As the Idle No More strengthens so do, unfortunately, the condescending and racist editorials in various newspapers. Disgusted by the pieces being published WAVAW has written two separate responses to the editors; they of course were not published.
In response to the article “Attawapiskat chief is wrong to blackmail the PM.” Guest Editorial from The Calgary Herald, January 3, 2013
Thursday’s guest editorial from The Calgary Herald dismisses Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike as a “stunt” “rooted in selfishness.” Selfishness? Spence is willing to die for her people in the context of centuries of colonial oppression and Canada’s unwillingness to create solutions through nation-to-nation dialogue. The Herald also belittles Spence as “extreme” and “unreasonable.” But isn’t it extreme and unreasonable that Spence should have to call a state of emergency three times to try to rectify unlivable housing conditions in Attawapiskat? And that colonialism should be allowed to persist in Canadian legislation—and to be reflected in First People’s disproportionate experiences of poverty, violence, imprisonment, and premature death?
Spence is a powerful woman leader who has captured national attention and helped inspire a movement. Yet, all The Herald can say about her is that she’s behaving badly by “hol[ing] up inside a teepee” (a racist image if ever there was one). Is it the job of First Nations women to behave—to play nice even when their people’s survival is at stake? This is sexism and racism, pure and simple. The Herald would never refer so condescendingly to a white male figure of Spence’s current prominence.
In response to the article “Too many first nations people live in a dream palace” by Jeffrey Simpson, January 5, 2013, Globe and Mail.
Through his use of quotation marks, Jeffrey Simpson tries to discredit indigenous self-understandings: he refers skeptically to quote-unquote “nations,” “rights,” and “traditional” aboriginal ways of being. In order to assert his own (white, culturally dominant) worldview as superior, Simpson often relies on little more than a couple of supercilious keystrokes.
Dismissing indigenous ways of knowing and speaking is a classic tactic of colonialism. For well over a century, indigenous cultures and languages were violently suppressed through residential schooling and the Canadian policy of “aggressive assimilation.” Today, national newspapers perpetuate the racist belief that first nations’ understanding of their own existence is invalid—that they “live intellectually in a dream palace,” while others, presumably, can plainly see what’s really going on.
With an attitude like this, it’s no surprise that Simpson advocates indigenous integration with “the majority.” But this assimilationist agenda has historically created massive devastation, and it remains profoundly dangerous.