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Being Responsible for Our Leaders

Our political leaders are suppose to be responsible to the people. I have learned from previous forms of intimidation. How these tactics of manipulations have consorted my Band Councils into a semi-Canadian, dysfunctional First Nations construct often leading to in-solution & plight of a very tired individual. I remember when I turned of age to vote, over ten years ago, my mother brought my older sister and I to the nominations at the Band Office. All the old men “hmffed” and fixed their eyes on us. I felt a little strange but it did not bother me. They tried to speak loudly and make us feel unwelcome. One commented, ‘you plan on nominating the whole reserve.’ It would be quiet for moments between my mothers nominations and if no one else in the room seconded her, me or my sister would. I had fun watching their faces, urgency and disgruntled mannerisms.

All that is required to nominate someone is someone else to second it. It took me awhile to realize that all my mom did was put women on the election board and ballots. Others came into the room and sat and watched. My mother would nominate a person. The men in the room looked as though they wanted to yell or throw stuff, but there was nothing they could do to her in that room. My mother satisfied with her statement stood up with barely a glance to her oppressors and walked away. We followed her but watched their snarls and glares as we disrupted their activities. I never grew up on Reserve and I did not know the significance of our actions. Her heart raced as we hopped into her vehicle and drove away while describing to her their reactions. She did not explain her actions or why we made that stand to nominate the select individuals we did. I hear about it still. My sister ran for chief consecutive elections in a row. Some of our cousins were happy, others were concerned with trivial nature it brought to their households and upbringing that caused them to believe youth and women could not lead. We were fearless in accompanying her. Looking back nearly all of those men are married to non-Native women even though no women were elected it made a statement to their families. Women and youth can run in our elections. Many that were nominated would resign from the race thinking my mother was crazy. I witnessed a grand uncle on my other side of the family calling repeatedly until this family member withdrew from the election. Most of these officials and voters are my family. I know my paternal uncle offers gifts of alcohol to his alcohol dependent constituency. Even though the elected carefully count on pressuring family votes or commonly purchase votes from those fighting addictions. I am aware those tactics of intimidation, demeaning worth and disrespect of youth was used on these men when they were young through residential school, public school, tribal school and entering the work force. I know that the off- reserve ballots were not received in time for the last election. I know it was ignored. I know when I present issues of concern it is overlooked or buried in paper piles. I know our leaders level of educations is low. I know the women are prevented from working in the office because there level of education is too high. I know when hiring a Indigenous women from another nation within our community even if it is only for lower level management is like hiring from another country. I know the men are made to feel esteemed and valued in Canada for treating their people poorly. I think they feel they are equally Canadian. I am not jealous, bitter or hostile just concerned.

My parents and grandparents and great grandparents are Salish which extends to the United States and the greater part of Southern Vancouver Island and the Mainland of Canada. I never thought the men marrying non-Native women made them better than the rest of our people. I never thought I was less or more than those surrounding me. I never thought being Canadian was really valuable. I struggled alongside my people in many ways. It was tedious. I realize Canadian politics is no different in the rewarding of criminal behavior/ activities and domineering that is felt in our communities. I feel the Canadian population has to be responsible for their leaders as I do for my on-reserve politicians representing my people in chief in council. I realize Gordon Campbell was no different then our representatives and they can say we elected them in but it was at severe costs and often under extreme duress. I can honestly say, there is nothing left to lose, the violence is the silence. I know their is good politicians raised to be respectful, understanding and serve their nation. I realize it was political system imposed on us all and to resist or oppose meant struggling economically or socially. I know how hard it was for the last ten years to oppose conforming to these constructs of oppression. I know many seized the opportunity to devalue Indigenous people & attempt to teach them “Canadianism.”

I realize many of these men depend on this income to afford their wives and houses. They have grown dependent on this system of economy through Band operations or salary to afford to provide for their families or lifestyle. Their only opposition is Indigenous mothers and children who under this control are forced into harsher forms of marginalization, forced to be begger’s in their own territories. I understand their is a happy peacefulness in their mothering. I understand the impacts of the poverty, overcrowded housing, Indigenous children being taken from their homes and put in care. Suddenly, the lower east side of Vancouver and the homelessness, broken lives make a little more sense. I know many of our Councillors or politicians abused children and these children now adults have difficulties standing up to these men. I know many of our people litter “your” urban streets. I know some of these adults only want to live quiet lives with their new children and families. I know the youth of these new families have not been taught fear or hate. I know this because I did not understand that walking into the Band office and questioning our leadership was considered a bad thing. I know by trying to make things better often leads to being threatened with the systemic violence of our politics through the threat of a loss of well being: losing houses never owned, or jobs never offered and children never surrendered. I know we are quick to label these people “crazy” “complainers,” “shit-disturbers,”radicals,” “environmentalists,” “social activists,”“social assistance recipients”"Indians" I know we will call them everything but human with a right to freedom and justice. I know things are made easy if you are complacent. I know signing on the dotted line is not a crime. I know if I was quiet and bent that way I would have nothing to say since I would have already been given everything and gained exponentially.

I know we have to be responsible to make our leaders responsible for all of us. I know it will be hard since many have been forced to question their own humanity by being treated sub-human over a lifetime. I know I have seen pets treated better. I know it is the same in Canadian society in the way they treat their homeless as a whole. I know our political leaders learned from the best and will continue to operate like they are the best unless we tell them we are equal in our humanness. I know my history will not allow me to act in accordance with the former political climate. I know the whole economy depended upon our youth and women not realizing their worth, talents, and brilliance. I thought our leaders have been taking care of themselves for all these years they should have no problems doing it now. I know that is wrong. I forgive your political leader Gordo for the harms he inflicted on our territories, our children and the weak of our communities. I apologize for thinking I had to struggle alone and that you would not understand. I apologize for not speaking up and thinking my humanness should be a given. I apologize for not purchasing back territory with monies I did not have and allowing the illegal sales of rivers through Independent Power Projects and the sale of forests through logging industries even though they were not ours to sell throughout the world. I apologize for poorly planned development projects on precious, pristine lands and waters that have to be contested instead of questioned. I apologize if some think I do not know what I am talking about because I have only lived it.

I will be responsible for our leaders, not because I have to but because they have shown negligence and an incompetence towards respecting you and your family and the homes you have made for the future of your grandchildren. I apologize for not doing more sooner with greater results. I am sorry if you paid greatly for your world view and found it has no return for you. I thank you if you never sold yourself but respected your worth was greater then what can not be replaced. I am sorry if you had to sell to feed, cloth or shelter yourself.

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