A year of speaking up and reaching out.

Oh how the time flies when you’re running your  mouth…

It’s two days away from being exactly a year ago that I wrote an article on Attawapiskat that ended up going viral. I’m putting the link here so I can warn you that it takes forever to load because there are 1,019 comments on that article. It took me three days straight to respond to as many as I could, sitting in front of my computer for over 8 hours each day.

Obviously that kind of attention isn’t something that can be sustained…things go viral all the time, blow up and are forgotten. However, I’ve managed to maintain a readership that I consider impressive, given the fact that I am long-winded beyond belief in an age where we are constantly told that no one has an attention span for such things. Well, 500-1000 people a day seem to have that attention span after all.

I have a list, an actual list on paper, with topics I still haven’t had a chance to cover. Issues with Status and closed adoptions, native education, funding cuts, the percentage of indigenous people in jail, suicide, diabetes, language revitalisation, environmental issues, Arctic sovereignty and so on. I could quit my (wonderful, rewarding, awesome) teaching job and write every single day and still not say all the things I want to say…all the things I think Canadians need to learn about.  All the myths I want to debunk so I never have to come back to them again, all the stories I want to tell highlighting our resilience, our humour, our love of life.

However, as I keep rediscovering, the things I think Canadians know and understand are not always the things they do know and understand. Sometimes I skip things that I consider obvious but that are legitimately confusing to a lot of people living here.  So the reason I’m writing this today, is to ask people to nose around the ‘Primers‘ section of this blog where I’ve linked to articles I think are basic building blocks of information about indigenous peoples here. Are there glaring omissions? Things you often ask yourself or that other people ask you to explain? What is missing may be on my ‘to do’ list, but it may also be something I didn’t realise was misunderstood.  Are there other articles you’ve seen on this blog that belong in the ‘Primers’ section? Should there be various sections?

If you are a teacher using this blog with your students, or a student doing research, or a community member linking people to these articles so you don’t have to once again repeat all of this information to another angry settler…do you have any suggestions for how this information should be laid out for easier access?

I can’t do much on the technical side, and that’s not the kind of suggestions I’m looking for. Mostly I want to make sure that the information here is as useful as it possibly can be, and I want to make sure that if I’ve missed some really fundamental discussions, that those topics get moved to the top of the ‘to do’ list.

I also just want to thank people for reading what I write. I put a lot of effort into these articles, and I’d do it even if only to get these things clear in my own mind…but getting feedback from you is pretty awesome, no lie. I am no all-knowing expert…I may know a lot of this stuff already because this is a main focus in my life, but providing sources to back up that knowledge is not an easy job and I learn a lot as I’m doing that research. Without those sources, my articles might be a nice opinion, but not something all that useful for other purposes. I thank you for putting up with all the linking I do, even if you don’t actually need that much extra information. I also thank you for providing me with a reason to do that work. Seriously, call me a geek, but I love it!

So to keep this uncharacteristically short, I guess I’m asking for a little dialogue about how this blog can be made more useful. Please don’t be shy, I don’t bite (very hard) and I’d love to hear your suggestions.

ay-ay mistahi, ekosi.

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26 Responses to A year of speaking up and reaching out.


  1. Jeffrey Vanton says:

    I’d very much like to get the Word version of your post – as always how you frame these issues is amazing!

  2. daveM says:

    I can not be a guide re content however I can add some ideas.
    I really like this blog and look forward to new posts as it is very informative and the blogger writes in an appealing way.
    I would like to see more readership, traffic, exposure as the issues are important.
    Perhaps some friends can link to your articles so that their readers will see your discussions. Perhaps you will consider doing some article site submissions to attract readers.
    Some young people that you know may be interested in having a site of their own and will link to your site.
    Break longer articles into two articles so that you are posting more often.
    Some good keyword research to get search engine traffic
    Make the email signup higher on the page
    Again,, approach other bloggers to feature your site
    Ask other bloggers to put a link to your articles in their blog post emails and you do the same for them
    Get good keywords on each post, a theme of keywords so the blog shows up in search engines….

    I would like to somehow see the profile of the blog raised so that more Canadians and Americans will see it and gain understanding.

    By all means, delete this post or any part of it, I just want to see your work have more circulation and I just know that you have some friends who will help you.

    • daveM says:

      Also, when preparing an article, try to have a lovely photograph in the article so that when people click on it for social network the lovely picture will be there and others will be attracted to the post. A great way to get traffic.
      and now I will retreat to my work. lol

  3. APG says:

    Hi âpihtawikosisân,

    I’ve been a devoted reader since that viral article, and your blog has been instrumental in expanding my formerly extremely rudimentary understanding of indigenous issues and as part of an overall catalysis of finally grasping what social justice means. It made me want to devote my career (I’m a public health physician in training at McGill) to slapping some sense and awareness into my country, which I used to trust, until I found out about how it has been treating indigenous peoples. I grew up upper-middle class in Vancouver and did not so much as hear the phrase “residential school” until my mid-twenties (I’m only 29 now). My school, which was itself named after a First Nations leader, essentially taught me that natives (some sedentary, some hunter-gatherer) saved the arriving European sailors from scurvy with their cedar bark tea, and they had nice art, and anyway let’s get back to the white people. So, the teaching you have offered in this blog has been positively transformative. I constantly refer people here when I want to explain something. Your writing may be long at times (and rightly so, for such complex topics) but it is never long-winded. Please keep it up!

    As for the organization, I guess I would find the Primers easier to navigate if grouped into thematic clusters, so it’s easier to find a specific article, and so certain fundamentals are out of the way first (“what to call us” is often an early stumbling block for non-natives). For example:

    – Identity and culture –
    Aboriginal, Indian, First Nations? What To Call Us.
    Does traditional mean “frozen in time”?
    Issues in Defining Métis Identity.
    What is cultural appropriation?
    How to sniff out fake “Native American” stories/legends and why you should.

    – Historical trauma and recovery –
    Residential Schools (introduction)
    First Nations farming in the Prairies.
    High Arctic relocation.
    The 60s scoop and present day Child Welfare problems, our stolen generations.
    What was the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples?

    – Laws, rights, privileges –
    An Explanation of Indian Status.
    A brief intro to: approaches to Treaty Making in Canada.
    The Nature of Aboriginal Law and Historical/Contemporary Treaties.
    Without Prejudice Agreements as a Method of Denying Aboriginal Rights.
    Some of the arguments used to deny Aboriginal rights (heavy satire).
    “Free Housing for Indians” is a myth.
    First Nation Taxation.

    – Institutions –
    What is the Assembly of First Nations (AFN)?

    – Health –
    Access to safe drinking water in First Nations communities.

    As for topic suggestions: of course I am starting from such a scant knowledge base that there are probably all kinds of things I’m not even aware I don’t know. As for broad topics though, I’d be interested to hear you tackle the all-too-widespread Canadian perception of native people as “lazy”/”entitled”/”dependent”/”suffering from learned helplessness” (depending on how PC the speaker thinks they are being). I hear variations on this theme all the time—that native people and communities don’t want or don’t know how to take responsibility for their own well-being—and as obviously racist as it is, there are so many layers to it and my knowledge base is lacking enough that I find myself struggling to rebut it effectively. Same goes for the accusations of widespread corruption that I hear constantly and suspect are either blatantly unfounded, blatantly not different from corruption in the Canadian government, or are completely ignorant of the root causes of corruption… but again, I don’t know enough to dismantle these claims when I hear them.

    And once again, thank you!!

    Andrew

    • This is super helpful and very concrete (which I appreciate!). I’m glad its been helpful. The suggestions you bring in terms of topics are indeed amorphous…I think I’m trying to tackle them one myth at a time, because that whole issue of ‘lazy/corrupt’ comes up in the context of housing, education, governance and so on. When you try to pin it down, what often happens is that the issue gets sidetracked to one of these topics, so I guess my intention is to provide concrete rebuttals to those things as a way of whittling down the BS that is the foundation of these prejudices.

      Anyway, I think I’ll implement the organisation you suggest with a few minor changes. Thank you!

  4. DJ NDN says:

    The use of Aboriginal themed mascots in sport and it’s affects on the Indigenous population.

  5. DJ NDN says:

    Oh and congratulations on a year of setting the record straight!!!! Big fan of your blog.

  6. SharonJ says:

    I have so appreciated your blogs over this last (is it only a) year. I am grateful for what ever I get. I guess, though, I would like help working through when I or anyone actually DOES witness band corruption or misuse of funds or family favouritism. I fully realize that you cannot tar all people in any culture with the same brush. Do I think the Canadian Government is corrupt? You bet I do. So I guess your idea of understanding the root causes of corruption is what I need to learn.

  7. kirstenmichellehill says:

    I appreciate all of the work you put into your blog posts. They are very informative and well written.

    There is one topic I would really appreciate a post about and that is offensive descriptive words. I was sure you you had written a post similar in the past and have done a few searches but cannot seem to locate one. I find that from time to time I come across misinformed, ignorant or blatantly racist people who are using very offensive words (such as savage, squaw etc). It would be great if there was a post on this topic that I could refer them to.

    If you have written a post on something similar, I would realy appreciate it if you reminded me of the title or were able to give me the link.

    Thank you very much.

    Kirsten

    • I have a ‘what to call us’ article…it doesn’t delve into the history of racist names, but it does ask people not to use them: http://apihtawikosisan.com/2012/01/16/a-rose-by-any-other-name-is-a-mihkokwaniy/

      • kirstenmichelle says:

        Thanks! That must have been the one I was thinking of.
        Someone that I know recently uploaded a post to their own blog that included using the word savage. They were referring not to North America but to South Africa. I don’t think that they were intentionally using it as a racial slur as it was not used in a context of referring to a particular people group, although I do not feel that it is any less inappropriate. I was tempted to just dismiss this person, but I thought that I would give it a shot at educating them about how inappropriate and offensive this word is. I have spent the last half hour composing an email to them that will be an attempt at hopefully some education.

  8. steffen58 says:

    I’m a white consultant to First Nations, for about 15 years now. I believe I’ve helped more than I’ve billed (but I always worry). While I believe my heart’s in the right place, your blog continually reminds me that I will never even come close to being as empathetic as I’d like to be.

    You’ve always been an excellent writer and synthesizer of the issues.

    DO NOT STOP, EVER. You have the gift of translating everything into mainstream understanding.

    Your posts make me a better human.

  9. iskotewiskwew says:

    Bill C45 was passed yesterday, I would love to hear your thoughts about that. Thank you for sharing your beautiful brilliance. ay ay mistahi!

    • Oh boy, yes I’ll be sharing my thoughts on it for sure. If I weren’t working full time and just recovering from the flu I’d be banging away on that article right now. Don’t worry, it’s coming.

  10. Nesreen says:

    Hey ! I got to see you speak at Queen’s this year and I have been following you on tumblr for a while. As a non-indigenous person of colour, it would be interesting if you wrote about building partnerhsips with ‘hyphenated-Canadians’ as they call them. I think there is some rad stuff happening in Winnipeg on this issue. Thanks for keeping your fingers closer to the keyboard and typing out all your sharp insights and ideas.
    my tumbr: policypolitique.tumblr.com

  11. Daniel Nikpayuk says:

    Hi âpihtawikosisân,

    I noticed in many of your posts you have often referenced the “Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples” (RRCAP). I would like to say, that for those readers who are looking for a pdf version of the RRCAP here is a link:

    http://qspace.library.queensu.ca/handle/1974/6874

    It is not the original, its “Description” body says it is originally downloaded from here:

    http://caid.ca/RepRoyCommAborigPple.html

    For certain tasks I find a pdf is a better format than just the archived html format. It is easier to run “find” searches for keywords or phrases; because it is meant for download one can keep it on their own computer which is ideal for those with poor or no internet connection (for whatever reason that may be). At the very least it provides an alternative medium for the same content.

    I should warn—because I’m trained to be a skeptic—that I have not fully looked over it to verify with my own eyes that it does in fact provide the same content (just in a different medium). At the same time though, if Queens University is redistributing the pdfs I figure there must be some reliability there.

    I hope this can help.

    Daniel Nikpayuk

    • Sharon Jackson says:

      Thanks for this, Daniel. I am deeply ashamed to say that anything I know about the Royal Commission I probably got from Jasper Friendly Bear from the Dead Dog Cafe Comedy Hour.

      • Daniel Nikpayuk says:

        Don’t thank me Sharon, thank the people at Christian Aboriginal Infrastructure Developments (CAID) and the people at Queens University.

        I should mention though, that it regretfully occurs to me I did not make clear in my previous reply that I am not associated with either of these organisations in any way. My self-narrated story is I’m a bit of a computer nerd. I was actually attempting to do the same thing but the CAID people beat me to the punch haha.

        As an aside, if one is to combine the five volume pdfs into a single file, it ends up being 3347 pages long at a size of 20.9 MB (that’s about 5 mp3 songs).

        Actually, another reason to have this Report as a pdf is it makes it easier to print as well. Given its size, I don’t think printing the whole thing is environmentally friendly, but one might wish to print (double-sided of course) small portions as something to make notes on. For this purpose I think I will continue with my project and make a double-spaced version.

    • Morna says:

      Thanks so much Daniel! This is really helpful.

  12. Sarah says:

    Been meaning to say Thank You for keeping on. I rarely post a comment, but I always like reading.

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