip in the above ground pool with his son.
I tell Louis and he again launches into the bro-country philosophy and it must be so obvious in my face that I am just not buying what he is selling and so he stops. I don’t mean to be rude but sometimes my face just does what it does.  

Saturday is a big day at The Beach. The folks who have to work during the week are showing up in droves on the weekend.

Today the group has moved to a house to the right of the one they were at earlier. I still can’t see them but I can still hear tops popping and now and again the waft of marijuana smoke.
Around mid-afternoon, a truck pulls up with some inflatables in the bed and a trailer with two shiny Seadoos. The man who would be played by Bill Paxton In True Lies steps out of his full cab four wheel drive monster truck and shouts “Wasssaaappp? .
“Wassssappp?”from that long ago commercial that was all stereotypes and for much of the year of its peak popularity  gave unfunny guys a line to put on endless loop.

I am spent. The humidity and the labour and never walking in balance. I can’t keep up to my son. Not in this heat. I tell him we should go and he tells me to go. This time I don’t have to pretend I am old and I might die. I know that I am old and I might die. So I go home for an hour. Cool off and return to the job.

Bear says you should have heard that one guy after you left. He was going on about how Stephen Harper had the balls to do this and that. The ladies began to drown him out with the happy birthday song.
I guessed they were doing the song in a sped up “For he’s a Jolly Good Fellow” version they were doing earlier in the day.”
Paxton also started going off on the work we were doing. The guy was saying that we had been here all week and the job still wasn’t done. 
“What a shit show,” he expressed in the vernacular of his time.
A “Wassup” of the moment.
We had only worked Tuesday and Friday and this friendly neighbor shows up on another one of the hottest days of the year to loudly criticize our work.

We continue our chore with the sound of beer tops popping and the smell of marijuana in the air.  At the end of the day we feel close to being finished. Even I can see it. We can get this done by Sunday.
The next day, the sun is still shining but the threat of a summer storm is heaving in the clouds and the humidity is thick in the air around us.

We are pushing hard to get this done but once again I have to take a break where Bear won’t. I can’t convince but I know I could pass out on this roof and that will not help.
When I come back Bear has torn up some of the work we had done earlier in the day.
“It was out half an inch when I ran the line.”
(Out half an inch…are you kidding me? Who would know? Who would ask?)
I don’t ask even though it burns me. But I am not the man on this job.
I think these people have no idea who they have up here. The guy is not a carpenter. He’s an artist.

A familiar black truck pulls up decked out in off-road splendor. Dressed in black jeans and black t-shirt with his long black hair tied back and mirrored aviator shades on his dark skin – it is Bernard “Slippery” George. He was played by Ben Cardinal in the movie One Dead Indian, Cardinal can also be seen in Unforgiven with Clint Eastwood and Walking Tall starring The Rock.
Louis and Jerry greet Slippery. They give him some good natured ribbing.
He gets up on the roof and says, “Good job. I don’t do these shingle roofs anymore.”  

The final touches are attended to by three other couples that have arrived on various transports from foot to bike to golf cart. It is pouring rain now. The clouds fat with heat and rain can no longer hold back its bounty. We are soaked to the bone but the job is done and only cleanup remains.

One of the couples could be played by the actors who were Jerry Seinfeld’s parents.  Another one of the couples could be played by the actors who performed hilariously as George Constanza’s parents.
They congregate in the back yard patio underneath the one part of the roof that didn’t need to be done.

We bring down all the tools and start humping the unused shingles down the wet ladder. I am nervous the whole time. To me this is the most dangerous thing I have done this week. I had slipped earlier when carrying a light load. Now I have a bundle of shingles on my shoulder and the ladder is slick with rain.
I need to focus on every step.
When we are done the response from the gathered is muted at best. What we had accomplished these past few days was just ok.
I am bursting with anger. This is so wrong. We are killing ourselves for these people who do nothing but drink and smoke weed and complain. And we are the ones that carry that stereotype.

My God, could I imagine two Bill Paxtons going to work on a reserve and witnessing such addiction, laziness and undeserved affluence.

No one wants to hear that story. This is Canada.

*

There is this point in the drive back where the road curves and at this part of summer the leaves are thick enough that it is possible that you just see bush.
Just for that one moment.  The sun is trying to break through and you imagine how this must have looked long ago.
Long before development.
Bear gives his opinion of the past few days.
“Co-exist, eh?”


-30-

Thursday, January 11, 2018

They always return to the mother


I began my career in journalism at the CBC. I got in the way that most do. I knew someone who knew someone. My brother Monty had a friend whose mother worked in the HR department at CBC Winnipeg. I got an interview and soon I had a job. It was a rewarding experience.

There was one hurtful rebuff on a story I had proposed on whether the reserve system in Canada had been used by South Africa in the creation of Apartheid Homelands.

It was crushing in that I was a devoted follower of the faith. I believed in the profession. I mean, I wasn’t completely naive. I had seen Broadcast News. I still believed that any story idea had value.

In regards to the Canada/South Africa connection, I can’t remember exactly where I had heard this theory at the time. My guess would be that it was likely amongst my good friend Laver Simard’s group of hippie hip family and friends who were educated by state and street.

This was the time when South Africa was universally agreed upon as the worst country in the world. The regime was race based fascism of the kind we believed had been wiped from the face of the earth after WW 2. Rarely had the political and cultural classes of the world clucked with such overwhelming agreement. These were the new Nazis.


So here I was 21 years old and I bring up the notion that perhaps Canada had inspired the Nazis of the day. I did not think the idea would be greeted with such venom. I was 21 years old! I did not know what Shakespeare meant when he wrote “I think she doth protest too much.” The person who reacted with such invective is well known but her name doesn’t matter.

I left after 18 months to begin my new life with wife to be Shelly Bressette on the Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation raising a family of two boys and two girls. It was not much longer than a year in Ontario when I had an opportunity to work at CBC Toronto.

It was once again an opportunity that came from knowing someone who knows someone.  My wife had interned at CBC radio with James Cullingham who was now taking over the network’s signature radio documentary program “Sunday Morning”. He called to ask her if she would like to join the team. She declined. Her focus upon moving home was to start a newspaper. She gave James my back story and soon I was in Toronto working for the CBC.

When I told my older brother Marshall I was going back to CBC, he said a phrase I have only heard from him and yet sounds and seems to be conventional wisdom in the Canadian Media.

“They Always Return to “The Mother”.

It was a rough ride at HQ.
It was the most competitive and disagreeable group of people I had ever worked with. There was no sense of teamwork and a shared belief that the quality of the whole show was our united responsibility. Instead the individual producers were committed to their own story and the only thing that mattered in relation to the program was how many minutes they could own.

There was simmering acrimony over who should have taken over the show and here I was the new guy’s guy so that didn’t help. Sometimes I was the new guy’s Native guy and I know that didn’t help.

A producer helicoptered in to do a single documentary and was chummy with a lot of people on our floor which was split between the Sunday Morning team and the group at As it Happens. Although the space was open concept there was a clear and obvious invisible line between. Whoever this journalist was, she was a big deal. Everyone on both sides of the border was kissing her ass.

Anyway I was working late on a story one night and the lady was working on her story and she came up behind me and started to rub my shoulders and neck. I jumped up and moved back.
I did not know who this person was regardless of how obsequious she was greeted by everyone else. I don’t know if I said anything but the lady reacted with one of those “Hey what’s the big deal I am just trying to help you relax” kind of thing.

I am a large man and I can, and in this case literally did, stand up for myself. But then the senior producer who was there at the time says something like – “Oh Miles is Native and they have a problem with being touched.”

So not being comfortable with a strange person rubbing my body is my problem and not only that - it’s because of my race.

There was also the time I lost out on interviewing James Cameron. There was a pitch session where everyone got excited about doing something about the new Batman movie with Michael Keaton. It was one of those typically Canadian here’s another example of how the U.S. is such a trash society and how can we mock it.

After that discussion wrapped, I saw a chance. Batman wasn’t the only highly anticipated film of the summer, at least in my mind. I pitched a piece about the latest film by Canadian director James Cameron. The Abyss was to be the follow-up to the ground breaking Terminator and the box office smash Aliens. It was an underwater epic that Cameron had equated to shooting 2001 – A Space Oddessy in space.

The gathered were nonplussed by a director whose films they knew were successful but did not see as visionary. Still the Canadian content made it a go and I began the process of setting up an interview.
I could not be more excited. When at Western University’s Program in Journalism for Native People, Paul Rickard and I held a holy trinity of the Three C’s – Cronenberg, Craven and Cameron.

In the meantime I was still working on another piece for the Arts section of Sunday Morning. Arts was the fiercely defended terrain of Judy Brake who made it clear to all and often that she was still master of her domain. She gleefully added to the toxin floating in the air that Cullingham had unceremoniously usurped the throne and that she was the remaining refuge of resistance.

The story I had been assigned was the Canadian movie of the season, a biography of Mohawk leader Joseph Brant – “Divided Loyalties”. Much of the telefilm would be shot on historical locations at the Six Nations of the Grand River. I spent a few days on location and found that many of Six Nations members were offended that their great leader was being played by non-Native actor Jack Langedijk.
I went to present my findings to Judy Brake with a bit of pride. Now we have some conflict, some debate, there was a story here- this wasn’t going to be just another fluff piece. Her reaction was simple.

She lost her shit. Although I don’t believe that phrase was part of the parlance of the times. She did “spit her musk melon”. (Which is a phrase that never caught on.)
I told her as she sat in her desk oozing classic Canadian entitlement. She held a small plate of sliced cantaloupe and musk melon.
When I shared the fact of brewing controversy she stood up and started berating, chunks of musk melon exploding from her bloated face.

“I sent you to do a story about the movie - not to go on the fucking warpath looking for an issue.”

And you can guess what the fall out of that exchange was. I never got to interview James Cameron since that was in the purview of Judy Brake.

A few weeks later, the debate over Indigenous representation as shown in the casting of Divided Loyalties was on the cover of Maclean’s magazine. 

My final piece at the show never got to air. I was doing a story about the impact of pollution on the marshes of Walpole Island First Nation from the oil factories up stream in Sarnia. The story was punted ostensibly because I wanted to use Bruce Cockburn’s then pervasive song – If a tree falls in the forest. My connection was that the song was about the destruction of the rainforest which were the lungs of the world and these marshes were like the kidneys of the Great Lakes. Stop looking beyond our borders when the destruction is happening right here.

My senior producer back in Toronto would not go to air with the piece. The producer I worked with at CBC Windsor was crying after she heard it.

National Native Affairs Broadcaster

Before a year was up another golden opportunity came my way. Dan David who I had developed a close friendship during my time at the Mother was leaving his job. Dan was the National Native Affairs Broadcaster which was part of Infotape – CBC’s national syndication service.
It was not an upward move. It wasn’t even sideways. It was a step down. I was going to leave a flagship national program and launching pad to even bigger things within The Mother. This was going back to the regions. This was to cover a beat that to this day is given minimal effort by CBC.
This was the work that I wanted to do.

I was doing some good stuff.  I didn’t break anything I just listened and allowed stories and voices to be heard.  Still the biggest story in Canadian history was looming.

July 11, 1990 following a months long blockade to stop a golf course development on their traditional territory and burial grounds, the Surete du Quebec (Quebec Provincial Police) raided the Mohawk Community of Kanehsatake. The 75 day standoff that would become known as the Oka crisis began.
I headed to work with the notion that I would have to get ready to go.

I went to my producer who was a nice person and who I believe did not make the calls.
I said, “When am I going?”

My boss said that they weren’t going send me as they had enough people on the ground. I was stunned. I was the National Native Affairs Broadcaster and this was the biggest Native story in the Nation.

It was that old trope. Native journalists can’t be trusted to cover Native stories.
Why?
Because Native people can’t be trusted.

It would be 10 days, with me going to work every day and saying, “when are you going to send me?”
Finally I got my orders. It wasn’t from HQ. The calls were coming in from the regions. The Regions!
“When is Miles going to go?”
“When are we going to get something from Miles?”
 The story could not be contained and the audience desire was insatiable.

The next day I was sitting in the waiting room of the Quebec Native Women’s Association along with reporters from around the world. In the early days, the association had become the de facto communications headquarters for the people behind the barricades. I was not waiting more than 10 minutes when I bumped into an alumnus of the Program in Journalism for Native People. Within a half hour I was invited to a closed door meeting where I was told that an attempt to break the blockade with food and medicine was going to happen. They wanted me to be witness.

“The SQ says it will fire on all boats that don’t stop and we are not going to stop.”

That night I was on a group of boats smuggling food and medicine across the Lac des deux Montagnes. The group was greeted as heroes and when anyone questioned my presence someone would often say “He’s one of the Boat People,” and the questions would end and the compliments would begin.

I gathered tape for about a half dozen stories in my first four days and had relatively free movement inside the barricades. As far as I knew then and what I know today, I was the only major media journalist with that kind of access. I may have been the only journalist with that kind of access.
Nevertheless my bosses were calling me home. I pleaded my case. I would send the raw tape and trust someone else to cut it for me and do script and clip pieces over the phone. It seemed like madness to give up a front seat to history. It was illogical.

I have a theory now that would have helped me then. Racism is illogical therefore acts that are illogical may be acts of racism.

I returned to Toronto.
I did not get to witness the rest of this historical event. Although I did get to witness how the first draft of history is written.
CBC’s Loreen Pindera was one of the few journalists who was covering the story from the very beginning and began to have a deeper understanding of the history. She was discovering the story that was not ingrained, she was breaking free of Canadian indoctrination. She was starting to see both sides of the story. She must be losing her mind.

A whisper campaign was making it’s way around the office. Loreen was suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome.  The Stockholm Syndrome described a mental breakdown where the captive begins to sympathize with the captors. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for Loreen to overcome this scarlett letter.

My friend Bud Whiteye was working with Morningside the show hosted by national icon, Peter Gzowski . One day Bud came up to my office, visibly distraught. The man had done three tours of Vietnam, he was not easily rattled.
“Let’s go for a walk.”
Whatever he had to say he could not say it within these walls.
Once we got outside and out of the parking lot, he started.
“(Executive Producer for Morningside) Patsy Pehlman is storming through the office screaming – “Find me someone who has the fucking balls to say it’s time to call in the army.”

This was a soldier. This was a man who was in the real shit – three times. As a human being, he was offended. As a journalist the reality that the most influential radio show in the country wanted to manipulate the discussion in such a dangerous way was reprehensible.

It is stressful to work in a place where your perspective or opinion may be considered invalid at best and insane at worst.

My time wrapped up as my wife had successfully launched the newspaper Nativebeat and it was my time to go to work with her. In the many years that followed I did a few interviews with the Mother but never achieved a level where they would call on me to share my opinion.

I did meet with a former Sunday Morning staffer who was now working in Public Relations, he asked me what had happened to me? I wasn’t aware that anything happened to me. He suggested that the word around the campfire was that I had gone off the deep-end. I laughed about it at the time because I had no idea what he meant.

Today I think about Dave Chappelle's comment "The worst thing to call someone is crazy. It's dismissive. I don't understand this person. They must be crazy."

 It had happened to Loreen Pindera why wouldn't it happen to me.  

In the years since I have continued to work in media and communications and almost exclusively within the Native community. It’s been good

Trying To Get Back In

A couple of years ago I got a message out of the blue from Rosanna Deerchild. She was the host of Unreserved which was the national Indigenous affairs program for CBC and wanted to know if I was interested in applying for the job of Senior Producer – Indigenous Programming. I did not know anything about it. She encouraged me to apply.

So I did and after jumping through a few hoops I made the final cut. It did not go as planned.
In a Facebook message to a friend on the eve of the interview I write.

“Hey ####...I am in the final four or five..I have the face to face interview on Friday...my goal is to convince them that I am good little Indian that knows my place...Trojan Horse them. I won't make eye contact...that's the ticket. Hah.”

November 18, 2016, I followed up with another email. 

I have not heard anything about the Sr. Prod job at CBC although I was told it would be a few weeks. In all honesty I did not do that well in the interview. Some of the questions were strangely confusing to me. "Tell us about a time you were criticized?" My wife really hates it when I soak the dishes...she thinks I am avoiding the job but I feel I am using science."
I just blanked for a good two minutes.
They also asked "What kind of values do you hold?"
I thought...
"Is the answer, “ Canadian”?
"Is the answer “Family Values"?
They gave me a hypothetical where a Chief used his influence to get his grandchildren out of Children's Aid. The suggestion being that he had unfairly used his influence. I said unless he did something illegal I don't know what the story is..why wouldn't a grandparent use whatever means to get kids out of the system and back home.

I sent another email the next day November 19, 2016

The one dude was doodling the whole time...an hour...I thought he was taking extensive notes, at first...I looked over and it was a sequence of circles with a square around them. He kept doodling that symbol over and over again.
I was put off by that. Like what the heck man?
So you want Indigenous people who are represented by the circle put in the box which represents mainstream society.
Ok...I did not think about that at the time...but still.

*

The job of Senior Producer of Unreserved came up and once again I got a note asking if I would apply. Once again I did.

This time I did not make the final cut. I did not get a pre-interview. I was not considered.

The job was given to a non-Native person because....you know.


-30-  

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2017- Year in Review

Canada 150 was a thing.   

It was OK.
Seriously, it’s like a couple that has a 15th Wedding Anniversary because they don’t think they will make it to the Silver.

Canada 150 – Ad Fail – Urination of Dreamers – CIBC
CIBC like many of the big banks were running ads celebrating Canada. CIBC wanted to rouse us up with a line that reads so much better that it is heard.
“You’re a nation of dreamers.”
I’m a word geek and that killed me every time. 

Death of Richard Wagamese

This year we said goodbye to one of Canada's most important writers. Richard Wagamese died suddenly at home. I hate that phrase. I don't know if it means what I think it means. 


Election of Wab Kinew to Provincial NDP Leadership

Do we really need to apply the Gladue case to politicians?  If he was white I don’t think he would have won. There is something called Brown White Man Privilege.

People were upset that he was being judged. Then why did he apply for a job that asks people to judge him.

I think he should hold elected office, I just wouldn't want him dating my daughter.


The Metis Left out of 60’s scoop settlement –

"Go Fiddle Faddle yourself", said Justin Trudeau. "Daniels case be damned."
Still that's the government and cold blooded anti Indigenous action is why they were built. That doesn't really bother me. What bothers me is that the First Nations representatives had to be told that this was going to happen. They had to sign off on this act of bureaucratic racism. I hope their money helps them sleep at night. 

The biggest story of the year – Gord’s Goodbye

Silent Path was the final act of Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip. He was expressing his gift long after it had faded. I say this as a fan. I loved this band. I wish they had written and recorded one song at the height of their powers that spoke to me as an Indigenous person.  I don’t mean a New Orleans is Sinking but maybe a Grace Too. Something that would get everyone dancing and thinking. No one is humming Secret Path.

Joseph Wannabe Boyden

The controversy surrounding Joseph Boyden and the legitimacy of his Indigenous heritage dominated media and social media debate. I don't know. I don't care. I thought his books read like a man writing about people he didn't know. I don't think that means anything about who he is. For me it was big smoke and no fire.

Let's be real. The problem in our communities is not white people pretending to be Native - it's Native people pretending to be white. 

Tom Wilson - That Guy Looks Like a Gabriel

As a member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Tom Wilson is part of one of Canada's best live acts and a group that prides itself on touring and songwriting. This year the band toured Kings and Kings a followup to their album Kings and Queens that came out in 2011. The first album featured the top women singers in country and Americana music and this year's album featured the men. Both are fantastic. During a stop in London, ON. Wilson shared a personal story. "I always thought the dad I never knew was a greasy Irishman from Hamilton but it turns out he was a greasy Mohawk from Khanawake." He then launched into Beautiful Scars. 

Northern Cree – Grammy Nom
Congrats once again to the Northern Cree. I can only say that I have only recently fallen madly in love with Northern Cree.
I love this band.
"Good God People.Wake the Fuck Up. Are you Deaf?
This is our Hip Hop. This is our RnB."
These are random things I have shouted out at the TV while listening to Northern Cree on youtube.

Alanis Obamsawin's 50th film

I was fortunate to see the 50th film by Alanis Obomsawin, the Queen of Canadian Documentary Film on the big scren. The film was shown at the Kineto Theatre in Forest ON and much thanks to those folks. Our People will be Healed shared the story of positive community development in Norway House Cree Nation. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was named by TIFF as one of Canada's Ten Best Films of the Year.

Brooke Simpson - Indigenous Voice

Although she did not win. Simpson made a huge impact during this season of The Voice - the top song contest on American television. The member of the Haliwa Saponi tribe finished third under the tutelage of Miley Cyrus.

Wind River – Best movie about contemporary Canada.
There is not one single reference to Canada in this film but it is without a doubt a film that is about Canada. It is a film about missing and murdered Indigenous women and how it relates to resource extraction. Brilliant and emotionally overwhelming. Wind River was largely financed by ACACIA Entertainment which is a division of the Tualip Tribe of Florida.

Rumble Rocked

Rumble: This enjoyable documentary about the role of Native American music and musicians in the history of contemporary music from the blues to jazz to soul to today. Credit is rightfully given to Brian Wright Macleod, Mr. Renegade Radio who literally wrote the book on Native Music,.

Thor – Most Indigenous thing ever said in a Marvel Universe Blockbuster.

“Well, I tried to start a revolution, but didn't print enough pamphlets so hardly anyone turned up. Except for my mum and her boyfriend, who I hate.”

Thor was directed by Maori filmmaker Taika Waititi who has yet to make a bad movie. He was able to maintain his own unique Indigenous perspective evident in his early films while directing a $180 million dollar Marvel franchise flick.

In terms of pure joy it is the best film of the year.

Indian Horse – Wagamese novel comes to the big Screen

Although he did not get to see the film premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Richard Wagamese's novel Indian Horse made it to the big screen. The novelist died suddenly early in the year but left a legacy for us all.

Trumped

Trump and Code Talkers – It should be obvious to everyone that Donald Trump is an idiot. There may be some truth in what he says but a peanut in the shit don’t make it a chocolate bar.

Grey Cup

Once again the Grey Cup proved that in the Canadian Football League anything can happen. A surprising amount of snow had fallen.  In a world where the odds are one sided any change favours the underdog. I loved the introduction acknowledging the traditional territories of the game location and the home teams.

Shania Twain killed it. Do you know she has a status card? We need to welcome her big time in the circle. 

Huff Post Canada redesign leaves out Indigenous Voices

Despite calling them out in a tweet earlier in the year Huffington Post Canada left out Indigenous Voices when it did their redesign. This is the Liberal Media, btw.

These were my stories of the year. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

They Say It's Your Birthday



Happy Birthday Canada. You made it to 150. Which impresses pretty much no one outside of Canada. And not really everyone within Canada.

The Bank of Montreal is stepping all over the country's big day to promote its 200th birthday. It is sad and disturbing that a Canadian bank is older than Canada.

Although it does say a lot about what this country was founded upon.

Yet, I am not going to jump on anyone's hashtag to protest this moment and not because no one ever jumped on one of my hashtags.

No one should tell a single parent with three kids they can't go to the community BarBQ or the fireworks because someone created a hashtag.

No Native artist should apologize because they are actually getting paid to perform and share their work during a national celebration.

Leading up to Canada Day, I saw many media reports about how Indigenous Peoples were protesting Canada 150. 

A story on national news was filled with images of a Pow Wow while a disembodied voice spoke of protest.

These two things are not the same. This person speaking from an unflattering Skype angle did not speak for the people at this Pow Wow.

It does fit into the Canadian media obsession with conflict when it comes to the Native beat.

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July 1, 2017 came and went with fireworks just a little bit brighter.

In Native communities around the country the day was celebrated.

Our people love a party and they deserve a party.

On the national stage - National Chief Perry Bellegarde in full regalia danced with other traditional dancers to the Pow Wow drum and it was a beautiful thing.

Buffy Sainte-Marie delivered a career defining performance that may come to define this country.

The people who set up a TeePee on the grounds of the Parliament buildings got to speak face to face with Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada. This would not happen in the United States.

Some got a chance to be heard and they dropped the mic in a way that kept screeching feedback to be remixed and repeated.

If you have a press conference you are going to have press. Be ready.

This is the way it is now.

This is the time of lasting memories and creating histories..

People have to move forward together.

Do not assume lead without taking direction.

Canada has always been making itself up.

July 1 is not Canada's birthday, it's March 29.

So I wish a happy belated birthday to Canada as most of you already did.

  

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