Indian Reserves and White Reserves

This thing came in the mail. For those of you who are not Canadian, this is what colonial life looks like.

Note that everything here is an image of something to purchase, that is made in China. We don’t make stuff here. We bring it in by ship. We have a national railroad to deliver that stuff from coast to coast. That is called industry here. Other countries would be troubled by it. We’re not. We celebrate it. After all, the role of a citizen in this market state is to purchase amulets representing various forms of colonial culture. We call it global culture. Sure. Well, it gives a raven a place to perch while he figures out what he has stolen from a garbage can at the bottom of the hill. That’s something, right?

Notice as well, how everything is painted white…

…and that the largest item is a nationalist military figure from an American fantasy film production company. That’s colonial. An American would see a nationalist military figure. Big difference. Canadians are used to dedicating their lives to making collages of the cultural articles of other peoples. Americans aren’t. Most dominant cultures aren’t. That’s the point. That’s what the whiteness is for. It is an attempt to belong. There are alternatives. We are not prisoners. After all, this is the local catalogue, in my corner of this country:

That’s right. Choke cherries. Not white. That’s because they are an indigenous food crop, and those people get put on reservations although in this part of North America no treaties were signed and white culture, including Canadian Tire’s colonial culture, is squatting on stolen land. That is not an exaggeration for effect. It’s absolutely true. And what’s a reservation? Ah. Let’s ask the Canada Indian Act to tell us:

Here’s the thing, if we replace the term “bands” with municipalities and the term “Indian” with “community”, we have just described this colonial province, British Columbia. In other words, we are all on reserves. Now, I’m very clear that the two sides of a reserve fence confer very different privileges, but it is also true that reserves were set aside on racial principles, to separate “white” claims to land from “Indian” ones, and to make the “white” claims dominant. Really, though, all of us who live on this shoulder of the earth are on a reserve, no matter what side of the fence across stolen land we are on, even these beautiful people:

The Horses of the Okanagan Indian Band on their Overgrazed Community Pasture

They need a few thousand acres more, which was denied them by “white” (i.e. non-indigenous) ranchers.

We are all prisoners of this reserve system, denied access to power and knowledge across the reserve fences, and thus denied access to the solutions that will solve the problems caused by the setting of those fences. It is making people angry. We should be angry, but we should not be directing our anger at each other. There are no Indians in Canada, except as the Canada Indian Act says there are. There are hundreds of separate peoples, with ancient, proud histories. There are no White people in Canada, either, not essentially, at any rate, except where the Indian Act and collusion with it has made people so. In this battle, Canada Tire, and it’s white colonial nonsense…

 … is completely in the way of progress. If that is the set of choices for Canadians, then Canada is the problem. Canada is capable of so much more. We should get rid of the Canada Indian Act, for one thing, and institute land and constitutional reform to make this thing go away. Will that happen? It’s not likely. But we can start with knowing our land so intimately that the government is revealed to be an invader, representing cultures, peoples and lands not our own, and that means having the courage to speak and not to say, “Harold, it’s just a Christmas catalogue.” It is no such thing. This is:

No country can hold a piece of land for which it has no stories. That’s the first rule. The second rule is this: the stories we tell become the country we live in. Please, don’t be an invasive species. Be present and haunted by the land, for that is to be home:

Oh, and maybe don’t check the mail.

2 replies »

  1. The Wow Guide arrived at our house the other day too. John looked through it and said, “What a lot of junk. Even the stuff that isn’t junk.” I agreed. I love my KitchenAid mixer, for instance, and I noticed a whole page of those, in every possible colour. Would you switch up if you changed the colour of your kitchen walls? But what I also noticed was how much it costs to be rustic or whimsical at Christmas. The sticks in pots with tiny lights. The strings of faux pine cones. Every imaginable tree coming out of a box to be put together and strung with fake cranberries. The inflatable trolls for the front lawn. The faux evergreens to swag around your windows and doors. All these remnants of old traditions, many of them ones I love and honour, made artificial.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that replacement of honourable traditions with faux echoes is very telling. I honour your honouring, Theresa.


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