Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence (L) pauses while speaking with journalists about her hunger strike with elder Danny Metatawabin in a teepee on Victoria Island in Ottawa December 27, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie
Some random observations from the inflated media circus that is Idle No More and the politicized fitness program and detox diet that is the Chief Theresa Spence fast.
The use of the word “chief.” It effectively means “mayor” and those given the title sometimes speak for only a few hundred people, and get to do so for sometimes questionable reasons.
Yet they are treated by mainstream media and the authorities with a reverence that borders on the sycophantic.
Can we imagine a genuinely democratically elected mayor of a Canadian town being similarly regarded by journalists and the police?
When these and other Native activists are interviewed, they frequently speak of prophecies, of seventh-generation warnings, of ancient laws and supernatural predictions.
They hold feathers and they recite ideas of pantheistic earth-worship. It’s a confused, confusing, sometimes entirely made-up spirituality and one that is often absurdly ahistorical.
Imagine, for a moment, followers of Jesus, for example, holding a crucifix and basing their arguments on an embellished and unreliable interpretation of Christian fundamentalism.
They’d be laughed out of the studio, told to separate church and state, ordered to change with the times. And to a large extent the condemnation would be correct.
It’s the racism of lowered expectations of course, where Natives are treated like children by white liberals who seldom venture beyond the comfort of the launch-and-lunch party. The same applies to some of the headdresses and costumes worn by Native activists that have no origin in their own tribe, and actually belong to people from 1,000 miles away.
It’s cultural misappropriation, like a Belgian dressing up as a Turk and claiming it’s OK because they live somewhere on the same continent.
This dressing up, by the way, is troubling. Aboriginal Canadians have valid grievances and must be listened to, but they live in the 21st century and have no need to dress otherwise.
Compare this to Scottish nationalists who cringe at the pretend Highland outfits worn by professional Scotsman to appeal to largely North American tourists.
We all have cultural identities, but most of us acknowledge that we dress for the contemporary age.
Who is actually a Native? Some of the loudest zealots are tenuously so, and one of them appears to be German! Others have some Native blood but in the past have even been denied Indian status, and it’s probably more up to Dr. Freud than a columnist to speculate why they’re sometimes the more aggressive and unreasonable ones.
Most ethnic communities in Canada are very careful to guarantee that white extremists do not try to co-opt their struggles and exploit them for their own ends.
But the Idle No More groups in urban centres, in particular, are beginning to resemble the Occupy gangs from last year. We’re seeing the identical faces protesting and obstructing.
Natives have authentic complaints; white, rich Marxists trying to annoy mommy and daddy do not.
Then there are the anti-Tory politicians, who will do pretty much anything to convince people that Stephen Harper is a dictator, a dictator apparently being anyone who defeats them in an election.
What a mess all this is, and — tragically — it’ll probably change not one iota of Native pain.