ActiveHistory.ca is on a two-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year. Thanks as always to our writers and readers.
The following post was originally featured on January 11, 2016 during the Indigenous Histories theme week edited by Crystal Fraser.
By Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
The waning months of 2015 signaled a seemingly dramatic albeit likely superficial shift in Indigenous-state relations in Canada. When the fall began, the Prime Minister was steadfast in his refusal to call an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which surprised few, as it was beautifully consistent with the contempt, paternalism and outright hatred that characterized Harper’s interactions with Indigenous peoples in general. By the time December rolled around, the next Prime Minister and his Haida tattoo were flanked with Indigenous drummers and dancers, clouds of smudge seem to follow him wherever he went, and Indigenous territories were being acknowledged at the beginning of events. The inquiry had been called and meetings with families were held, and recommendations from the past Royal Commission and current Truth and Reconciliation Commission were set to be implemented. Harper lowered the bar to such a level that the tiniest bit of humanity impressed us, and Trudeau was providing us with the mother load.
The cynical, critical, and loving decolonial part of me believed Parliament was photoshopped with all the expertise of a Cosmo retoucher. It was as if the state read Red Skin White Masks, thought recognition was a (still) great idea to control Indigenous desire for freedom, and while they were reading the book we were binge watching Netflix and eating corn chips. “Our people are drunk on Trudeau tears! I round danced my ass off through Christmas of 2012-2013, and all I got was (more) neoliberalism? Holy crap I AM cynical!” I thought, but didn’t tweet. It’s easy to be united and critical when the state is overt, violent, and just plain mean. It’s harder when they are sort of sorry and trying on nice.
Then one day while I was spending my eighth hour of the week on the bleachers at my kid’s indoor soccer practice, I decided to “tap” into iMessages what substantive change might look like. I say “tap” because it was more like “finger punching”. This was by no means a bulletproof analysis. It was mostly a self-imposed project so I didn’t have to talk to the other moms about the tinsel and the toils of baking Christmas cookies. More importantly, it is an ongoing conversation that we should be having (and some are) in communities of Indigenous peoples, and not just the ones we agree with. In reality, Indigenous peoples have said everything on this list in some way before and I’ve tried my best to point you in the direction of deeper Indigenous analysis.
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