Indigenous Voices: Descendants of Grey Owl

As an Indigenous person in Canada, through our treaty rights and other agreements, we have different privileges “bestowed” upon us by the federal government. Some of these privileges include hunting and fishing rights, tax exemption in some cases and having our tuition paid for by Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

To some people, this may seem like a sweet deal. Imagine not paying to go to school. Now imagine having an alien form of life forced on you and being moved from your home to somewhere you can’t even get clean drinking water. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

I can’t even begin to recount the amount of times I’ve heard the words, “My grandmother is native and I’m trying to get my tax card so I can go to school for free.” I’m sure any other First Nations person reading this has heard something similar. Every time I hear those words, I don’t even know how to respond. It’s not my place to doubt their heritage or deny them of anything just because I have a status card and they don’t. But it also isn’t the federal government’s place to deny them of that based on blood quantum either.

People need to realize there is more to being “Indian” than putting a feather in your hair and dancing at powwows. We are a strong, resilient people. Every day we wake up in the morning and continue to live our lives. We are fighting against a system in a country that would rather see us dead because it would be easier for them to build their pipelines or shopping malls on our unceded territory.

It is the duty of every First Nations person to protect the land we live on. Not for ourselves, but for the next seven generations. We must fight, so our children will have clean drinking water and animals to hunt long after we’re gone.

Every time I hear someone is trying to get their tax card so they can validate themselves as an Indian under the definition of the federal government, I always question their motives. Because this card doesn’t define me.

What defines me are the Wolastoqey values and traditions my mother and grandmother have instilled in me and their grandmothers in them. It’s the little language that I can speak, that may be lost within my lifetime. It’s that I am willing to fight for my nation and any other Indigenous nation that calls upon mine for assistance.

If these people finally get their status cards, are they going to allow the federal government to define what being Indian is to them? What are they doing today to contribute to the war of attrition we have been fighting every day since 1491 for the survival of our race and culture? When the time comes to fight for our clean water and land when the Sisson Brook Mine project starts, will they be there to help us or will they just be there in line to get whatever sum of money we receive for royalty payments for it? Are they ready to deal with racist and ignorant comments for being a “savage”?

It seems to me that only in the last few years it has become cool to be Indian. This was never the case when I was growing up. Maybe it was when Gord Downie was given a traditional name or when Justin Trudeau painted his face and put on a head dress.

To loosely quote one of my favorite television shows growing up, “Everybody wanna be a native, but nobody wanna be a native.”

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