Indian, Non-Indian Conversation

The Indian and Non-Indian are having a conversation about their lives. 

Non-Indian: "I've got a shiny fancy car and I WORKED for it!"

Indian: "People assume I am poor.  I got this Indian truck.  Its rusty and the door is creaky."

Non-Indian: "I really worked HARD for what I've got.  I know it must be "God's will."

Indian: "I work really hard but nothing ever seems to come of my efforts.  I just remain poor, invisible and undervalued."

Non-Indian: "I've been able to keep and hold down jobs.  I don't like people using the system."

Indian: "I've had my share of part time jobs often with no benefits and I've dealt with racism in many of my jobs.  I can never seem to get an interview for a full time job."

Non-Indian: "My parents both graduated from college."

Indian: "My home life was really hard and there was a lot of abuse.  I also got bullied in school so I dropped out in 11th grade."

Non-Indian: "I demand good customer service and I expect it."

Indian: "Usually I get treated like shit."

Non-Indian: "I don't understand why people just can't pull themselves up by their bootstraps?"

Indian: "I found boots at Goodwill but there were no straps."

Non-Indian: "I spent $300 this week at the grocery store and dropped off a bag of groceries at our church's food pantry.  I feel it is good to help the "poor."

Indian: "My food stamp allotment was $170 for the month and I picked up a box of food at this local church because my food stamps couldn't cover everything."

Non-Indian:  "I decided to go to this super progressive chocolate shop and treat myself.  I had an extra $40 bucks so I got three chocolate bars and 3 truffles.  I was waited on right away and the customer service was phenomenal." 

Indian:  "I decided to go treat myself and get a single $2 truffle from this fancy bourgeoisie "fair trade, progressive and liberal," chocolate shop.  However I waited 15 minutes in line and was ignored while other well dressed customers with credit cards were served before me.  When I spoke out against the apparent injustice and discrimination I experienced the workers denied it."

Non-Indian: "I once went to a reservation for a "mission" trip with my church."

Indian: "I got angry at the people trying to "help" us.  They brought a bible with them and were imposing their religious views on us."

Non-Indian:  "In my past life I know I was Native American.  I really love the culture."  

Indian:  "If you were Native American in your past life I wonder if you lived on a rez, worked at the tribal gas station for minimum wage, dealt with constant racism and discrimination like I have my whole entire life.  Please stop romanticizing who we are."

Article: Good ancestors (Briarpatch Magazine)

                Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation activist Eriel Deranger at the Tarsands Healing Walk. Photo:   
                SAGE Magazine.

Earlier this winter, Canada’s best known and most trusted environmentalist, David Suzuki, declared modern environ­­mentalism a failure. The span of Suzuki’s lifework – from biologist to public intellectual and environmentalist – testifies to an epic struggle. Namely, that the emergence of modern environmentalism and expanding environmental consciousness has coincided with the relentless expansion of petro-capitalism and ecological catastrophe. According to a recent study by the Climate Accountability Institute, half of all greenhouse gas emissions since the 1750s were produced in just the last 25 years.

Making sense of this fact pushes us beyond the ken of conventional green politics. Following Suzuki’s call for a “shift in paradigm,” we must understand capitalism not as a range of options (choosing between this form of capitalism or some better one) but as a system of human and ecological relations with unyielding parameters: commodification, exploitation, dispossession, accumulation, profit, control. It’s a system dependent on endless growth, heaving from one crisis to the next.

The dream of a well-regulated market has become a nightmare. As the fifth report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear in October, the human role in global climate change is incontestable – and the consequences dire. And yet this appears of little consequence to politicians.

Speaking before the Economic Club of Canada in early December, federal opposition leader Thomas Mulcair referred to the energy sector as “the motor of the Canadian economy.” Given such a vehicle, an economic outlook that honours the atmosphere for future generations is unthinkable. Since ecological sanity is incompatible with the Canadian motor, we shouldn’t be surprised that even Stephen Harper’s parliamentary opposition backs the construction of a pipeline to carry tarsands bitumen across Indigenous lands to the East Coast.

Meanwhile, in a commentary published in Canadian Living a few months ago, Margaret Atwood suggested, “It’s no longer a question of green versus commerce: We really are all in it together when it comes to air, water, earth, and fire. We’re in the soup. It’s a shared soup and we’ll have to work together to get out of it.”

But is our world a shared soup? Are the 90 companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, that are responsible for two-thirds of historic greenhouse gas emissions “in it together” with members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, who are currently waging a legal battle against Shell’s poisonous tarsands operations?

If addressing our ecological predicament means staring down the twinned realities of capitalist production and ongoing col­onialism, it’s little wonder many people are unmotivated to act. Trying to replace the most powerful economic system in world history has an onerous sound to it, especially at a time when it’s not enough to get your kids off to school in the morning – you also have to defend the school from closure, juggle three jobs, and monitor your Facebook feed.

In this context, a defiant recognition of the fact we are living in history is essential. Just as collective struggles from the Civil Rights movement to the South African anti-apartheid campaign reveal how people have transformed the world in hitherto unimaginable ways, we are compelled today, in the midst of a coast-to-coast Indigenous resurgence, to reclaim our capacity to alter history.

It’s no accident that the foreclosure of possibility, the sense that there is no alternative, is driven into us at every turn. Fatalism is a mechanism of social control. In exploring past struggles, we can kick through the present darkness to glimpse the explosive potential of our aspirations.

Through historical reckoning, we can move beyond our frustrated and atomized sense of urgency to the forms of relationship-building and careful, strategic organizing that might allow us to become the ancestors future generations demand that we be.

Andrew Loewen is an editor at Briarpatch Magazine.

Article - Good ancestors

Porcupine Story

She is a tired soul.  Beautiful.  Too beautiful to hold and keep in one place.  Why she loved the darkness and speaking about oppression.  The ancestors surround and support her.  She can hear the pulse of the heart beat of Mother Earth.

She is a bourgeoisie woman.  She is a proletariat woman. She is a rich bitch woman.  She is a poor trailer trash woman.  She is a country woman.  She is a rural woman.  She is a ghetto woman. She is a rez woman.  All stigmatized in a white male patriarchal culture.  Never allowed to fully be herself.  

Porcupine sits outside her window and listens.

Lighting a candle.  The candle sits on her window sill.  No one listens to her story.  Instead they listen to the buzz of the street lights, car going by and the chatter in their own head.

The candle is lit and the story is about the ancestors who appear as others.  Who appear as a friend, a winged one or a four footeded friend.  They sit and listen.  The fly and listen, deliver messages to others.  Non-linear time.

Her story.  Her experience.  Her voice.

Slowly she can feel that she can rise above.  Society's structures bury her.  That is the goal.  Fire in her hands.  Fire to build.  Fire to tend to.

Porcupine sits outside her window and listens.

The medicine sometimes is no medicine.  Sometimes to sit and listen.  To feel the quiet and be uncomfortable with loneliness.  Medicine can make us sick to purge the old.

She was certain that the land was speaking through her.  The old systems were not of importance.  The land had a voice that not many people could listen to.  Only those who honored the land.

Write.  Write fiercely, furiously and feverishly.  Write as a revolution.  Write for survival.

Dimming streetlight.  Sounds outside are loud.

Her story is the story of the porcupine outside the window listening.

Article: UPDATE: Please Donate to Bad River Ojibwe (in their fight against) Bad Mining Laws!

UPDATE: The folks from Bad River incurred $7,000 expenses to get from Superior to Madison. Kossacks, I rarely ask for help. Please donate! All funds go directly  to support Bad River's trip to Madison and their activism to protect the water. (Write "For Bad River Ojibwe" on the check).

Donate Here! (note: as of now, the Paypal link at their campaign website isn't accepting donations. However, the regular mail address works for sending checks.)

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa live way up north in Wisconsin, in a pristine and preserved section of the state. This mining bill "fast tracks" permits for an out of state corporation, Gogebic Taconite, to develop a vast open pit iron mine on land that abuts Ojibwe land. The proposed site is on the upland side of a significant watershed. Mining operations will degrade downslope water quality. Wild rice, a staple of Chippewa food, culture and religion, is very sensitive to pollution and acid-balance. So far, our Republican Legislators in the House of Reprehensibles couldn't care less about Native American life, culture or federally granted treaty rights.

Read the rest of the article here.  


"We entered the 7th fire about 30 years ago. The first steps taken on earth were done with love, honor and respect... What is our meaning and purpose as humans? It's simple: we were put here to live in harmony with all of creation and to never take more than what we need. It's complex: We are caught in the web of life with ecosystems and interrelationships with other living things.  We are undergoing a paradigm shift from values based on money and political power to the new times where wealth is measured in clean water, fresh air and pristine wilderness. Anishinaabe have been given the responsibility to share the knowledge of how to live in harmony with creation." - Joe Rose - Bad River Elder

Poem: Further North

Photo: In da UP, eh! Summer 2010

The Marquette locomotive was down here,
South of the Mackinaw Bridge,
I saw it go through town here,
Here in "working class,"
Manistee Michigan,
A down to Earth town,
Salt of the Earth people,
Morton Salt people,
Paper industry people,
Tired people,
Working for the people on the hill people,
Working to get food,
In the cupboard,
Under lock and key,
Lock and key,
Gas in the car,
Drive to work,
To town,
Back afar,
To the Manistee National Forest,
We hunt,
I'm hunting,

I'm going further north,
In my mind,
Landscapes and remoteness,
Crystal clear waters,
And further north,
Further north,
Where there are clear waters,
Less bourgie people,
Less pretentious city people,
Trying to build their fancy homes on the shores of Lake Michigan,

I'm going further north,
Further north,
In my soul,
My heart aligned with the land,
I can go north of the bridge,
That mighty mackinaw bridge,
So I can escape this land down here,
Which binds me,
I love Sleeping Bear,
But sometimes the pain,
Makes me fly in mind,
Fly away,
From what I have known,
Anishinaabe Territory,
I try and fly,
I do,

I'm will go further north one day,
The land and my heart,
Love may be somewhere,
I may find it.