I find myself considering the parallels between erasures – especially of late, given the recent ‘scandal’ to rock Parliament. The tried and true argument that “we didn’t know” that runs through this moment ( and the various forms of pushback that insist “it wasn’t that bad” or “it didn’t happen” or “show me the proof”) are the voices of those invested in the status quo: in the continued silencing of those voices that speak truth to power, and to the system of settler-colonialism that permeates every aspect of the dominant culture in this country.
I wonder at the blindness. I wonder at the cruelty. I wonder at the refusal to listen, let alone acknowledge our continued collective culpability … for so many things. And to actually ACT – to expect and insist that those in power do better – seems more difficult by the day.
Time to think and consider (yet again): What more can we each do to create lasting change here? This is a question that has motivated me for many years, and motivated the work I did for my MFA. It will continue to motivate me to try to do better, to be a better neighbour and be in genuine relation.
As a settler and uninvited guest wherever I walk in this country, I recognize that many people will be sporting Orange Shirts tomorrow. This action, like the (now ubiquitous) Land Acknowledgment, risks becoming a perforative gesture that assuages guilt temporarily, or (as bad or worse) is seen simply as ‘proper’ to do.
My choice is to step back, shut up, and make room – on September 30th, of all days. Yes I will wear an orange shirt; as a mother and grandmother, I can think of nothing more traumatic or horrendous than to lose a child. As a human being, I feel deeply my responsibility to learn and understand, so that I may better assist in appropriate ways to make things better where I can. As a settler, I cannot make a move to claim innocence, when I live within and benefit from the ongoing harms the Settler-Colonial systems in play in this country are still operating.
I am a deeply imperfect work in progress, trying to find the best way to live better in relation. One day at a time.
I leave the following here, as I feel Paulette Regan expressed my thoughts better than I ever could:
For me, Canada’s apology [11 June 2008, then-Prime Minister Harper] was a call for settlers to take seriously our collectivemoral responsibility for the systematic removal and institutionalization of Native children, some of whom were abused and most of whom were deprived oftheir family life, languages, and cultures. Although the debilitating impactsof sexual, physical, and psychological abuse upon children are self-evident, andCanadians condemn such practices, the problematic assimilation policy thatgave rise to such abuses is less understood by the Canadian public. To those whoargue that they are not responsible, because they were not directly involved withthe residential schools, I say that, as Canadian citizens, we are ultimately responsiblefor the past and present actions of our government. To those who say thatwe cannot change the past, I say that we can learn from it. We can better understandhow a problematic mentality of benevolent paternalism became a rationaleand justification for acquiring Indigenous lands and resources, and drove thecreation of prescriptive education policies that ran counter to the treaty relationship.Equally importantly, we can explore how this mentality continues to influenceIndigenous-settler relations today. Failing to do so will ensure that, despite ourvow of never again, Canada will create equally destructive policies and practicesinto the future. To those who argue that former IRS students should just get overit and move on, I say that asking victims to bury a traumatic past for the “greatergood” of achieving reconciliation does not address the root of the problem –colonialism.
Paulette Regan, Unsettling the Settler Within, p.4
To those whoargue that they are not responsible, because they were not directly involved with
the residential schools, I say that, as Canadian citizens, we are ultimately responsible
for the past and present actions of our government. To those who say that
we cannot change the past, I say that we can learn from it. We can better understand
how a problematic mentality of benevolent paternalism became a rationale
and justification for acquiring Indigenous lands and resources, and drove the
creation of prescriptive education policies that ran counter to the treaty relationship.
Equally importantly, we can explore how this mentality continues to influence
Indigenous-settler relations today. Failing to do so will ensure that, despite our
vow of never again, Canada will create equally destructive policies and practices
into the future. To those who argue that former IRS students should just get over
it and move on, I say that asking victims to bury a traumatic past for the “greater
good” of achieving reconciliation does not address the root of the problem –
FROM Unsettling the Settler Within, Paulette Regan, UBC Press 2010, p.4
I have compiled some resources here that I hope are useful in thinking about Settler responsibility and the ongoing harms of Settler-Colonial structures in so-called Canada. All of this material was useful to me in doing the research for my MFA. Wherever possible, I have provided online links to information; I think it is important to eliminate barriers to information wherever possible. While I recognize this page still requires being able to access to the internet, at least more people in more places can use these tools if I offer them here than could otherwise.
If you are interested, please feel free to investigate the project 40 Chains a Sideas a whole.
I have listed resources with web links first in each subject area; all links were current and active March 1 2022. Articles and books that follow these first listings may be accessible through local libraries or through university/college library systems.
Devine, Heather. “J.Z. LaRocque: A Métis Historian’s Account of His Family’s Experiences during the North-West Rebellion of 1885.” Finding Directions West : Readings That Locate and Dislocate Western Canada’s Past, University of Calgary Press, 2017.
Land and Territory
Native Land (digital interactive map of traditional Indigenous Territories)
Multiculturalism Cannot Contain Multitudes: Towards a Lateral Relationality and Undoing of Settler Colonialism
Despite claims to the contrary multiculturalism operates as the inheritor of official and unofficial policies both cultural and economic that are specifically designed to assimilate newcomers into the white supremacist settler colonial state, thereby ensuring the continued existence of Canada. While effort has been made recently to pay homage to Indigenous peoples as a singular founding people alongside the French and British, we continue to represent an existential threat that cannot be reconciled with the stated purpose of multiculturalism which centres awareness and celebration of diverse cultures. This presentation offers as an alternative, a lateral form of relationality based on the Métis/Cree concept of wâhkôhtowin or expanded kinship, with the purpose of undoing white supremacist settler colonialism.
Links to Articles in the Press and Elsewhere, and Talks of Interest:
A Documentary Film, Lana Gets Her Talk – This brief study of an artist and her work helps us come to some understanding of the trauma experienced by Canada’s Indigenous people in the Indian Residential School system, of its enduring effects on the children of survivors of the IRS, and of one woman’s journey to recover what was lost: dignity, identity, and voice. A story of resilience, Lana’s journey speaks of the power of Indigenous “ways of being” in our time.
Articles and Books (check with Public Libraries or University/College Libraries for copies):
Alfred, Taiaiake. “Foreword.” Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada, by Paulette Regan, UBC Press, 2010, pp. ix–xi.
Battell Lowman, Emma, and Adam J. Barker. Settler: Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada. Fernwood Publishing, 2015.
Decter, Leah, and Carla Taunton, eds. Beyond Unsettling: methodologies for decolonizing futures. Public Journal, Fall 2021. vol. 32, no. 64.
Greer, Allan. Property and Dispossession: Natives, Empires and Land in Early Modern North America. Cambridge UP, 2018.
Henderson, Phil. “Imagoed Communities: The Psychosocial Space of Settler Colonialism.” Settler Colonial Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, 2017, pp. 40–56.
Mann, Geoff. “Settler-Colonialism’s Anti-Social Contract.” The Canadain Geographer, vol. 64, no. 3, 2020, pp. 433–44.
Morgensen, Scott Lauria. “The Biopolitics of Settler Colonialism: Right Here, Right Now.” Settler Colonial Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 2011, pp. 52–76.
Moreton-Robinson, Aileen. “Introduction: White Possession and Indigenous Sovereignty Matters.” White Possessive., University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
Murphyao, Amanda, and Kelly Black. “Unsettling Settler Belonging: (Re)Naming and Territory Making in the Pacific Northwest.” American Review of Canadian Studies, vol. 45, no. 3, 2015, pp. 315–31.
Strakosch, Elizabeth, and Alissa Macoun. “The Vanishing Endpoint of Settler Colonialism.” Arena Journal, vol. 37/38, 2012, pp. 40–62.
Steinman, Erich. “Unsettling as Agency: unsettling settler-colonialism where you are.” Settler Colonial Studies, vol.10, no. 4, 2020, pp.558 – 575.
Tuck, Eve, and K.Wayne Yang. “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeniety, Education & Society. vol. 1, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1-40.
Veracini, Lorenzo. “‘Settler Colonialism’: Career of a Concept.” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vol. 41, no. 2, 2013, pp. 313–33.
Wolfe, Patrick. “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native.” Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 8, no. 4, 2006, pp. 387–409.
Into roughly the 8th week(??) of isolation (time has become incredibly fluid for me), and as the days pass, I think increasingly about what will be in the “time after.” Everyone is in such a rush to “get back to normal,” to reopen businesses and relax some of the protocols that have kept many of us safe and healthy – if not employed. I do absolutely sympathize with those who want to re-open their businesses, who are desperate to earn an income to support themselves and their families. It’s at least as frightening to have the economic rug pulled suddenly out from under you as it is to come face to face with a pandemic. This is about survival, on so many levels.
BUT. I am going to articulate massively unpopular opinion.
I DO NOT WANT to get back to “normal life.” Not soon, and if I am honest, not ever.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about how ‘normal life’ breaks people and communities through its enactment of privilege, how many people are silenced in so many ways, how at its root this is all about the trade of labour and creativity to enrich the few on the backs of many – and at the expense of the environment and all other beings. How I desperately, urgently, passionately want it all to CHANGE for the better on the other side of this. How afraid I am that it won’t. And how I feel increasingly paralyzed by the prospect of a ‘return to before.’
This is true for me in relation to the broader culture in which I live, and for the sector in which I work. This is a moment in which we could – and should – recognize that not only will the ‘new normal’ be with us for a long time (2 metres for the win!), but the ‘old normal’ is something that we should neither wish for nor return to. It also may be moot – because the ‘old normal’ may not exist for much longer, regardless of what some (or most) people desire.
“Normal” or “business as usual” has been exposed with utter clarity by the pandemic: the glaring gaps in care, the enormous disparities that are actively cultivated and maintained by the systems in which we live and work. How many people have no choice but to risk their health and that of their loved ones & work in this time, in order to survive; how the most vulnerable of us have even fewer options to remain safe and healthy.
How many of us have seen our entire sector shut down, cancelled, income evaporated, in already tenuous livelihoods.
So this is a point in which we can CHOOSE what kind of world we want to live in moving forward. And we need to ask these questions of ourselves – NOW – while we have the time and opportunity to do so.
What are you prepared to do to create a more equitable culture and community as we come out of this? How can we work together to make that happen?
What aspects of ‘normal life’ are you happy to see gone?
I leave you with these questions – and encourage your replies … and also with an excellent essay by Lou Sheppard; they articulate far more eloquently than I some of the things that have been worrying me about what comes next.
It’s been quiet here in some ways – and definitely not in others! Whilst we have all been minimizing our in-person contact with friends and colleagues (well ok, with EVERYONE!) for the last few weeks, there’s been a flurry of activity behind the scenes regarding advocacy and support initiatives of various sorts. It’s been confusing at times, and much has happened very quickly – so it’s been challenging to keep up and understand what is relevant to my profession as an independent visual artist, and to the sector as a whole.
Happily, CARFAC Alberta and CARFAC National have been doing a fantastic job of compiling and distilling information as it becomes available, and advocating for appropriate support for our sector. I have never been more grateful for the work these organizations do to support artists and advocate on their behalf. As a board member in both, I continue to offer my time and effort to help them help all of us.
If you want to chat about what’s available, what you are facing, and what CARFAC is doing, I’ll be part of an online session on MAY 2, from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm MDT
Join CARFAC Alberta for a SATURDAY ZOOM ENGAGEMENT… What CARFAC is doing for Visual Artists during COVID -19 Hosted by Chris W. Carson: Executive Director, CARFAC Alberta and guest Sydney Lancaster: CARFAC National Board Member and Alberta Representative on the CARFAC National Board.
We are all hunkering down – making the best of social distancing, of being at home (the privilege of those of us that can work from home … or find themselves now out of work).
We are reading, making art, caring for and educating children, caring for friends and others at a distance, going for walks, venturing out as little as possible otherwise … life, in silos.
Those of us facing down this strange time in human history by removing ourselves from the community (or being removed through unemployment) are where we need to be right now, for the protection of everyone, not just ourselves.
So it’s a ‘social good’ – but the varying degrees of lockdown across the country also mean that people with precarious incomes – like artists – have seen the income from their practices all but disappear, and the gig work they do to make ends meet has evaporated.
It’s still not clear (to me at least) where people that had ‘potential’ income that has dried up will fit into federal and provincial relief programs … hopefully that information will be forthcoming soon.
So – WE HAVE TO BE PREPARED.
Yes, that’s right … just when you hoped to avoid paperwork for a a while, since the deadline for tax filing has been deferred … you need to keep track of ALL the income you have lost.
It’s ain’t sexy or glamorous – and might be a bit depressing – but it is SO NECESSARY right now. By tracking our losses, we can provide an accurate picture of the financial impact of the pandemic for workers who don’t “fit” into the regular systems of income-generation and accounting.
There are many of us – so it’s vital that we have the facts to hand, so the case can be made.
Here are some tools & other resources to help:
Stay safe, take care of your self and each other. And do your paperwork! :)
I’ve been thinking a good bit over the last few months about self-care, and in particular the need for conscious self-care on the part of artists.
In part these thoughts come from my own understanding of what I need – starting with saying ‘no’ more often – and honouring the fact that I need LOTS of recharge time on my own to be good to and for others and for the community I wish to support and serve. That means fewer opportunities sometimes – which has its own sort of stress. But for me right now, that’s necessary. These thoughts also stem from many conversations (truth to tell, too many) with other artists over the last couple of years about the reality of their lives, and about exhaustion and burnout.
How incredibly focussed and dedicated my colleagues are – and how tired. Juggling jobs (two? three? more???) some of them, to keep head above water in a gig economy. OR, finally landing “THE job” – the one that pays enough to forego the side gigs – just to see time and energy eaten week after week by the needs and demands of the work at hand, because there aren’t enough hands to do the work, or hours in the day … and they are responsible people, who care about their colleagues and the work they do.
And these bright, talented people ask themselves (and have admitted to me): “I wonder if I am still an artist? Can I even call myself that anymore?
That’s a hard thing to hear, especially given that it’s evident how much talent they have and how much they have to offer the world and their community, on all kinds of levels.
SO – why on earth am I talking about this, and interspersing these observations with pictures of autumn leaves, and glancing sunlight, and panorama photos of coastlines and sky?
Because I have the privilege of being able to take some time for myself just now; I have joked that I have “run away” temporarily … but I haven’t really. Not at all.
If anything, I have gone away to be more totally present. I had the opportunity to get away from my home city and all that is familiar, and to spend some time in another part of the country. I jumped at it. I knew I needed the break very badly, and was (and continue to be) incredibly grateful for the good fortune that has allowed me to do this.
To just be for a little while.
To figure a little bit more out – what next, why, what are the limits, how far and hard to push, and in what direction.
What is healthy (for me) … what is healthy for each of us? It can’t be the grind that I see so many people inside, in all walks of life. Is it any wonder so many of us are angry? Sad? Feeling desperate?
Do I have the solutions or answers or tools to help? I have no idea. But I do know that not having the opportunity to just STOP for a little bit, every so often, absolutely precludes the opportunity to consider these questions – and to seek the answers that are right for oneself.
May the world shift in favour of more humane ways of being for all of us.
Tomorrow is another day, and perhaps it will be a good one, for more of us.
Just back from an amazing, life-and-practice affirming few days on Lethbridge at IAST 2018. More on that later, when I aim more grounded and in a better space.
Being immersed in such a creative and positive environment made the return to ‘the news of the day’ perhaps more jarring & disheartening, I don’t know.
What I do know is that what is going on globally, and most certainly to the immediate south of Canada is deeply disturbing, more so by the day. And it is mirrored elsewhere in the world, including in my home province (to a lesser degree, to be sure – for now).
But I wonder increasingly about the entire notion of ‘humanity’ and ‘civil society’ in a time in which we are witness to fewer and fewer examples of both.
So, for the moment, I must sit with this reality, in order to move forward in a positive way.
I am not usually one to share ‘inspirational’ talks or pithy quotes. To be honest, most of that kind of thing leaves me flat – sorry if that seems cynical or jaded, but there’s a tendency toward the superficial ‘instafix’ in this culture that is served by this material.
However – I have also been thinking a great deal about the power of art & creativity to open doors to new ways of thinking and being. Especially pertinent to my mind, given the propensity toward tribalism and divisive language and action in the world today.
And then I came across this:
This little talk by Graham Shaw is all about breaking down patterns of thinking – about understanding better the limitations we impose upon ourselves (and others).
It is gentle and fun – and if you are in the tl;dr world – skip to the end if you must – but I do recommend the 15 minutes it takes to view the whole thing.