Indigenous Politics

  • One Native Life: Reaching Grandfather

    My grandfather’s name was John Wagamese. Our family name, Wagamese, comes from an Ojibway phrase meaning “man walking by the crooked water.” It was shortened by the treaty registrar because Wagamese was all he could pronounce of it, but it came from the trapline my great-great-grandfather established along the Winnipeg River. The same one my grandfather walked all his life.

  • Toward a New Policy Paradigm for First Peoples

    The current policy paradigm surrounding Aboriginal issues is locked within a very narrow compass of possibility. The two major ideas that emerged in the last decade were the proposals around the Governance Act, rejected by most First Nations leaders, and the Kelowna Accord, endorsed by the Assembly of First Nations, but dead in the water thanks to the current regime.

  • An Interview with Colleen Cutschall

    Colleen Cutschall is a senior artist originally from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. For over twenty years, she has been working and living in Southwest Manitoba as an artist, art historian, educator and curator. Cutschall holds a BFA from Barat College, Lake Forest, Illinois, and a MS.ED from the Black Hills State College, Spearfish, South Dakota. She has had numerous solo exhibitions that include: Voices in the Blood, a touring exhibition organized by the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, House Made of Stars, The Winnipeg Art Gallery, and …Dies Again, Urban Shaman Gallery. Cutschall has produced numerous publications and lectures on Native issues and art nationally and internationally. She recently partook in an artist – in-residence in Bellagio, Italy. Cutschall is a Professor and Chair of the Visual and Aboriginal Art Department at Brandon University, and continues to work on her artistic practice. This is an excerpt from an interview, where she shares her thoughts on art and art issues in Manitoba.

  • Indigenous Artists Defying Expectations

    Since the mid-1960s, contemporary Indigenous artists have faced many challenges their non-Indigenous counterparts have not. From lack of resources, to limited recognition and preconceived notions, they are constantly navigating between artistic practice and cultural expectations. For establishing and established Manitoba artists Kale Bonham, Helen Madelaine, Leah Fontaine, Riel Benn and KC Adams, one recurring obstacle they face are the existing stereotypes about Indigenous artists.

  • The Violence of the Letter

    The recent struggle over lands in southern Ontario near Caledonia points to the continuing problem with land-claims policy in Canada. This sentence could be used to begin an article every few years, only the place names change: the recent struggle at Grassy Narrows, the recent struggle at Stoney Point, the recent struggle at Oka. While there is a sense in which the current land-claims policy goes back to the beginnings of colonialism in Canada, the recent permutations are worth attention. Any understanding of contemporary conflicts needs to be informed by a strong and detailed sense of what has happened historically, as well as what is happening today.

  • New Clothes, Same Old Canadian Thinking

    There are Aboriginal lawyers, doctors, judges, professors, teachers, architects, engineers, writers, musicians, artists, politicians, corporate executives, bureaucrats. In fact, Aboriginal peoples can be found in all walks of life today. But for most Aboriginal people in Canada, descendants of the first occupants of this land, whether they live in the cities or the country, poverty is an everyday reality. In this time and place, poverty means shame, constant worry and fear.

  • The Hauntings of Colonialism

    The publicity attending a showdown in the early 1980s between logging interests and Indigenous peoples in British Columbia drew attention to the ecological ideals of the Fourth World. That showdown took place in Haida Gwaii, the legendary archipelago also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. The controversy attracted the attention of a science broadcaster who was then emerging as one of the most effective voices in the emerging global community of environmental activists. David Suzuki has described his production of a 1982 CBC documentary on the future of the Queen Charlotte Islands as a turning point in his development as a scientist, broadcaster and author. In making the film Suzuki developed lasting collaborations with a number of Aboriginal friends from the region, including Miles Richardson, Guujaaw and Patricia Kelly. As Suzuki describes it, “Guujaaw changed the way I viewed the world and sent me on a radically different course of environmentalism.”

  • Pathways to an Ethic of Struggle

    My discovery of what colonization really is took a long time in coming. It took a long time because you can’t understand the impact of these powerful forces of disconnection upon our people until you work within this system and try to make change. That’s the reason why this understanding is the sum of my own political experience, my lived experience. But it took a really intense effort over the past ten or twelve years to come to an intellectual understanding of it, and really to find a way to articulate it.

  • Caledonia’s “Lord of the Flies” Strategy at Six Nations

    We brought an interesting video to the Six Nations information session at the Montreal Native Friendship Centre. The land and historic issues behind the reclamation of land at Six Nations were well explained. The video showed how, early in the dispute, hundreds of young people from the nearby non-Native town of Caledonia were lured to the Indigenous barricade by such enticements as beer, marshmallows and hot dogs. At first the kids were reasonable and talked about how they wanted to organize things. As the night wore on, things started to break down. The crowd became loud and raucous.

  • Polluted Water Hits First Nations, but doesn’t stop there

    Grassy Narrows First Nation gets a boil-water advisory from the Medical Services Environmental Health Worker for Treaty #3 First Nations. My first thought was: “I thought we were safe.” To say the least, it’s very inconvenient to boil water for two minutes to kill any bacteria that live in it. But if we do not boil the water, the elders, infants and children, and weak adults are susceptible to severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and/or vomiting.

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