Indigenous woman’s cautionary tale
“Nothing can silence…”
Article by Mi’kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation, Dr. Pamela D. Palmater
Excerpt, minor edit by Carolyn Bennett
“…I shiver at the thought of how we might unify ourselves into oblivion instead of protecting our inherent differences which make us who were are ….
“… Canada imposed these discriminatory laws and concepts on us — excluded our women, changed our leadership to be top down and male-dominated — but we have a choice.
“We can open our eyes and make the changes we want for our peoples. It won’t be easy; the government backlash might even seem intolerable at times but we have an obligation to give a voice back to our grassroots Indigenous peoples.
“Our ancestors did not give up their lives so that a few hundred Indigenous peoples could speak for the rest of us. Every single Indigenous person in every Indigenous Nation deserves to be heard. They are entitled to express their pain and frustration at slow progress and entitled to be critical about the current political relationship that is simply not working. To do so, they do not need PhD’s or law degrees or official appointments as ‘critics’.
“Grassroots Indigenous peoples hold all the power and yet their views and critiques are often ignored or downplayed. We expect them to be there when our leaders call for a day of action or to stop a pipeline or halt mining — but how often do leaders take the time to listen to them? What about all of our children trapped in the child welfare system, men and women caught in the prison system or lost on streets of major cities? How many of our leaders have visited a homeless shelter for Native men and heard their stories of pain, their desires to make their communities better?
“…Our grassroots get to see some of their leaders only from afar as they address government officials or corporate Canada at fancy dinners or speaking events.
“Over time, however, I have noticed many First Nations leaders’ coming to see the colonization project for the destructive force that it is. Some of the same chiefs who kicked me out of meetings when I was younger are now my good friends. I have also had the privilege of working with numerous First Nations communities and leaders on issues of critical importance to our peoples and have developed great working relationships. They have come to realize that we are on this journey together and all I am trying to do is help and to be part of the solution. Sadly, though, some on the national political scene remain unmoved (unmoving), still discounting the opinions of Indigenous women and grassroots peoples.
“My best advice therefore to those seeking to deny my voice or to deny the voices of other grassroots Indigenous peoples is that you can cease the insults, taunts, cowardly sideswipes and threats — because the power of the people exists and the sooner you climb aboard, the faster we can get on with our resistance to Canada’s aggressive assimilatory attacks and together reassert our sovereignty.
Sources and notes
“Nothing can silence grassroots First Nations” (by Pamela Palmater), April 4, 2012, http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/pamela-palmater/2012/04/nothing-can-sile...
Dr. Pamela D. Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She teaches Indigenous law, politics and governance at Ryerson University and heads their Centre for Indigenous Governance.
Her publications include:
Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity. Saskatoon: Purich Publishing Ltd., 2011.
Review of Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights, Tom Flanagan, Christopher Alcantara, and André Le Dressay. LRC: Literary Review of Canada 18:3 (April 2010): 6-7.
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples’ Response to Canada’s Engagement Process Affecting Indian Registration and Band Membership (McIvor v. Canada). Ottawa: Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, November 2009.
“In My Brother’s Footsteps: Is R. v. Powley the Path to Recognized Aboriginal Identity for Non-Status Indians?” In J. Magnet and D. Dorey, ed., Aboriginal Rights Litigation, 149. Markham: LexisNexis, 2003.
“An Empty Shell of a Treaty Promise: R. v. Marshall and the Rights of Non-Status Indians” (2000) 23 Dal. L.J. 102, http://www.ryerson.ca/politics/facultyandstaff/bio_PamelaPalmater.htm
“Mi'kmaq, also spelled Micmac: the largest of the North American Indian tribes traditionally occupying what are now Canada's eastern Maritime Provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island) and parts of the present states of Maine and Massachusetts (USA). Because their Algonquian dialect differed greatly from that of their neighbors, it is thought that the Mi’kmaq settled the area later than other tribes in the region.”
Mi’kmaw regalia, http://www.native-dance.ca/index.php/Mi'kmaq/Traditional_Dances
Bennett's books are available in New York State independent bookstores: Lift Bridge Bookshop: www.liftbridgebooks.com [Brockport, NY]; Sundance Books: http://www.sundancebooks.com/main.html [Geneseo, NY]; Mood Makers Books: www.moodmakersbooks.com [City of Rochester, NY]; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center: www.enlightenthedog.org/ [Buffalo, NY]; Burlingham Books – ‘Your Local Chapter’: http://burlinghambooks.com/ [Perry, NY 14530]; The Bookworm: http://www.eabookworm.com/ [East Aurora, NY] • See also: World Pulse: Global Issues through the eyes of Women: http://www.worldpulse.com/ http://www.worldpulse.com/pulsewire http://www.facebook.com/#!/bennetts2ndstudy
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Labels: Dr. Pamela D. Palmater. First Nations peoples, Indigenous women, Mi’kmaw people